AT APPROXIMATELY 10:30 IN THE MORNING on Monday, April 16, 1945, Boston City Councilman Isadore Muchnick, sportswriter Wendell Smith, and three baseball players from the Negro Leagues arrived at Boston’s Fenway Park. One month earlier, the Red Sox had reluctantly agreed to hold a tryout for African American ballplayers. Shortstop Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs, second baseman Marvin Williams of the Philadelphia Stars, and outfielder Sam Jethroe of the Cleveland Buckeyes had come to Boston nearly a week earlier in anticipation of the session. 
The audition of the three players took a little over one year to arrange and lasted only ninety minutes. Yet the fallout from that day echoes through Red Sox history almost to the present as an example of the institutional racism practiced by the ballclub under the tenure of Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Only in the last few seasons, at the conclusion of the Yawkey era, did the club begin to shed a reputation for racism that many trace to that April morning.
Still shrouded by significant misconceptions and errors of fact, that day deserves examination. Not only do the facts of the tryout deserve explication, but the manner in which both the press and the ballclub reacted to the episode and have portrayed it since then is telling. By calling into question the details of the event, the defenders of Yawkey and the Red Sox attempted to absolve the ballclub, the owner, and by extension the city of Boston, for any racial liability, perverting the significance and meaning of April 16.
A long-accepted “gentlemen’s agreement” among baseball owners and officials kept organized baseball–teams and leagues sanctioned by the National Association–white since the banishment of Moses “Fleetwood” Walker from the International League in 1887. Although professional baseball never put such an agreement in writing, nonetheless the barrier proved effective. Between 1887 and 1947, no African American played major league baseball.
More than any other event, World War II paved the way for the breaking of baseball’s color line. Prior to the war, virtually the only calls for integration of the national pastime came from African American and leftist newspapers. But the war exposed the inherent contradiction and inequality of organized baseball’s unwritten policy, providing the unassailable argument that if a man risked dying for his country on the battlefield he deserved the right to play the game. In 1944, Boston City Councilman Isadore Muchnick, troubled by the segregation so obvious in major league baseball and emboldened by the moral authority provided by World War II, pushed for change. A child of Russian Jewish immigrants, Muchnick grew up in Boston’s old West End. He graduated from Harvard University in 1928 and Harvard Law School in 1932. Elected to the Boston City Council in 1941 representing Mattapan, a neighborhood 99 percent Jewish, Muchnick rapidly developed a reputation as a progressive, principled politician unafraid to support social justice regardless of the political fallout.
A sense of justice, not political expediency, motivated Muchnick to take on baseball’s color line. He was not, as erroneously reported in intervening years, responding to political conditions caused by a change in the racial makeup of his constituency. Although today Mattapan is now an overwhelmingly black neighborhood, during Muchnick’s tenure in office that change had not yet taken place.
He chose an ingenious method to force change. In Boston, so-called “Blue Laws” banned the playing of baseball on Sunday. In order to make use of this lucrative weekend date at their home parks both the American League Red Sox and the National League Braves needed a waiver from the City Council, one that had been granted for years with little debate. In March 1944, Muchnick used the waiver as a cudgel to force the two ballclubs to confront their acceptance of organized baseball’s unwritten rule that barred African American’s from playing in either of the major leagues. He threatened to block the waiver unless the two clubs considered black applicants.
That got the attention of Red Sox general manager and Hall of Fame infielder Eddie Collins. Much taken aback, he wrote Muchnick and made the disingenuous claim that, “We [the Red Sox] have never had a single request for a try-out by a colored applicant.” Muchnick released Collins’s response to the African American press, which disseminated his comments all over the country. Shortly thereafter, Muchnick received another letter. This one came from Wendell Smith, the sports editor of the African American Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly newspaper that enjoyed nationwide distribution and served as the de facto paper of record for many African Americans. Smith disputed Collins’s contention and informed Muchnick that in fact African Americans wanted to play in the major leagues, something Muchnick undoubtedly already knew. By then, however, the 1944 season was at hand and for the time being Muchnick chose to let the matter drop. A year later, in March of 1945, he revisited the issue and again threatened to block the waiver.
Hundreds line up outside Red Sox advance ticket sales office at Fenway Park. August 31, 1955, 7″ × 9″ silver gelatin print. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department. #st10785
Collins contacted the councilman once more. In a letter dated March 16, 1945, Collins wrote: “I have been connected with the Red Sox twelve years and during that time we have never had a request for a try-out by a colored applicant…. It is beyond my understanding how anyone can insinuate or believe that ‘all ballplayers regardless of race color or creed, have not been treated in the American Way’ so far as having equal opportunity to play for the Red Sox.” The letter went on to say that the Red Sox intended to hold a hold such a tryout if any players wished to play for the club.
Muchnick now approached Smith, asked him “to line up some ballplayers,” and extracted a promise from Collins to hold a tryout on Thursday April 12, five days before the Red Sox were scheduled to open the regular season in New York against the Yankees. Smith’s vast connections in the African American sports world made the choice of one player obvious: Jackie Robinson.
One of the most celebrated black athletes in history, Robinson earned All-American honors in football playing for UCLA. He also lettered in basketball, track, and baseball, becoming the school’s first four-sport letterman. Moreover, the African American community and the black press already knew Jackie Robinson.
For years, the African American press had called for the integration of baseball and touted the accomplishments of black athletes, setting the stage. In the mid-1930s, sports editor Mabrey “Doc” Kountze of the Boston Guardian organized the National Negro Newspaper All-American Association of Sports Editors (NNNAA), a group of sports writers and editors from the nation’s major African American newspapers, including Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier. As Kountze later wrote, the members of the NNNAA “Pooled their votes to select All Star and All-America picks coast-to-coast via the ANP [Associated Negro Press], it exposed outstanding athletes to a wider audience, including white pro scouts, who later helped bring Black athletes into pro football, basketball and eventually baseball.”
The NNNAA touted Robinson more than any other athlete. Members such as Kountze knew that the first player to break the color line needed to be more than just a great athlete. In order to succeed, he also needed the requisite social, emotional, and intellectual skills to survive the scrutiny of a nation. Robinson’s academic and athletic experiences at UCLA left him uniquely qualified.
The efforts of Kountze and his fellow sportswriters made Robinson one of the more visible African American athletes in the country, and on March 22, 1942, the communist newspaper The Daily Worker successfully pressured the Chicago White Sox into giving Robinson and pitcher Nate Moreland a cursory tryout at their spring training camp at Brookside Park in Pasadena, California. The session made news in African American newspapers, but the white-dominated mainstream press ignored the event because of the involvement of the Communist Party. Chicago manager Jimmy Dykes knew Robinson as a ballplayer from his time at Pasadena Junior College, and Robinson impressed him at the tryout. Dykes told the Worker, “Personally I would welcome Negro players on the Sox,” and valued him at $50,000. But ten days later, Robinson reported to the Army.
Robinson’s military experience only added to his luster in the African American community. He served with distinction, but on July 6, 1944, while stationed at Camp Hood in Texas, he refused a bus driver’s order to move the back of a crowded bus. Charged with insubordination, Robinson faced a general court-martial over the incident, but the case made him a cause célèbre in the African American press. The Army eventually acquitted him of the charges, and in November 1944, he received an honorable discharge on the basis of a pre-existing, minor ankle injury. Robinson resumed civilian life as more than just a college-educated All-American. To the African American community, he had now become an honored veteran and a hero.
