A great story at the Boston Globe today as Bob Hohler talks to former Red Sox player, coach and executive Tommy Harper, who talks at length about his experiences with the Red Sox’ troubled racial legacy.
From 1933 until 2002, when the team was sold to current ownership, the Red Sox were controlled by the Yawkey family and their surrogates. During that time the Red Sox were, quite famously, slow to integrate and in many ways the Red Sox organization mirrored Boston’s own unfortunate racial history. As Harper’s story shows, however, trouble with the Sox did not end with the team’s integration throughout the 60s. It lasted all the way until John Henry purchased the team.
There were bad scenes as he played for the Sox in the 70s and they continued on as he coached and worked for the Sox’ front office in the 80s, to the point where he filed a successful discrimination suit against the team in the 80s. In addition to the Sox’ awful hiring practices and willing failure to comply with anti-discrimination orders, during spring training the club would give passes to an private Florida club to white players while not offering them to blacks like Harper and Jim Rice. This went on as late as the mid-1980s.
Harper was fired by the Red Sox for pointing out the team’s bad acts. He then coached the Expos for several years. Then he returned in 1999, as his boss in Montreal — Dan Duquette — took over in Boston:
“I was told that everything about the Red Sox organization had gotten better,’’ Harper recalled. “I discovered it had not.’’
That same year, the Sox paid a financial settlement to a former manager of Fenway’s 600 Club who alleged he had been racially harassed by his coworkers and the team had failed to properly investigate his complaints.
For his part, Harper was particularly offended by the Sox hiring a former player, Mike Stanley, in 2002 at a coaching salary more than $50,000 greater than his, even though Harper had 15 years of major league coaching experience and Stanley none.
You’ll encounter a lot of people who pretend that racism ended in 1964 and who say that anyone who mentions racism today is “playing the race card” or is somehow being disingenuous. Don’t believe it for a second. This stuff went on with the Red Sox into the 21st century. It’s still going on in lots of places today.