James Michael Curley Steals the Red Sox Thunder

In 1933, the Depression held New England in a vice. Mills were dying, crime was soaring, Boston’s Mayor James Michael Curley was honing his ambitions and Tom Yawkey came into money.

James Michael Curley

Gov. James Michael Curley throws out the first picch at Fenway Park in 1935. (Boston Public LIbrary Leslie Jones Collection)

Yawkey inherited $7 million that year, when he turned 30, and he immediately went out and spent $1 million of his new funds on acquiring the Boston Red Sox. Then he spent much more to build it into a winner.

Meanwhile, Mayor Curley was refusing WPA funds that weren’t paid out to his hand-picked pals, and work was slow to pick up in the city.

Curley had had enough of state politicians monkeying with “his” money. So he decided to take his fight to the statehouse and run for governor. But he needed to make a suitable splash with his announcement.

Tom Yawkey

Candidate James Michael Curley

Yawkey would be his patsy. Yawkey planned a grand dinner at the Copley Plaza to celebrate his new team. When Curley asked why he wasn’t invited, Yawkey’s people said there would be no politics at the event, but he was welcome to buy a ticket like anybody else and sit on the banquet dining floor. But he would not sit at the head table. No politicians would.

But Yawkey was no match for the wily politician. When Curley showed up at the event, he strode to the head table and started shaking hands with Yawkey, Connie Mack and other baseball notables. Then Curley’s stooges that he had tucked into the audience jumped into action.

“Speech! Speech!” they shouted. What could Curley do? He had to cooperate. And so he stepped to the podium and in front of an army of press, he announced he would run for governor.

The story didn’t just steal the headlines from Yawkey and his Red Sox. The boys from the newspapers fell over themselves running from the room to reach the phones to get their stories into the earliest possible edition. The Red Sox were left to build their publicity machine another day.

This story last updated in 2022.

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