He was not yet a professional baseball player. After starring on the baseball team at Pasadena Junior College, Robinson had found the competition at UCLA considerably tougher. In 1940, he hit .097 in his only year of varsity play, then left school short of his degree before the baseball season in the spring of 1941. In the intervening years, Robinson played baseball only sporadically before the Negro Leagues afforded him an opportunity to continue his athletic career as a professional.
After leaving the Army, Robinson wrote to the Kansas City Monarchs and asked for a tryout. Club officials knew his reputation and asked him to report to Houston, Texas, for spring training in March 1945. Although obviously athletic, Robinson was not very impressive on the field as he shook off the rust of inactivity. Still, he made the team as a utility infielder and signed for a salary of $400 a month. Then an injury to the Monarch’s regular shortstop landed him a starting job. The NNNAA began to tout Robinson coast-to-coast in the Negro press.
Wendell Smith undoubtedly knew of Robinson’s talent from the ballplayer’s time at UCLA and in the Army. In all likelihood, however, he got the notion to include Robinson in the Boston tryout after an exhibition game in San Antonio on April 1, 1945, between the Monarchs and an All-Star team that included both major and minor leaguers. The Courier’s account of the 4–4, fourteen-inning tie game praised Robinson out of proportion for his fielding in his Monarch “debut.” A few days later, he appeared in a double-header against the Chicago American Giants and in another twin bill versus Birmingham, with the Courier again anointing him as an emerging star. In all likelihood, these five contests were Robinson’s only game experience in the Negro Leagues before being tapped by Smith to come to Boston. The sports editor passed over dozens of players far more experienced and accomplished. Clearly, the African American press wanted to raise Robinson’s profile and Smith included him in the tryout for reasons beyond his play on the field. Long before any major league owner had heard of Jackie Robinson, black journalists chose him to integrate baseball.
Just before the Boston tryout, another, lesser-known audition took place. On April 6 writer Joe Bostic of the New York Age arrived unannounced and uninvited at the Brooklyn Dodgers training camp in Bear Mountain, New York, with two Negro League veterans, pitcher Terris McDuffie and first baseman Dave Thomas. Bostic demanded that the Dodgers give the two players a tryout. Earlier statements by Dodger president Branch Rickey led Bostic to believe the men would be welcomed, but Bostic miscalculated. Although Rickey gave the two veterans a cursory look, he did so only grudgingly. He had already started to lay the groundwork that eventually would result in the signing of Robinson some eighteen months later. Bostic knew nothing of Rickey’s tentative plans to consider signing an African American player sometime in near the future, and his arrival angered the Dodger president, who felt unfairly pressured to act prematurely. As a result, Rickey never spoke to Bostic again.
Nevertheless, when Smith asked Robinson to a workout for the Red Sox, Robinson agreed and Smith likely made arrangements that delivered the three players to Boston. They arrived on Wednesday, April 11, only one day before the scheduled session–after all, the three players were contractually bound to play for clubs in the Negro League. They intended to appear in Boston and, if not signed to a contract, presumably return to their teams as quickly as possible. The Red Sox opened their regular season in New York on April 17 and clearly wanted the tryout to take place before the start of the season.
Despite Eddie Collins’s promise, however, no tryout took place on April 12. According to most subsequent accounts, the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from a cerebral hemorrhage on that day caused the session to be canceled.This is incorrect. Roosevelt, who died on April 12 while vacationing at his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, did not suffer from the hemorrhage until 4:45 p.m., Eastern War Time. His death did not become public until 5:47 p.m., already early evening in Boston and too dark to play. Lights enabling night baseball at Fenway Park were not installed until 1947. Clearly, Roosevelt’s death played no role in the cancellation of the tryout.
No accounts exist that explain precisely how the players learned about the cancellation, or precisely why or how the Red Sox chose to renege on their promise. But in fact, they did. This angered not only Robinson and the other players, but Wendell Smith and Isadore Muchnick as well. In a story and column by Wendell Smith in the days between the scheduled appearance and the actual one, the sportswriter eloquently expressed the frustration of everyone involved. Smith reported that Muchnick said, “They [the Red Sox] are not fooling me.” He charged that both the Red Sox and Braves, who he also hoped would agree to a trial session “are giving us the runaround. They promised me that they had no desire to bar Negro players and yet they ‘runout’ every time I try to pin them down. These boys came here for a tryout and if they don’t get one it will be simply another mark against the undemocratic practices of major league owners and officials. We are not going to stop fighting no matter how much they duck and hide and try to evade the facts.”
Significantly, Muchnick made no mention of Roosevelt’s death playing any role in the delay. Moreover, neither does any contemporary account mention Roosevelt’s death as a reason for cancellation of the tryouts. American life, in fact, stopped for neither the president’s death nor his funeral, and major league baseball teams continued to play the tail end of their exhibition season throughout the period.
Neither did Robinson ever cite Roosevelt’s death as a cause for the delay, although as a veteran he likely would have accepted the explanation had it been valid. Publicly, he only expressed his profound disappointment about the delay to Smith. “We consider ourselves pioneers,” he said, speaking for Jethroe and Williams. “Even if they don’t accept us we are at least doing our part and if possible making the way clear for those who follow. Some day some Negro player or players will get a break. We want to help make that day a reality.” Privately, Robinson told Smith more pointedly, “It burns me up to come fifteen hundred miles to have them give me the runaround.” Later, Robinson wrote, “Not for one minute did we think the tryout was sincere.”
In his column, Smith crusaded for the right of the Negro League players to a tryout and denounced the Red Sox for blocking their way. “This is Boston,” he began, “cradle of America’s democracy….” After citing Boston’s key role in the Revolution, he continued, “I have three of Crispus Attucks descendants with me. They are Jackie Robinson, Sammy Jethroe and Marvin Williams. All three are baseball players, and they want to play in the major leagues…. We came here to Boston–the cradle of democracy–to see if perchance a spark of the Spirit of ’76’ still flickers in the hearts and minds of the owners of the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves…. We have been here nearly a week now, but all our appeals for fair consideration and opportunity have been in vain…. But we are not giving up! We are Americans, the color of our skin to the contrary… and we are going to stick to our guns!”
Over the next few days Smith and the players waited in a Boston hotel for Collins and the Red Sox to make good on their promise. Not until Boston’s white, mainstream press took note of the situation did the Red Sox respond to the entreaty from Smith, Muchnick, and the three ballplayers. On the morning of Monday, April 16, sports columnist Dave Egan of the Boston Daily Record broke the silence and wrote about the unsavory episode. Although Egan is usually remembered only as a nemesis of Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, he was perhaps the most talented and best-educated sports columnist in Boston at the time. Like Muchnick, Egan graduated from Harvard Law School. Few other white sports writers anywhere at the time shared his courage or conviction to call for the integration of major league baseball.
