Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Worcester Phillies

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a repository of useless facts, a function of my addiction to Wikipedia and other sites where you can find obscure information.  Recently, I was doing some mindless surfing of 1880s Major League Baseball, and found that, from 1880 to 1882, Worcester, Mass., the town I currently call home, was home to a National League franchise.

This franchise is fascinating to me for several reasons.  One, this franchise pitched the first perfect game in major league history, on June 12, 1880.  Because it hailed from Worcester, it gave Bay Staters a choice for their baseball rooting interests.  You didn't have to root for the Boston Braves (the Red Sox were still two decades away from inception).  I mean, come on, if you're from Pittsfield or Springfield and you want to go to a major league game, would you rather drive to Worcester or Boston?  It's a no-brainer.

There's also an amazing amount of mystery shrouding this team.  For starters, there seems to be a heated debate on such basic matters as the team nickname., a pretty reliable source, says the team was called the Worcester Ruby Legs, which is either a 19th-century or an incredibly wussy way of calling them the Worcester Purple Sox.  Other sources call them the Worcester Brown Stockings.  Yet Wikipedia says the team had no nickname.  Now, Wikipedia is hardly the final arbiter -- I mean, there's nothing stopping me from vandalizing the Wikipedia article on the team and renaming the team the Worcester Porn Stars.  But there's some credence to the Wikipedia article, which I will get to shortly.

The other mysterious thing about the team is what happened to it.  Seems the Worcester franchise was, perfect game notwithstanding, pretty fucking bad.  The team posted a 90-159 record in three seasons, including a wretched 18-66 in 1882; many sources maintain the team folded after that year.  But another theory is that the Worcester franchise is alive and thriving today, under the alias of...the Philadelphia Phillies.

If you look at the 1882 and 1883 National League seasons, you'll notice there's only one change of venue between the eight teams -- Worcester leaves, and is replaced by the Philadelphia Phillies (though they were originally called the Quakers, the Phillies became the de facto nickname and eventually it became the official team name).  Yet that's where the mystery begins.  While it seems logical that the Worcester team moved to Philly, Wikipedia claims this did not happen, that the Worcester team folded and the National League simply awarded another, unrelated franchise to Philadelphia.  And here's where Wikipedia has some credibility: Wiki cites none other than itself, which notes that none of the players on the 1882 Worcester team played for Philadelphia in 1883.

However, it gets better.  The Phillies themselves claim the Worcester team was purchased by a new owner, who then moved the team to Philadelphia.  As for the Wikipedia question of why nobody from the Worcester franchise played for the Phillies, well, I can see how an owner inheriting an 18-66 team might be inclined to fire the whole team.  I mean, that's a .214 winning percentage; even the worst team in the majors rarely has a winning percentage of less than .400.

So, while I can't say for sure, it seems there's a legitimate case can be made that the Phillies were originally the Worcester Whatevers.

It doesn't affect my loyalties.  I've been a Red Sox fan my whole life and will continue to be until the day I die and beyond.  Boston is the cultural capital of New England and its pro sports franchises are essentially New England's teams (except for those traitors in southwestern Connecticut who root for New York, and those traitors in northern Vermont who root for the Montreal Canadiens).  I mean, Worcester's great, for the time being it's a good place for me to live.  But I don't expect to live in Worcester forever.         

And, as I was saying earlier, I spend way too much time enthralled by useless facts. 


  1. I knew the useless fact about the Philadelphia Quakers but did not know the useless fact about the Worcester Whatevers.

    Good stuff.

  2. Who knew? I would've guessed the Ruby Stockings got into the wrong dye batch and became Re Stockings and merged with the Boston Braves to become the Boston Red Stockings...