Tommy Harper still haunted by time with Red Sox – Boston Globe
For decades, Tommy Harper encountered strangers eager to share their Red Sox memories: their first games with their fathers, their first awed glimpses of Fenway in green, their farewells to Ted and Yaz.
Harper listened patiently, even when the stories turned so predictable he could finish them himself. But he never shared his memories. Some were too unsettling for casual conversation.
As a central figure in the troubled racial history of the Red Sox, Harper endured years of discrimination as a player, coach, and front-office staffer under the team’s Yawkey-affiliated regime. He once fought back and received a measure of vindication with an out-of-court settlement. But he later carried scars from the experience into the autumn of his life.
Now, at 73, Harper has decided against taking his untold stories to his grave. He said future generations should know what it was like for him as a black man to make his way in an organization that long operated on the wrong side of racial justice before the franchise changed hands in 2002.
As a second-class citizen in a climate of prejudice, Harper said, he endured inequities in pay, accommodations, and opportunities. He said he heard racial slurs uttered not only by the team’s fans but its uniformed personnel. At times, he said, his Boston baseball life was an exercise in indignity.
“They called it Red Sox Nation,” Harper said, “but it was never my nation.”
Harper, who bears no ill will toward the current owners, filed state and federal discrimination complaints against the club in 1986 and received a financial settlement. He alleged the Sox retaliated against him for helping to expose the club for fostering a whites-only policy for team employees at a private social club near the former spring training facility in Winter Haven, Fla.
Harper, in a series of recent …read more