“Here are two ‘believe-it-or-not items,'” he wrote, “exclusively for the personal enlightenment of Mr. Edward Trowbridge Collins, general manager of the Boston Red Sox. He is living in anno domini 1945, and not in the dust covered year 1865. He is residing in the city of Boston, and not in the city of Mobile, Alabama…therefore we feel obliged to inform you that since Wednesday last three citizens of the United States have been attempting vainly to get a tryout with his ball team.” Egan went on to cite the qualifications of the three and Collins’s correspondence with Muchnick, including the claim that a “colored applicant” never requested a tryout. Egan then added, “Every other method having failed, these three young men will present themselves at Mr. Collins’ gate this afternoon, to inquire whether or not those words were written in good faith, to ask an opportunity, if not with the Red Sox, then with the worst and the weakest of its farm clubs.”
Inadvertently, Egan had violated an unknown condition of the tryout. Years later, Muchnick claimed that when Collins first agreed to hold the tryout, he told the councilman, “‘You are putting me on the spot, but I’ll go through with it. However, not a line is to appear in any paper–no photographers are to appear on the field.’ We agreed.” And for much of the week, while no direct mention of the impending tryout appeared in the Boston papers, Collins and the Red Sox put the players off. The 1945 regular season opened for Boston on April 17 in New York and the Sox were leaving Boston for New York on a 1:00 p.m. train on April 16. Had the Red Sox been able to delay the tryout for one more day, it likely never would have taken place.
Egan’s story in the Daily Record, a morning tabloid that catered to commuters, hit Boston newsstands at dawn on April 16. By breaking the edict of silence, Egan also apparently broke the door down. At approximately 10:00 that morning, the three players and Smith left their hotel for the tryout at Fenway Park. Little that took place over the next few hours is known with certainty. None of the participating players ever spoke in great detail about that day or wrote a definitive account. Neither did anyone with the Red Sox. Although Egan’s story alerted Boston’s mainstream press to the situation, they all but ignored the event. Doc Kountze of the Boston Guardian did not attend. The few known details stem from a wide variety of sources from reporting both contemporaneous to the event and many years afterward by those who were there. Wendell Smith certainly witnessed the trial session, although circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Joe Cashman of the Daily Record and Clif Keane and Jack Barry of the Boston Globe also witnessed at least a portion of it.
Upon arriving at the park, the three players and their escorts met briefly with Eddie Collins and then went to the Red Sox locker room. Only one of the players brought his own baseball uniform–likely an indication of their lack of faith in such a tryout ever taking place. Red Sox clubhouse attendant Johnny Orlando, busy packing for the club’s trip to New York later in the day to open the regular season, provided uniforms for the other two. At 10:30 a.m., Williams, Jethroe, and Robinson, met by Sox scout Larry Woodall and aging coach and former player Hugh Duffy, took the field. A small group of amateur and semi-pro players were already working out, for World War II had depleted the Red Sox organization. The Red Sox, like most major league clubs, regularly held tryouts during the war, hoping to pick up a player or two from among those either too young or otherwise unqualified for military service.
Jackie Robinson went to shortstop, Marvin Williams played second base, and Sam Jethroe jogged to the outfield. Wendell Smith and Isadore Muchnick sat in the stands, as did Red Sox manager Joe Cronin. If Collins or any other Red Sox official watched, he did so out of sight, either from the shadows beneath the grandstand roof or from the press box. As the other players at the workout scattered, Woodall and Duffy put the three players through the paces. They first took fielding practice, taking grounders, fly balls, and throwing. Then the players took batting practice.
All three men reportedly demonstrated some ability, but according to most accounts Jackie Robinson performed best. Joe Cashman of the Boston Record later quoted Cronin as saying, “He’s good and fast–fast as well, Jack Robinson.” Later that week Wendell Smith wrote in the Pittsburgh Courier, “Cronin said the three ballplayers looked very good but declared he was unable to say whether or not they would be signed by the Red Sox.” A week later, Smith added that Cronin “admitted that he was particularly impressed with Robinson.”
After an hour and half or so, the workout ended. The three men retreated to the locker room to change, and then “all three were given the customary forms in which to enter their athletic history and background,” standard procedure when scouting a prospect. As they left Fenway Park with Smith and Muchnick, they met a few Red Sox regulars gathering at Fenway Park before heading to Back Bay Station to catch the 1:00 p.m. train to New York.
Boston’s rookie third baseman, John “Jackie” Tobin, recognized Robinson and stopped. Tobin had attended St. Mary’s College in California. Before the war, he and Robinson played against each other in college. Tobin, while a fine collegiate ballplayer, was a severe alcoholic. He owed his presence on the Red Sox to World War II, for talent had become so scarce during the war that the team overlooked his drinking. According to teammate Eddie Lake, the club offered Tobin $5,000 to stay sober enough to play during the 1945 season. The two players exchanged pleasantries and Tobin told Robinson, “I certainly wish you the best of luck.” With that Tobin, despite nursing a broken thumb, nevertheless went on to the start of his major league career. He played one season and appeared in only 84 games. Robinson, Jethroe, and Williams returned to the Negro Leagues. The Red Sox never contacted the players again. Neither did they scout or hold tryouts for other African American players until long after the color line was broken.
In the mainstream Boston press, the event went nearly unnoticed. No daily Boston newspaper, which at the time included the Globe, Herald, Post, American, Traveler, Record, Advertiser and Transcript, carried more than a cursory report of the tryout. The Advertiser and Transcript made no mention of it at all and the remaining papers gave incomplete and contradictory accounts that appear written after the fact from second-hand information, rather than eyewitness testimony. The stories lack many critical details, such as precisely who witnessed the tryout and their reactions.
The April 16 evening edition of the Globe carried a brief piece–credited to the Associated Press–reporting that in addition to Woodall and Duffy, Boston manager Joe Cronin also witnessed the tryout. The account noted that “During a friendly discussion after the workout Muchnick argued the American game should conform with the tradition of democracy…. His comment drew a response from the Red Sox that no Negroe [sic] had ever sought a place on the team.” The next day a much briefer account appeared that quoted Duffy referring to the three men as “Pretty good ballplayers.” The Herald also reported that Cronin watched the workout and “exhibited interest in the work of Robinson,” and that Hugh Duffy called the players “‘fine fellows’ but he did not care to make a definite decision as to their ability after a single workout.” Reports in the Post, Traveler, and American made no note of Cronin, although in later interviews Cronin always asserted he attended. The Post claimed “no statement was made as to the impression the players made,” whereas the American stated, “those who saw the players said they appeared to have considerable ability.” The Traveler even maintained that the players were invited to return the next day for a second workout.
Joe Cashman’s story in the Record provided the most detailed account. While it included the previously cited quotation from Cronin, Cashman also wrote that Cronin saw only a portion of the tryout and that the three players did not take batting practice. Cashman concluded, “Further observation may result in the Red Sox signing one of the trio and then schooling them at one of the Sox farms–Louisville, Durham or Roanoke–will be required so that the candidates ability in competition can be noted.”
Initially, the African American press reacted optimistically to the tryout. The Boston Guardian’s Doc Kountze contacted the Red Sox soon afterwards and Duffy told him the three players were “Good boys … hustlers. We were glad to give them a tryout. They’re the same as anybody else…. Got a soul the same as I have…. Deserve the same chance as anybody.”
