A withering look at the institutionalized racism of the Boston Red Sox, painted against the larger backdrop of citywide racism, from Bergen Record journalist Bryant.
Everyone knows that the Bosox traded away Babe Ruth, but less well known is that they passed on the opportunities to snare Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. In this scorching and well-documented history of the team's racial attitudes, Bryant describes how the bigotry of the Yawkey family, owners of the club, and such important front-office and managerial figures as Eddie Collins, Joe Cronin, and Pinky Higgins resulted in the Red Sox being the last team—this in a city that cast itself as a bastion of tolerance—to cross the color line. But Boston's image of liberalism, as Bryant neatly sketches, was smoke and mirrors, showing its true face in the busing crisis of the 1970s, and, more insidiously, through “its hidden presuppositions of how black people should act, especially around whites.” Kicking and screaming, Boston signed its first black player in 1959, but that was not to be the end of it. From 1979 to 1984, the team had only two active black players, and even the team greats—Reggie Smith, Jim Rice, Ellis Burks—never felt at home in racially tense Boston; black players often referred to their stint with the team as a “jail sentence.” Even in the ’80s, there was a country-club attitude that allowed the racist Elks Club to entertain Bosox players—whites only. Bryant uses a number of lenses to gain a wide perspective on the situation: those of reporters like Dave Egan, Wendell Smith, and Peter Gammons; players from other sports, like Bill Russell of the Celtics; the ebb and flow of Boston politics; and the racial atmosphere that keeps Boston at a simmer, ready to corral the black community, as it did in the Charles Stuart case.
A taut story, lucidly told. That the Bosox haven't won a World Series in umpteen years is embarrassing; the legacy of racism, though, is poisonous. (16 b&w photographs)