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The black athlete, coming to the city to play his game for money, is put into the middle of all of this. (The black high school athlete, thinking of enrolling in a Boston college, is warned extensively of both potential and imagined dangers by recruiters from other schools in other cities.) Decades of social history seem to have stalled in Boston. Or at least that is the image. Old battles still are being fought. If anything, the steps toward racial equality have been backward. Or so it seems.
For every black athlete who has come to Boston, played out his career, stayed and prospered....
"I can't talk about anyone else who might have had problems, because I'm sure problems exist, but Boston has been awfully good to Ron Burton," former Patriots running back Ron Burton, a John Hancock Insurance executive who has been with the company for 25 years, says. "I've carved out a group of friends here who are second to none. I mean that. Second to none."
Someone else tells a different story....
"There is an air of hostility here that doesn't exist in any other big city in America," says former NBA referee Ken Hudson, who is black and is now vice-president of community affairs for the Celtics. "I don't know how to explain it, except to say that you're uncomfortable here. People feel you're intruding. I was with Bob Lanier, the former Piston, recently. He said, 'How can you stand this town?' I don't know. It's just uncomfortable. I go to Providence, to Hartford, and I never feel uncomfortable. They're not very far away. It's just different here."
Where does it end? The talk shows hum on this sort of controversy. The Boston Globe recently ran an extensive series on blacks and baseball in Boston. Numbers always seem to be mentioned. Numbers of blacks on the bench. Numbers of blacks on the field. Numbers of blacks in the stands. Is there any other city so concerned—still—with numbers? Is there any other city that has to be as concerned? The image lingers. The image says numbers are important.
"It's strange," says Scott, the first baseman on the '67 Sox. "I've never had any problems with Boston. The people were pretty good to me when I was a player and they're pretty good to me now. But I was in California not long ago, and I went into the Yankees clubhouse. I was talking with a couple of guys, Jesse Barfield and Mel Hall, and they were saying they didn't see how I ever could have played in Boston. What happened? When I came here to play, everybody wanted to come here. This was the place to be. Now nobody wants to come here."
Bynoe: "The Red Sox are the ones. They've been racist all the way back to when they wouldn't sign Jackie Robinson. You ask the kids around here, none of them like the Red Sox. There's some old people who like 'em, but that's because they can't get around much and they just like to watch baseball. The kids, none of them like the Red Sox. Why should they?"
Foggie: "The Red Sox were the last to bring up a black ballplayer. Right? And when they did, they brought up a mediocre one. They didn't bring up a star, if you know what I mean. Pumpsie Green, he tried, but he was mediocre. It was like...'O.K., so now you see why we haven't done it.' "
Bynoe: "The Red Sox never created the atmosphere in this town for black people to like baseball. For so many years, a black person would go over there and have to put up with so much b.s., people yelling things and the Red Sox wouldn't do anything about it. They've done some things now, hiring that woman lawyer and all, but it seems like window dressing to me. How many black kids do you see selling the hot dogs and the soda? Even Boston Garden. You go to a Celtics game and it seems everyone's white who's working. The only time you see any blacks is at halftime, when the two black dudes come out on the court. Pushing brooms."