Several weeks later, Wendell Smith confidently reported that Robinson, Williams, and Jethroe were “anxiously waiting to hear from the management of the Boston Red Sox,” but noted that due to a broken leg manager Joe Cronin “may not be free to consider the applications of the three fellows until he is well again.” Such anxious waiting would be in vain. Meanwhile, Cronin’s injury notwithstanding, at least one of the white amateurs who supposedly attended the workout that same morning, Milward Quinn, signed a minor league contract.
Clearly, the Red Sox chose not to sign either Williams, Jethroe, or Robinson. To be fair, they reacted in the same fashion as every other major league team at the time, even Branch Rickey’s Dodgers. Signing any one of the three players to a contract in 1945 would have flouted convention and demonstrated courage not yet apparent in the front office of any major league team. And in regard to Robinson, he had, after all, played only five games of organized baseball of any kind over the preceding three years.
Rather quickly, the optimism that Smith and Kountze initially expressed turned to bitterness. Kountze later called it “one of the biggest letdowns the author ever experienced in his entire career of sportswriting.” Over time, his dismay would spread. Moreover, neither Robinson, Jethroe, nor Williams were fooled by the tryout. The three men believed the Red Sox acted without sincerity and none ever expected the club to offer any of them a contract. According to his Negro League teammate Willie Grace, Sam Jethroe soon described the tryout as “a joke” and said Joe Cronin “was just up in the stands with his back turned most of the time. He just sent some of his men out there and told them to throw some balls, hit some balls to us, and then come back and say we had ability.” As a result of such duplicity, the African American community held the Red Sox in disdain more so than any other team in the game. With the charade of the tryout over and apparently forgotten, Boston finished in seventh place in 1945. During the off-season, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey’s scouts “discovered” the player the African American press made certain they would see, and Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract, integrating organized baseball for the first time. In 1946, Robinson led the Montreal Royals to the championship of the International League and then to victory in the Little World Series over the champions of the American Association, Boston’s Louisville farm club. His appearance on the field in Louisville during the Series broke baseball’s color line in the city.
The Red Sox, re-armed with the return of star players such as Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams, and others from military service, won the pennant for the first time since 1918 and narrowly lost the 1946 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers promoted Robinson, breaking the color line in the major leagues. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947, an MVP award in 1949, and led the Dodgers to six pennants and one world championship–their only in Brooklyn–in 1955. In 1962, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
As baseball slowly integrated after Robinson’s promotion in 1947, the Red Sox lagged behind. And as they lagged behind, they eventually paid a price, both on the baseball diamond and in the field of public opinion. After winning the 1946 pennant and challenging for the American League championship in both 1948 and 1949, the Red Sox became also-rans in the 1950s. Every other team in baseball put an African American on the field before the Boston Red Sox. By 1959, the Red Sox were the only team in baseball without a black player, an observation impossible to ignore.
Sam Jethroe and Jackie Robinson at Braves Field, 1950–1952. Leslie Jones, Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department. #02160
Red Sox recalcitrance on the issue of race eventually charged the Robinson tryout with potent symbolism. In contrast, the Chicago White Sox 1942 tryout of Robinson simply became a footnote in their history, for they integrated in 1951, trading for Cuban-born outfielder Minnie Minoso. Neither did the Boston Braves pay a price. Despite putting off Muchnick in 1945, in 1950 they traded for Sam Jethroe, who had been signed by Brooklyn, and Jethroe became the first African American to play for the Braves. In contrast, the longer the Red Sox waited to make their move, the more significant the Robinson tryout became to their history.
In the interim, even as integration swept baseball, few outside the African American community pressed the Red Sox on the question of race, particularly in Boston’s mainstream press. After passing over an opportunity to sign Willie Mays, the Red Sox belatedly signed his thirty-one-year-old Birmingham Barons teammate Piper Davis in 1950. Then, after Davis played only fifteen games, hitting .333 for single-A Scranton, he was released in what Joe Cronin later told Davis was a “cost-cutting measure.” Davis had served his purpose–critics could no longer charge that the Red Sox organization had never signed an African American. The Red Sox then waited another three years, until 1953, to acquire another African American, signing both Earl Wilson and Elijah “Pumpsie” Green to minor league contracts. As both men made slow progress in Boston’s farm system, at the major league level the Red Sox continued to sag in the standings and remain lily-white on the field. The Red Sox would not even make their first trade for an African American player until 1960.
Pitcher Earl Wilson, left, and second baseman Pumpsie Green. August 30, 1959, Leslie Jones, Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department. #76359
Between 1947 and 1959, the Red Sox generally responded to questions about their racial makeup by denying the existence of racial prejudice within their organization and acting offended that anyone had raised the subject. Owner Tom Yawkey took pains to avoid addressing the question at all. On the rare occasion he even responded to queries, as he did in the spring of 1959 when Green’s performance made it clear he was qualified for the major leagues, Yawkey said cryptically, “The Red Sox will bring up a Negro when he meets our standards.” Boston’s increasingly cooperative local press corps never asked Yawkey to explain those standards, nor did it question why the Red Sox failed to trade for an African American player or hire an African American in any capacity. The press accepted answers from Red Sox representatives without skepticism, even though press members knew that many of Yawkey’s employees, from the scouting department to Mike Higgins, who at various times served as both general manager and field manager, were openly racist. Higgins even once told a writer, “they’ll be no niggers on this ballclub if I have anything to say about it.”
Others on Yawkey’s staff claimed they could not find any African American prospects. Such attitudes apparently did not trouble Yawkey, for they all retained their positions. Higgins, in fact, would be retained by the organization even after being fired as field manager. Cronin now offered up the excuse that the Red Sox had not signed any of the players in 1945 because all of Boston’s farm clubs were in the South, where it would not have been safe for them to play, and that the players themselves preferred the Negro Leagues.At every opportunity, Yawkey foisted the issue off on the collection of sycophants, yes-men, and cronies he employed. When they spoke to the question, they evinced an unconvincing denial of any racism in their organization.
To this point few openly blamed Yawkey himself for the policy, despite questions raised by Yawkey’s upbringing. Yawkey had been born in New York, but after the death of his father his uncle William “Bill” Yawkey, one-time owner of the Detroit Tigers, raised him. A man’s man, Bill Yawkey enjoyed the company of ballplayers, particularly Ty Cobb, who held a vigil at Yawkey’s bedside when he died. The volatile former player and avowed racist befriended the young Tom Yawkey, even taking him on hunting trips. Cobb, in fact, first encouraged Yawkey to purchase a major league team in 1926. Yawkey fulfilled that desire at age thirty in 1933, when he received his inheritance and immediately purchased the Red Sox.
Tom Yawkey and wife at Fenway Park.
#st10013, 8″ × 10″ silver gelatin print. Leslie Jones. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department.
Only a few men courageously identified Yawkey as the major reason why the Red Sox remained all white. In 1935, in an interview with Red Sox secretary Phil Troy in his office, Doc Kountze asked Troy directly why the Red Sox wouldn’t sign black players. Troy pointed upward, which Kountze interpreted as an unmistakable reference to Yawkey. Kountze, alone among all Boston journalists, often repeated the allegation, but no one outside the African American community paid him any attention.
