This study examines racial tolerance through the intersection of the media, fans, and the Boston Red Sox. Through the 1998 season Red Sox home games in which Dominican Pedro Martinez pitched attracted large numbers of Latinos. This marked the first time that large numbers of people of color regularly attended Fenway Park. Media reports simultaneously promoted both an awareness of this cultural phenomenon and portrayed it as widely applauded. In presenting a story of Boston’s “embracing the ace,” the media reports also wound up pushing a view of widespread approval of the new Latino presence both in Fenway and society at large. This study sought to compare the impressions of widespread exuberance for Martinez and the Dominicans at the Park with actual interviews of those Anglos at the Park. It also sought to examine what motivated the Dominicans to attend in such large numbers and to so publicly celebrate their identity. The results showed that Anglos held a fractured view about Dominicans: a very positive view of Pedro Martinez as a Dominican but a fairly evenly split view of Dominicans in general. For their part, Dominicans were unconcerned with what Anglos thought and came to the game only to lend support to their Latino hero, as well as bask in his reflected glow. One methodological conclusion arrived at is that media content analysis must be cross checked against some sort of data and must not be assumed to accurately reflect social reality.
The author is with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115.