Published in the August 30, 2018 edition of Worcester Magazine
Before the “Woo Sox” and the Bravehearts and the Tornadoes, Worcester was home to one of the original teams in the National League; the same National League that still exists today as part of Major League Baseball. The only problem with the team was that it wasn’t very good, and not many people were interested in going to the Agricultural Fairgrounds near where Becker College is today to see them play. It is unclear exactly what the team’s name was. Some refer to them as the “Worcester Worcesters”, others the “Brown Stockings” and others still the “Ruby Legs”. The team is notable for having the lowest attended MLB game of all time with 6 paying customers. It wasn’t all bad times though. Their pitcher Lee Richmond was the first to ever pitch a perfect game on June 20th, 1880. Needless to say, the team was dissolved at the conclusion of the 1882 season, and was replaced within the league by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Worcester is full of great baseball history. The poem “Casey at the Bat” was written here. Legendary Manager Casey Stengel played a season with the Worcester Panthers of the Eastern League. Babe Ruth is said to have drank at the Hotel Vernon. The AAA Red Sox coming to Worcester starts a new chapter, however, there is still some unfinished baseball business to attend to dating back to 1882.
Worcester wasn’t the only team removed from the league after the 1882 season. The other was the Trojans of Troy, New York. A 1990 Sports Illustrated article by Steve Wulf states that although the 2 teams were voted out of the league, their National League membership remained, and National League baseball games should have stayed in the cities as well:
According to the 1883 edition of Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide, the following resolution was unanimously adopted: “That the resignations of the WORCESTER B.B. CLUB, and the TROY CITY B.B. ASSOCIATION, are hereby accepted, and that the names of said clubs be placed on the roll of honorary League membership.”
Troy and Worcester were also promised four exhibition games a year if they could field representative teams…So, you see, these two frayed-collar cities are still part of the Senior Circuit.
It has been 135 years since this resolution was adopted, so by my calculations, Major League Baseball owes both Worcester and Troy 540 National League games. That’s three and a third MLB seasons!
The city of Troy has already made the call “for Major League Baseball to right a terrible wrong”. In 2001, Kevin Moran of the Troy Record made the accusation that the removal of the two teams was a crime. “…the vote (to remove Worcester and Troy) was illegal. Nowhere in the National League charter did it state teams could be removed from the league, or from their franchise locality, for financial reasons.” Mr. Moran called for the MLB to repay the city their missing games as Troy was getting its own minor league team and stadium. He wants the San Francisco Giants, the team that came out of the city’s removal from the league to come back to Troy to play exhibition games. Now that the Paw Sox are moving up 146, should Worcester expect any less?
I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the new team coming to town, but there is nothing like the thrill of seeing MLB players live and in person, something that the city should have been experiencing for the last 135 years. It’s a stretch to call the team’s removal in 1882 a crime, and I don’t expect a National League team to return to Worcester any time soon. But I do think it is time for Major League Baseball to make good on its agreement to play games in the city. Maybe the Phillies and the Red Sox can play a preseason game in the new state of the art ballpark planned for the Canal District before every season. Both teams could wear throwback uniforms, the Red Sox in their inaugural 1901 garb, and the Phillies wearing brown socks or ruby pants, depending on who you ask.