That changed in 1959. In January, Jackie Robinson spoke to the Chicago Defender and directly blamed Yawkey, saying that had the Red Sox owner signed a few African American players over the years, “Maybe he would have won another pennant or two.” The charge stung, for as a national figure Robinson’s words carried weight. In one simple sentence he cut through the obfuscation and convoluted logic the Red Sox used for years to defend their actions; Robinson blamed the man at the top: Tom Yawkey. The buck stopped there; for once Robinson made the charge, scrutiny of the Red Sox’s racial attitudes increased, especially of Yawkey’s views. Over time the characterization stuck.
In the spring of 1959, Pumpsie Green starred during spring training and apparently earned a spot on the team. Just prior to Opening Day, however, the Red Sox abruptly returned Green to the minors. The move appeared openly racist to observers and caused the NAACP and other groups to call for an investigation by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the first time legal action had been taken against the club in this regard. The investigation caused the Boston press to revisit the circumstances of the Robinson tryout for the first time since 1945. On April 29, the Globe published an interview by Clif Keane with Isadore Muchnick. “The story is being written,” offered Keane, “because of the recent furor caused by the Red Sox having sent Pumpsie Green to the minors with Robinson insisting the ball club is biased towards Negro players.”
In Keane’s interview, Muchnick offered the most detailed account of the tryout by a verified witness. Muchnick revealed the Red Sox’s insistence that the event take place in secret, with no reporters present. This may at least partially explain the contradictory versions of the event that later appeared in the Boston press, mostly second-hand, presumably written after the authors talked with Red Sox officials. He also claimed, “You never saw anyone hit the wall the way Robinson did that day–bang, bang, bang. The others didn’t do so well.” He, too, claimed that Joe Cronin attended the tryout and said, “When the workout ended I remember going over to Cronin…. He said to me, “If I had that guy on this club we’d be a world beater,” but added that the Red Sox couldn’t send Robinson to one of their farm clubs, then all in the South. Muchnick went on to say that he also pressed the Braves for a tryout, but club officials told Muchnick the Red Sox tryout precluded them from doing the same.
Fifteen years later, Muchnick’s memory either failed him or he chose to soften the facts of the 1945 tryout so as not to harm Green’s chances for a promotion. He let the Red Sox off the hook, stating incorrectly that Roosevelt’s death had caused the original tryout to be rescheduled. That statement later became another of the excuses others cited as the reason why the Red Sox failed to sign any of the players, providing a logical, albeit spurious, excuse to skirt the issue of the ballclub’s inherent racial prejudice.
When the Red Sox finally promoted first Pumpsie Green in July 1959, and then pitcher Earl Wilson, the issue of racism and the Red Sox appeared moot. Over the next few decades, however, even as they promoted additional African American players, the Red Sox periodically continued to exhibit insensitive and, at times, openly hostile behavior toward African Americans, raising the issue again. During spring training in 1966, a bar denied service to pitcher Earl Wilson; the Red Sox told him to forget the incident. When Wilson talked to the press, the Red Sox traded him. In the 1970s and early 1980s, as the issue of busing tore the city of Boston apart, the club accepted memberships for white players and team officials at a segregated Elks Club in Winter Haven, Florida. In 1985, when coach and former player Tommy Harper complained publicly, the Red Sox cut him loose. Black faces at Fenway Park remained rare, and the club employed few African Americans in any capacity except on the playing field.
For much of this time only Jackie Robinson kept the Red Sox on notice in regard to race. He tweaked the team on the issue at every opportunity and held them in open contempt. Bill Gavin, who served as a clubhouse attendant for the Red Sox in the 1930s, met Robinson in spring training in the early 1960s. Along with several others, Gavin and Robinson sat on the grass near a spring training diamond talking baseball. Gavin, curious about the tryout, asked Robinson about that day in Boston. The mere question caused Robinson’s demeanor to change. He sprang up from the ground, and as Gavin recalled, “hissed, actually hissed,” then said brusquely “I played in the National League,” and stormed off without another word.
Later, during the final days of the 1967 season, as the surprising Red Sox fought for a pennant due in no small part to general manager Dick O’Connell’s relative color blindness, Robinson spoke at a dinner in upstate New York. Asked about the close four-team pennant race, Robinson overlooked his friendship with Boston manager Dick Williams, a former teammate of Robinson’s in Brooklyn, and the fact that the 1967 Red Sox were among the more integrated teams in baseball. Instead, Robinson said “Because of Boston owner Tom Yawkey, I’d like to see them [the Red Sox] lose, because he is probably one of the most bigoted guys in baseball.”
Robinson also held Joe Cronin in similar disdain, for over the years Cronin’s story about the tryouts changed. Although he initially said the Red Sox southern-based farm clubs made it impossible to sign Robinson, over time his answer changed. He called Boston’s failure to sign Robinson a mistake, but absolved himself of responsibility, claiming he was “just the manager” and did not have the authority to sign the players. Cronin and Robinson did not speak; their loathing for one another was mutual and obvious. Robinson, in failing health, appeared in public for the last time at the 1972 World Series. Cronin, then American League president, refused to join Robinson, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and others on the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. He remained under the stands eating a hot dog. Robinson died a few weeks later.
Robinson’s death seemed to relegate the tryout to an interesting but little-known incident in Red Sox lore. The Red Sox of the late 1960s and early 1970s were both integrated on the field and successful. In 1975, they captured the American League pennant, but ultimately lost a stirring World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. On July 9, 1976, Tom Yawkey died of leukemia. The Boston press fell all over itself heaping praise on the long-time owner. The racial record of the ballclub under his forty-five year tenure received scant attention. Robinson’s tryout and the ballclub’s checkered record in regard to race seemed destined to be forgotten.
That changed in 1979. By the 1970s, Boston had become a two-newspaper town and the Boston Globe emerged as the dominant daily and one of the more progressive newspapers in the country. In the wake of Watergate, the Globe became the first major metropolitan daily to call for the resignation of Richard Nixon. Similarly, its sports section became perhaps the pre-eminent sporting page in the entire country. The Globe hired African American sports writer Larry Whiteside, the only African American in the country covering baseball on a daily basis. In August, the Globe published a wide-ranging series on the African American athlete, a bold subject to take on at the time in racially charged Boston. Whiteside revisited the 1945 tryout. Although Robinson and Muchnick were dead, his interview with Sam Jethroe formed the backbone of this story. For background, Whiteside also consulted veteran Globe baseball writer Clif Keane.
Keane dropped a bombshell. He told Whiteside that he had attended the tryout with colleague Jack Barry, not to write a story, but out of curiosity over Negro League baseball. According to Keane, in the midst of the tryout an unseen voice boomed out over Fenway Park–”Get those niggers off the field!” Keane told Whiteside he believed the speaker was either Tom Yawkey, Eddie Collins, or Joe Cronin. Although no one else known to be in attendance that day ever mentioned the incident, Keane’s revelation endowed the event with new significance.
