Born Thomas Austin, Thomas Yawkey (1903-1976) was involved in baseball all his life. His grandfather, William Clyman Yawkey, was negotiating for the purchase of the Detroit Tigers when he died in 1904. The sale was completed to Tom's uncle, William Yawkey. When Tom's father died, Uncle William adopted Tom; he eventually inherited the family lumber and mining business, which made him a millionaire.
After Yawkey bought the Boston Red Sox, he quickly hired Eddie Collins to oversee the baseball operations. Tom spent another $1.5 million to refurbish Fenway Park. Yawkey and Collins purchased the contracts of future Hall of Famers Lefty Grove, Joe Cronin, and Jimmie Foxx by 1936. Collins bought Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams on one scouting trip, and Boston finished second to the Yankees in 1938, 1939, 1941, and 1942. New manager Joe Cronin finally drove the team to a pennant in 1946.
Yawkey was very popular with his players and often worked out with them before games. He became so close to the Boston players and stars that he was often accused of "babying" them. Joe Cronin said Yawkey "was not only the team owner, he was the team's No. 1 fan." Though the team never triumphed, Yawkey revived the interest of the fans, who soon became (and remain) among the most devoted in the game. Yawkey reaped a full measure of enjoyment from his team, and from baseball.
The Red Sox's slow pace at signing black players cost them in the 1950s, and they were a fourth-place club most of the decade. In the 1960s, the bottom dropped out, and the Red Sox were generally lousy. In 1967, however, they went from ninth place to win the pennant. From that time, Boston was a solidly run franchise that never quite got over the top.
Yawkey was greatly respected by his peers in the baseball world, and from 1956 to 1973 he served as AL vice president. In 1980, four years after his death, the Veterans Committee elected him to the Hall of Fame. He was the sole owner of the Red Sox for 44 years, longer than any other owner in baseball history. The Yawkey tradition lived on when Jean, Tom's widow, took the reins of the Red Sox organization until her death in 1992.
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