Yawkey spent 44 years as the sole owner of the Boston Red Sox, often spending lavishly in pursuit of a winner. Yawkey was born Thomas Austin; his grandfather had a lumber and iron empire worth millions and was negotiating to purchase the Detroit Tigers when he died. Tom’s uncle completed the deal, and when Tom’s father died, the uncle adopted the boy, who took the Yawkey name. Tom inherited a sizable estate when the elder Yawkey died. Armed with a degree from the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, he actively headed up the family business empire. In 1933, at the age of 30, he paid Bob Quinn $1.5 million for the Red Sox, and found himself with a perennial second-division club and a decaying Fenway Park.
Yawkey quickly hired an astute baseball man in Eddie Collins, and spent another $1.5 million to refurbish Fenway Park. With Collins supplying the know-how and Yawkey the money, the Red Sox brought future Hall of Famers Rick Ferrell, Joe Cronin, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams to Boston. Yawkey never lost his willingness to open his coffers for proven players or to pay his players handsomely even before it was normal to do so. Only three times did his beloved Red Sox reward him with the AL pennant – in 1946, 1967, and 1975. And they never won a World Series.
Yawkey took great pride in becoming a pillar in the baseball world. Yet he was not active in social circles, and was more at ease in his baseball togs, working out on the Fenway diamond. Respected for the sound baseball advice he gave to other owners, Yawkey was named to the Hall of Fame by the Committee on Baseball Veterans in 1980, four years after his death. He left the Red Sox to be operated by his widow, Jean Yawkey.