The revelation gave the racism of the Red Sox both a starting place– the tryout–and, potentially, a face, the speaker of those words. That utterance echoes through the history of the Red Sox to this day. Those words appeared to provide irrefutable evidence of the ballclub’s active racism, rather than a passive form credited to the culture or historical era. Incredibly, however, over time those words would be used to protect both the Red Sox, Yawkey, and his legacy from the charge of racism by an angry insistence that no one ever uttered those incendiary remarks and that Keane had invented the story. At the same time, the Red Sox organization continued to demonstrate a disturbing and increasingly anachronistic attitude in regard to racial matters.
To be fair, Keane’s own record on race is at best checkered. A man of his time, he embraced racial stereotypes and used racial epithets easily and often, which he considered simply good-natured banter. Only a few weeks before Whiteside’s story appeared, Herald-American reporter Marie Brenner overheard Keane referring to Boston first baseman George Scott as a “bush nigger.” Red Sox manager Don Zimmer witnessed the exchange and badgered Brenner afterwards, yelling “You heard no such thing … you never heard ‘old bush nigger’ and you better not write that in the paper.” Scott, leery of any controversy and insecure over his position on the team, told her, “I’m not getting into this one, babe.” At about the same time, Keane, who appeared with fellow sportswriter Larry Claflin on one of the nation’s first “sports-talk” radio programs, the “Clif and Claf” show, participated in an interview with Scott in which he and Claflin made “jokes” at Scott’s expense about watermelon and fried chicken. Furthermore, in a celebrated 1888 incident that marked the beginning of segregated baseball, Cap Anson reportedly uttered a very similar phrase: “Get that nigger off the field.” In 1976, those words became the title of Art Rust, Jr.’s oral history of the Negro Leagues, making Keane’s use of a nearly identical phrase suspect. In light of these facts, it is plausible that Keane invented the comment he claimed to overhear at Fenway Park to deflect attention away from his own bigotry.
Keane, however, never used the anecdote to excuse his own behavior, and he never backed away from it. No one, in fact, questioned its veracity openly or in print until the aging Keane, who died in 2003 after years of illness, was unable to respond. Moreover, one must keep in mind that Keane’s interest in the topic dates to his 1959 interview with Muchnick. Keane was unique among his peers, for no other Boston reporter evinced a pronounced curiosity in the event. That the anecdote took nearly thirty-five years to surface may be explained by the fact that throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Globe either avoided addressing the racism of the Red Sox or did so only obliquely. Keane served as a beat reporter and covered the Red Sox on a daily basis. To write about the statement while covering the team would have been professional suicide–the Red Sox would have frozen him out. By 1979, with the city in the throes of the busing crisis, it was at least allowable to recognize that race played a role in all things Boston.
The unidentified voice at the tryout, rather than the tryout itself, became the central part of the story. Over time, particularly among certain elements of the Boston press and within the Red Sox organization, those words and the identity of the speaker took on an inappropriate level of importance. By calling into question the events of that day, some cast doubt on the presence of racism within the Red Sox organization. From that viewpoint, without either an accountable individual or an extreme overt act, the charge that racism plagued the Red Sox organization could be completely denied.
In the end, however, such resistance in the face of overwhelming facts provides only evidence of the truth of the original charge. In a larger sense, whether or not the ugly phrase was uttered and by whom is insignificant to the Red Sox racial legacy. The Robinson tryout was a sham, a deliberate act with or without those words, and in its wake the Red Sox organization, from the top down, consistently demonstrated racial insensitivity or overt racism. Until very recently, the Red Sox and racism have been synonymous terms, as undeniable as the ballclub’s decades-long championship drought after 1918.
Between 1945 and 1979, the Red Sox organization consistently responded to any inference of racism with denial. After 1979, that would be even more true. When the club fired Tommy Harper in 1985, he filed a successful suit through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A few months later, the ballclub released a statement that read: “Red Sox management abhors racism in any form and will never lend its name to racist practices, attitudes, or institutions…. The Red Sox’s goal as an organization is to field a winning team and to bring Boston a world championship. Racial bigotry has not and will not play any role in the fulfillment of that goal.”
Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough, aptly described by media critic Mark Jurkowitz as, “an unapologetic mouthpiece for the wealthy, silver-haired white men who own the bats, the balls, and the stadiums … who brags about not taking notes,” rushed to defend the Red Sox after the Harper incident. Of Yawkey, he wrote, “They smear the man and his memory with the legacy of Pumpsie Green and Tommy Harper…. I knew Tom Yawkey, the Man to whom they trace all of this alleged racist history. I never thought he was racist. But I wasn’t as close to him as Joe Cronin and Dick O’Connell were. These two former Sox general managers knew him as well as anyone in Boston. Over the years, I asked both if Yawkey ever suggested they do anything racist. The answer was no.” Sadly, such a denial did not accurately reflect either the club’s history or its continuing legacy.
By 1990, outfielder Ellis Burks was the only African American player on the Red Sox roster. It was like 1959 all over again. The press took note of Burks’s lone presence on the roster and the Globe published a pointed and long overdue follow-up to the 1979 series in which Keane had first made his claim. In 1991, Globe reporter Steve Fainaru authored a three-part series on race and the Red Sox. In it, the Red Sox essentially denied the existence of racism in the organization and offered no commitment to change that perception. Although the front office recognized the club’s racist perception among the public and the press, they denied its veracity, then claimed it was impossible to refute and fruitless to try. “Of course you’re bothered by the perception,” said general manager Lou Gorman. “I know it’s out there but I really don’t know what you can do about it.”
The answer came a few days later, when the Globe’s Will McDonough once again distilled the matter to a question of who within the organization “was racist,” as if that was the only question worth asking. He attacked Fainaru’s story and sought the name of a racist who had ever worked in the organization, asking, “Was it late owner Tom Yawkey, or his widow Jean who now controls the organization, was it a series of general managers–Joe Cronin, Pinky Higgins, Dick O’Connell and Lou Gorman? Are we to believe it is the scouting department …? Once again, no names…. Yawkey was so sensitive to the Jackie Robinson issue and criticism of the Sox’ lack of blacks that he wanted them on his team.” Indeed, Yawkey’s “sensitivity” led him to wait fourteen years after the tryout to integrate his team.
Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who took control of the Red Sox through the Yawkey Trust after the death of Tom Yawkey’s widow Jean Yawkey in 1992, answered Fainaru’s charges. “It’s [the club’s racist reputation] almost impossible to shake,” he told Sports Illustrated. “I don’t know how to do it. I’ve been told it will take fifty years, generations before this thing is gone.” Over the next few years, under Harrington, racial questions dogged the team in regard to their treatment African American players such as star Mo Vaughn and off-field employees. In 1998, Thomas Sneed, the African American manager of the club’s “600 Club,” a private restaurant with club seating at Fenway Park, filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Someone defaced a photograph on his desk of his white girlfriend. When he complained, the Red Sox took no action. Thus, for at least the third time in their history, race inspired legal action against the Red Sox organization.
In 2000, Richard Johnson and I co-authored Red Sox Century, a comprehensive history of the club. We traced the racial history of the Red Sox back to the Jackie Robinson tryout and asserted that racism–not the spurious “Curse of the Bambino”–was the major factor that prevented the Red Sox from winning a world championship after World War II. A feature story on the book in the Globe repeated the authors’ claim.
