Frederick News-Post - October 24, 1980

Worcester, Mass., should join in the Phillies' celebration


WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — While the Philadelphia Phillies achieved first world championship, the memory of their forerunners who played in Worcester 100 years ago is buried under autumn leaves.


In a sleepy park in this central Massachusetts city, children scamper through piles of leaves near the site where the original Phillies played their first baseball game.


But most people in Worcester have forgotten that the team ever existed.


"There's not that much local pride about the Phillies being in the World Series because nobody realizes they started here," said Ralph Colebrook, 70, who grew up in Worcester.


"The only reason I know of them is because my father used to go to their games and told me about them," he recalled.


The club entered the National League in 1880 as the "Worcesters" and became popularly known as the Brown Stockings during its three-year stay in town. The roster included names like Hick Carpenter, Buttercup Dickerson and Lip Pike.


Reminiscent of the Phillies, the Worcesters had a manager who accused them of being quitters and a left fielder whose fielding was not highly regarded. And in the best Phillies tradition, the Brown Stockings could be incredibly bad or, occasionally, surprisingly good.


The team was born in Worcester amid controversy that the city wasn't large enough to support a big league franchise. National League President William Hulbert allowed Worcester to include the suburbs in their population count, giving the city the 75,000 people required for a franchise.


But after the 1882 season, league officials moved the Brown Stockings to Philadelphia because they weren't drawing well, and also to compete with a team started there by the rival American Association.


The Brown Stockings burst onto the big league baseball scene with a flourish. They beat the Troy Trojans (later tie New York Giants) 13-1 in their 1880 opener and after one month of the season were in second place, chasing the Chicago White Stockings.


The Worcesters reached the height of their existence on June 12, 1880, when John Lee Richmond, fresh out of Brown University, pitched the first "perfect" game in major league history. Richmond retired 27 straight batters as Worcester nipped Cleveland, 1-0.


From that point, though, it was all downhill for the Brown Stockings. They slumped to a 40-43 record, fifth in the eight-team league, in 1880 and followed that with last place finishes, with 50-118 marks, the next two years.


The final season especially was dismal. The team went through three managers. In September, they committed 21 errors in a single game. The last manager, Tommy Bond, accused the players of giving up. The left fielder, Frank Mountain, was blasted in one newspaper account as an inept fielder who was charged with no errors "because he missed no balls that be touched, but he missed touching a number of which any regular fielder would have easily captured."


Finally, on Sept 21, 1882, the Brown Stockings bowed out of Worcester with a 10-7 loss to Troy. Only 18 spectators showed up.