| Thomas Austin
Yawkey had a favorite saying, "Be patient, take the bad with the
good and never look back." He lived his life by the words and ran
his baseball team the same way. Thomas Austin was born in Detroit Michigan
on February 21, 1903, into an extremely wealthy family. When his father
died when Tom was a young boy, he and his mother were taken in by her
brother, William Hoover "Bill" Yawkey. Yawkey had owned the
Detroit Tigers and had made a fortune in mining, logging, and oil. (After
his mother died in 1917, Thomas Austin formally was adopted by William
Yawkey and his wife and became Thomas Austin Yawkey.) It was as a boy
in Detroit that Yawkey discovered and fell in love with baseball. A rabid
Tigers fan, he idolized and later became great friends with his idol,
Ty Cobb, an association that lasted for over 40 years. Always a great
athlete, he starred at The Irving School in Tarrytown, New York, where
he was runner-up for the school's prestigious Edward T. Collins Medal
for best scholar-athlete. After school, Yawkey went to work in the family
businesses where he showed a heady business sense and a wonderful mind
for new and innovative ideas.
One day in the early 1920's, Yawkey
had dinner with the "Georgia Peach." Cobb suggested to Yawkey
that he buy a Major League team when his trust, came to "fruition."
Yawkey had to wait several years, but finally got the opportunity when
another chance conversation with another Hall Of Famer led him to his
acquiring the Red Sox. In 1933 Eddie Collins, then a coach with the
A's, spent a hunting vacation down at Toms' 50,000-acre South Carolina
retreat. The two had become fast friends after they were introduced
by Ty Cobb. (Cobb, Collins and Yawkey would eventually all go on hunting
expeditions together on numerous occasions.) It was during idle conversation
that Collins mentioned to Yawkey that the sorry Red Sox were up for
sale. Yawkey said he would buy the club from Bob Quinn and his associates,
but only if Collins would run the club for him. Collins refused at first,
but after Connie Mack urged him to take the position, Collins relented
and the rest became history. Tom Yawkey collected on his "trust,"
which was estimated at 40 million dollars, on February 21, 1933. On
February 25th, 1933, he purchased the Boston Red Sox.
Unlike many other owners of the time, Yawkey chose to pay his players and management well, a practice that was unheard of. Basically, only the Yankees were paid at top value, when it came to salary levels of the time. Yawkey's players eventually became known as the "Gold Sox" because their pay scale was so far above the average. Usually, a player did not have to haggle with Yawkey and his staff the way they did with the Branch Rickeys and Ed Barrow. He also put money into a farm system that would eventually yield the Sox Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams. He even rebuilt Fenway Park, making it into one of the great venues in baseball history.
One of the things Tom Yawkey should always be remembered for is his philanthropic work. He was always willing to help people who were down and out and always had a paternalistic attitude toward his ballplayers. He once said, "I was always taught to help others, that those of us fortunate enough to be born with material abundance should do what we can for those who are not. I do what I can."
He enjoyed the company of his players, and enjoyed shagging flies and taking batting practice with them well into his sixties. He more than anything enjoyed hunting on his estate in North Carolina, where he could be seen in old overalls and a straw hat, hanging out with the workers and just enjoying everyone's company.
It must be noted that even though he never won a world championship as an owner, he did all that he could to bring a championship home to Boston. It has been estimated that Yawkey lost over 20 million dollars on the Red Sox over the years, but he never complained. When he died from leukemia on July 9, 1976, a grief stricken Ted Williams said, "I feel so badly I don't know what to say. He had a heart as big as a watermelon. I loved the man from the bottom of my heart. He was unselfish, fair, sincere, and honest." Walter O'Malley of the Dodgers, another old-time owner said, "He was a good man and a good friend. I never remember anyone ever saying anything bad about him personally. Things just won't be that same without him."
In 1980 Thomas Austin Yawkey was inducted
into the Baseball Hall Of Fame on the strength of his character as Red
Sox owner. No other person has ever made it into the Hall solely as
owner. Maybe this is Tom Yawkey's greatest legacy. He may not have won
a championship, but, the sum total of a man is not tallied up in championships
or rings. It's the character of a person that counts.