In a telephone call to the author, Will McDonough, who clearly had not read the book, nevertheless objected. “Now you listen to me,” he said. He started at the source, the 1945 tryout of Jackie Robinson. “Let me tell you about that tryout,” he said. “Let me tell you something. I went back to the microfilm at the Globe and looked it up, okay? Let me tell you, Joe Cronin was a friend of mine. I’ve asked him about this and you know what? Joe Cronin wasn’t even there. I looked it up and Cronin wasn’t even there that day. You know how I know? The Red Sox were opening the season in New York the next day and I looked it up; they left that morning. I looked up the train schedule, see? They left that morning. He couldn’t have been there. He was in New York.”
McDonough also rejected Clif Keane’s statement and any speculation that Collins, Cronin, or Tom Yawkey had uttered those offensive words. “Let me tell you about Clif Keane,” said McDonough before he attacked Keane personally and professionally. Then he added, “Clif Keane made the whole thing up. He wasn’t even there. You know how I know? I looked it up. Clif Keane was at a golf tournament that day; he was covering a golf tournament that day for the Globe. He wasn’t even at Fenway Park.” Although McDonough had his facts wrong, he still scoffed at the idea that racism played any part in the history of the team. “The only problem the Red Sox have ever had with blacks,” he said, “was finding blacks who could play. All right?”
The next day I sent McDonough copies of all newspaper reports of the tryout that had appeared in the Boston daily press and from the Boston Guardian and the Pittsburgh Courier, highlighting those that mentioned Cronin’s appearance and the fact that the Red Sox did not leave for New York until 1:00 p.m. A search of the Globe and other Boston newspapers for any mention of a golf tournament that had taken place that Monday morning in mid-April turned up nothing.
In his weekly column, McDonough interviewed Red Sox CEO John Harrington to attack Red Sox Century. Harrington also appeared not to have read the book for he misstated its factual contents and blindly defended Yawkey, saying of his alleged racism, “nothing could be further from the truth.” More than fifty years after the tryout took place, the titular head of the Red Sox still exhibited the same level of ignorance and denial that had dogged the ballclub ever since that April morning so long ago. Harrington again offered up the excuse that the Red Sox hadn’t signed Robinson “because their top farm clubs were in Louisville and New Orleans.” McDonough further weakened his case by citing Roosevelt’s death as a factor in postponing the tryout, although he erroneously inferred that Roosevelt died on either April 14 or 15, and stated the tryout took place on April 15. Once more, a major defender of the team sought to obscure the facts of that day and completely muddy their significance.
On February 22, 2002, after a protracted sale process, the Yawkey tradition ended when the Yawkey Trust sold the club to New England Sports Ventures, a group headed by investor John Henry. The following winter, on January 31, Jackie Robinson’s birth date, the club sponsored a “teach in” of sorts on Robinson for a group of adolescents. Such an event would have been unthinkable under previous administrations. Since then, the Red Sox have been color-blind on the field and, at long last, have made some inroads in shaking the club’s racial reputation. Instead of denying, dismissing, or distorting the facts of the club’s checkered history, the Red Sox finally seemed willing to accept that portion of their history without dispute and use it as a lesson to move forward.
That process, however, requires vigilance, something that the team has lacked over the decades. On September 28, 2003, John Dennis of Boston’s sports-talk radio station WEEI made a racially insensitive comment on the morning radio show Dennis and Callahan, earning him a suspension. WEEI serves as the Red Sox’s flagship station and broadcasts each game; players and front office employees make regular appearances on the program. The ballclub could have used the incident as public platform to distance themselves from their past, to state publicly that they consider such behavior unacceptable. Yet, the team made no public comment and their employees continued to make regular appearances on the program, even as the show continued to feature racially-charged statements.
The story of race and the Red Sox neither begins nor ends with Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Marvin Williams. The story of April 16, however, may represent the most telling event in a long, sordid history. The manner in which team defenders obfuscated facts and repeatedly distorted the team’s history over and over again obscures an important moment in the history of American sports and of American culture. Someone may or may not have yelled “Get those niggers off the field,” but that incident is hardly the important point. In a figurative sense, the story of the Robinson tryout has been treated in a similar fashion. The Red Sox, club fans, and the city that hosts the team have chosen to distort or overlook history, as if they could make it disappear. A far better approach would be to accept the ballclub’s legacy and use it to affect change.
GLENN STOUT has written, ghostwrittten, or edited more than fifty books, included Red Sox Century (2000), Yankees Century (2002), Jackie Robinson: Between the Baselines (1997), and Ted Williams: A Portrait in Words and Pictures (1991). He has also edited Impossible Dreams: A Red Sox Collection (2003), Top of the Heap: A Yankees Collection (2003), and Chasing Tiger: A Tiger Woods Reader (2002). Stout writes a monthly column for Boston Baseball and has written for several other magazines. His next book, with Charlie Vitchers and Robert Gray, will explore the experience of construction workers cleaning up the New York World Trade Center site.
1. Wendell Smith, “Red Sox Consider Negroes,” Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 21, 1945.
2. Howard Bryant, Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston (Boston, 2002), 33–40. Cited hereafter as Bryant, SO.
3. Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Greatest Experiment (New York, 1983), 43. Cited hereafter as Tygiel, BGE; Arnold Rampersand, Jackie Robinson (New York, 1997), 119. The error stems from Jackie Robinson’s ghost-written volume with Charles Dexter, Baseball Has Done It (Philadelphia and New York, 1964), 38.
4. Bryant, SO, 43–48.
5. Dave Egan, “What About Trio Seeking Sox Tryout?” Boston Daily Record, Apr. 16, 1945.
6. Clif Keane, “Robinson’s Day with Sox Told,” Boston Daily Globe, Apr. 29, 1959.
7. Keane, “Robinson’s Day with Sox Told.”
8. Egan, “What About Trio Seeking Sox Tryout?”
9. Keane, “Robinson’s Day with Sox Told.”
10. Glenn Stout and Dick Johnson, Jackie Robinson: Between the Baselines, (San Francisco, 1997), 21–30. Cited hereafter as Stout and Johnson, JRBB.
11. Mabrey “Doc” Kountze to Glenn Stout, May 25, 1987. Letter in possession of the author. Kountze also identified the New York Age, Philadelphia Independent, Washington Tribune, St. Louis Argus, Louisiana Weekly, Texas Informer, San Francisco Spokesman, and Chicago Defender as newspapers that either participated in the NNNAA or assisted its cause.
12. Stout and Johnson, JRBB, 33.
13. Stout and Johnson, JRBB, 34–35.
14. Stout and Johnson, JRBB, 26, 34.
15. Stout and Johnson, JRBB, 34, 36.
16. “Kansas City Battles All-Stars to Tie in 14-Inning Tilt,” Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 7, 1945; “Birmingham, Monarchs Split Two Sunday Tilts,” Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 14, 1945; “Giants Drop Two to Monarchs,” Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 14, 1945.
17. Tygiel, BGE, 45, 46.
18. Tygiel, BGE, 45; Rampersand, Jackie Robinson, 119.
19. David McCullough, Truman (New York, 1992), 345.
20. 2004 Boston Red Sox Media Guide (Boston, 2004), 424.
