The Red Sox management says there was no plan to wind up with only one black on the roster until the middle of this year, when Vaughn joined the team and doubled the number. The voices in the black community say, "Sure." The Red Sox management says it always has been looking for black players, citing this player and that who did not sign or simply did not climb through the minor league system. The voices in the black community say, "Sure." The Red Sox management protests the protests. The protests continue.
"It's like an albatross around our neck," general manager Lou Gorman says. "It hangs there and hangs there, and we just can't shake it."
No move is made by this team without the element of race being mentioned. The departures of recent black players such as Lee Smith, Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd, Dave Henderson and Jim Rice seemed to be surrounded by controversy. Why wasn't Rice given the 21-gun send-off of a long-term superstar? Why wasn't the potential of Henderson seen, especially when he hit those dramatic postseason home runs in 1986? Why wasn't the Can resigned? Why did he have such an emotional tenure in a Red Sox uniform? Why was Smith shipped to St. Louis and Jeff Reardon, a white player, brought to town to do the same job? Why? There is an explanation for every individual move, but an overall explanation is harder to find.
Why are there so many problems?
"Every one of these situations was unique," Harrington says. "Rice and Oil Can...you have to know the people involved. Henderson...we had Ellis Burks set to go to be our centerfielder. Lee Smith...it was a gamble. We thought we would be able to trade one of the two relievers for a top-line starting pitcher. It turned out we couldn't do that and traded Smith for Tom Brunansky. Things just worked out that way. They worked out so that, to our embarrassment, we had only Ellis on the roster for a year. That wasn't a plan. What you should know is that there isn't a malicious bone in anybody's body here. We're trying. We're trying a lot of things."
There have been some front-office changes—starting with the hiring of a black woman, Elaine Weddington, who is now an assistant general manager, and going down to the hiring of black clubhouse boys and batboys—but the whiteness of the team on the field and of the fans in the stands is what is noticed first. The team's history is unshakable. The past and the present combine for an argument of racism that is hard to deflect.
Why didn't the team sign Robinson or Sam Jethroe at that long-ago Fenway tryout in 1945, held only because of the pressure from Boston city councillor Isadore Muchnick? The anonymous quote from a club official, "Get those niggers off the field," is part of the story. Why was the promotion of Green, a black player who didn't arrive until 1959, so late? Why Green? Why not someone else? Why has the team lagged in the signing of black players ever since? Why has Rice been the team's only black superstar?
At the least, there has been a record of bullheadedness and insensitivity. At the least.
"Do you know what I think happens?" Scott says. "You hear about the Curse of the Bambino when the team doesn't win. Well, there isn't a Curse of the Bambino. The curse is the way the Red Sox develop their ball club. They're always looking for those strong guys to hit the ball over the leftfield wall. Big, strong, righthanded hitters. They've never looked for speed. They're still building teams for the '40s, '50s and '60s. These are the '90s. They've never changed to the modern game.
"That's what's killed them. That's what kept them away from black guys. I like to think it's a baseball decision, not a racial decision. I have to think that way. They're my team, and I'm pulling for 'em. If something else is involved, I don't want to know."