The Boston Red Sox

By TOM SHEEHAN  |  November 14, 2006

And that was the last Bolling heard about it. Until seven years later. In March, 1974, the bothersome Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) announced that it had, on its own, initiated a complaint against the Red Sox charging them with discriminatory hiring procedures for all aspects of the operation – ushers, ticket takers, vendors, the ground crew, front office, coaches, managers – everything but the ballplayers themselves. The case is still active and MCAD officials anticipate an agreement with the club – or else a public hearing on the charges – within the next two months. The same officials said the case may be expanded to include the players; the Commission has, in fact, some relevant data already.

“Our investigations are in the nature of fishing expeditions,” said one MCAD official, “and may do just that.” Just what the agency has gathered to date is confidential, but one former official said its suspicions had not been unfounded. “It was the view of the people doing the investigation,” he said, “that there was a serious problem throughout the organization, and I mean everything in the organization.”

Old Red Sox yearbooks provide some insight into the nature of that “problem.” Since 1961, when the Sox annuals began running photographs of many of their front office staff, ticket sellers and secretarial help, not one black face has appeared among them. In 1963, the Sox included pictures of their 11 special policemen and their 90 ushers; all were white. In fact, the first black face we saw in the yearbooks, other than Pumpsie Green and his colleagues on the field, appeared in a 1969 Pepsi advertisement.

The Red Sox reaction to the MCAD charges was a swift denial from spokesman Crowley, along with a few other observations. Reported the Globe at the time: “Crowley said the Red Sox several years ago invited Royal Bolling Jr., now a state legislator from Dorchester, to recruit blacks as ticket takers, ushers and vendors.”

“ ‘We encouraged him to bring in anyone he could find,’ Crowley said. ‘Some came, but they weren’t interested in that kind of money for those hours. The few who did try it quit in a short time.’”

Bolling seemed a bit incredulous when we contacted him recently about Crowley’s remarks: “That’s amazing,” he said. “I don’t see how the guy can remember the damn phone conversation. I never had a face-to-face meeting with them, and that was way back in 1967.

“But by 1974 I was in office so I guess what he said looks good in print,” Bolling continued. “I have the feeling they were trying to shift the blame to me.”

Crowley at first refused to discuss the matter with the Phoenix, then denied saying the Red Sox ever talked to Bolling. Finally, he said: “If it reads like I said the Red Sox spoke to him, I was wrong. Our concessions people may have spoken to him.” Crowley refused to answer any further questions about the MCAD suit. He referred all such questions to team treasurer John L. Harrington, whom he said would also refuse to talk about the case.

Crowley was wrong about that. Harrington did speak with us briefly and told us the team was now working on an affirmative action plan for the hiring of minorities in response to the MCAD complaint.

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    This article originally appeared in the July 24, 1973 issue of the Boston Phoenix.

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