21. Smith, “Red Sox Consider Negroes.”
22. Smith, “Red Sox Consider Negroes.”
23. David Falkner, Great Time Coming (New York, 1995), 102.
24. Jackie Robinson, I Never Had it Made (Hopewell, N.J., 1995), 29.
25. Wendell Smith, “Sports Spurts,” Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 21, 1945.
26. Rampersand, Jackie Robinson, 120.
27. Egan, “What About Trio Seeking Sox Tryout?”
28. Keane, “Robinson’s Day with Sox Told.”
29. Joe Cashman, “Baseball Opening Set; Barrett Joins Braves,” Boston Daily Record, Apr. 17, 1945. Although the headline makes no mention of the tryout, it is the subject of the bulk of the article.
30. Smith, “Red Sox Consider Negroes.”
31. Cashman, “Baseball Opening Set; Barrett Joins Braves.”
32. Keane, “Robinson’s Day with Sox Told.”
33. Cashman, “Baseball Opening Set; Barrett Joins Braves.”
34. Smith, “Red Sox Consider Negroes.”
35. Wendell Smith, “Red Sox Candidates Waiting to Hear from Management,” Apr. 28, 1945.
36. “Three Negroes Given Workout by Red Sox,” Boston Evening Globe, Apr. 16, 1945.
37. Cashman, “Baseball Opening Set; Barrett Joins Braves.”
38. Peter Golenbock, Fenway (New York, 1992), 150; Smith, “Red Sox Candidates Waiting to Hear from Management.” Smith mentions the meeting between Tobin and Robinson, but does not note Tobin’s alcoholism.
39. Smith, “Red Sox Candidates Waiting to Hear from Management.”
40. Jack Malaney, “Sox Infield Faces Shift for Opener,” Boston Post, Apr. 17, 1945.
41. “Three Negroes Given Workout by Red Sox.”
42. “Red Sox Coaches Look Over 3 Negro Players,” Boston Daily Globe, Apr. 17, 1945.
43. “Negro Trio Works Out under Coach Hugh Duffy of Red Sox,” Boston Herald, Apr. 17, 1945.
44. John Drohan, “Changed Braves in Official Start,” Boston Traveler, Apr. 17, 1945; “3 Negro Ballplayers Work Out at Fenway,” Boston American, Apr. 17, 1945; Malaney, “Sox Infield Faces Shift for Opener.”
45. Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, Red Sox Century (Boston, 2000), 239, 242, 243, 279. Cited hereafter as Stout and Johnson, RSC.
46. Malaney, “Sox Infield Faces Shift for Opener.”
47. “3 Negro Ballplayers Work Out at Fenway.”
48. Drohan, “Changed Braves in Official Start.”
49. Cashman, “Baseball Opening Set; Barrett Joins Braves.”
50. Mabrey “Doc” Kountze, “Three Race Baseball Candidates Impress Red Sox Coach Hugh Duffy,” Boston Guardian, Apr. 21, 1945.
51. Smith, “Red Sox Candidates Waiting to Hear from Management.”
52. Dick Bresciani to Howard Bryant, e-mail of Apr. 25, 2003, in possession of the author. Bresciani, who serves as the Red Sox vice president of publication, heard from Quinn’s son-in law, who claimed his father-in-law attended the tryout but did not hear anyone yell a racial epithet. In 1945, Quinn did play in the Red Sox farm system.
53. Bryant, SO, 33.
54. Bryant, SO, 32.
55. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 276.
56. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 290.
57. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 292.
58. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 291.
59. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 291.
60. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 242, 243, 291.
61. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 179–185, provides a complete Yawkey biography and details the relationship with Cobb.
62. Mabrey “Doc” Kountze, 50 Sports Years Along Memory Lane (Medford, Mass., 1979), 24.
63. Chicago Defender, Jan. 29, 1959.
64. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 291.
65. Keane, “Robinson’s Day with Sox Told.”
66. Egan, “What About Trio Seeking Sox Tryout?”
67. See Bryant’s Shut Out for a thorough accounting of the race question in the regard to the Red Sox and various players.
68. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 242.
69. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 242.
70. Bryant, SO, 231.
71. Boston Globe, July 22, 1979.
72. Marie Brenner, “A Rookie in Pearls,” Esquire, July 1980. Her reports written during the 1979 season for the Boston Herald American serve as the basis for the article.
73. Bryant, SO, 151–152.
74. “Sox Issue Statement on Charges,” Boston Globe, Feb. 16, 1986.
75. Mark Jurkowitz, “Jurassic Jock,” Boston Phoenix, Jan. 26, 1994. The story includes a lengthy and detailed discussion of McDonough’s ethical failures as a journalist.
76. Will McDonough, “Sox Racist? Says Who? Harper Case No Proof,” Boston Globe, Apr. 17, 1986.
77. Bryant, SO, 186.
78. Steve Fainaru, “Change is Still Lacking,” Boston Globe, Aug. 6, 1991.
79. Will McDonough, “To Him, the Series was Far Off Base,” Boston Globe, Aug.19, 1991.
80. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 244.
81. Stout and Johnson, RSC, 291, 396, 434–435.
82. Gordon Edes, “Historian Rewrites Story of Sox ‘Curse’.” Boston Globe, Nov. 26, 2000. Howard Bryant in Shut Out enlarged upon our theme.
83. Will McDonough to Glenn Stout, telephone conversation, Nov. 28, 2000.
84. Will McDonough, “Ticket Increase at Fenway Shouldn’t Raise Fan’s Ire,” Boston Globe, Dec. 2, 2000. The story in question appeared as part of McDonough’s weekly column. McDonough never contacted me after the incident, never acknowledged receipt of the documents in regard to the tryout, and never again wrote about the issue. After the McDonough story appeared, I wrote Globe sports editor Don Skwar and asked that a correction appear in the paper. Skwar contacted me a few days later and despite the fact that McDonough’s story contained errors verified by the newspaper’s own reporting, told me simply, “We don’t think that is necessary.” The author then responded by writing a “letter to the editor,” to the Globe. The Globe edited the letter without my input, made it appear to defend Tom Yawkey, and excised all references to McDonough’s factual errors. McDonough died of a heart attack on Jan. 9, 2003.
85. Bryant, SO, 239.
86. Bryant, SO, 253, 254.
87. Dean Johnson, “City Council: WEEI Morning Man Must Go: ‘Gorilla’ Remark Draws Suspension,” Boston Herald, Oct. 3, 2003, and “The Duo of Dung Radio,” Boston Phoenix, Oct. 10–16, 2003. John Dennis, while commenting on a photograph in the Boston Herald of an escaped gorilla, referred to the primate as a “METCO gorilla.” METCO is the acronym for a program that sends inner-city children, many of them African American, to schools in the Boston suburbs.
88. Dean Johnson, “Controversial Hosts Spark New Firestorm,” Boston Herald, Jan. 9, 2004. In this incident, while discussing a sex scandal involving Chinese athletes, the hosts angered Boston’s Asian community when they repeatedly played an audio clip from the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket in which a character playing a Vietnamese prostitute says, “me so horny.” WEEI took no action.