Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Treasures from the Worcester Room: Worcester's Major League Team

As the Boston Red Sox open up the 2017 Major League Baseball season, it is interesting to remember that Worcester once had its own MLB team.  In fact, the Worcester team is responsible for some fascinating and important baseball milestones as well.  Between 1880 and 1882, Worcester was home to the incredibly, creatively named "Worcester Worcesters".  The Worcester Public Library's Worcester Room has a number of resources that detail the team's unique legacy.

Originally a minor league team, the Worcester Worcesters joined the majors in 1880 thanks to a campaign spearheaded by manager Frank Bancroft.  Bancroft was apparently quite a skilled promoter.  For example, as can be seen in the newspaper article above, the Worcester team became the first American professional baseball team to play in Cuba.

One of the proudest moments for the Worcesters was when pitcher Lee Richmond (pictured above) became the first pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game.  On June 12, 1880, he completed the rare feat as the Worcesters beat Cleveland 1-0.  Richmond was so skilled a player that as one baseball history site says, "his dominance for Brown University’s squad – while he was being lured in and out of the majors by Harry Wright and Frank Bancroft – so upset the Ivy League that they legislated against any 'professionalism' in the college ranks, laying the foundation of NCAA policy to this day."

While Richmond was an ace pitcher, the Worcesters were perhaps not the most skilled team.  As the book The Worcester Club: 1880-1882 charitably states, "it became evident that the Worcesters weren't the best team in the league, but they prided themselves on being the most gentlemanly."  At the end of the 1882 season, due to low attendance numbers, the Worcesters were removed from the league.

Interestingly, after the club disbanded, Richmond would go on to become a doctor, and then a math teacher in Ohio, where he taught the son of another perfect game pitcher.  According to an article from the Society for American Baseball Research, Richmond told his young student "Your father pitched a perfect game. Well, so did I. It doesn’t mean anything around here and it isn’t going to help you with your geometry."

While baseball is now back in Worcester, with the Bravehearts playing games here every summer, it is important to look back on the legacy of the Worcesters.  Just another example of the fascinating stories of Worcester's long history that you can find in the Worcester Room.

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