Messer Street Grounds

Messer Street Grounds, also known as Messer Park or Messer Field, is a former baseball park located in Providence, Rhode Island. It was home to the Providence Grays of the National League from 1878 to 1885 and of the minor league Providence Grays of the Eastern League in 1886.

In 1878, the Providence Base Ball Association formed and began scouting around the city for a good location for "the best baseball plant in the country". Team directors visited the old Josiah Chapin farm on city's west side and decided that it fit all of the requirements for a baseball park. It was close to level, it was raised up a few feet from the surrounding roads, and it was easily accessible by street car.

Construction on Messer Park began on April 1 and took exactly one month to complete; the final nail was hammered a mere five minutes before the opening game got underway on May 1.

Messer Street Grounds
Messer Street Grounds, 1879
Messer Street Grounds, spring 1879, with Boston and Providence clubs
LocationProvidence, Rhode Island
Coordinates41°48′47″N 71°26′13″W / 41.813179°N 71.437064°W
OwnerProvidence Base Ball Association
Field sizeLeft Field – 281 ft (86 m)
Left-Center – 356 ft (109 m)
Center Field – 318 ft (97 m)
Right-Center – 356 ft (109 m)
Right Field – 431 ft (131 m)
Fences – 12 ft (3.7 m)
OpenedMay 1, 1878
ClosedSeptember 1886
Providence Grays (NL) (1878–1885)
Providence Grays (EL) (1886)

Ballpark Description

The new ballpark opened to the public on May 1, 1878. The following account from the Providence Morning Star captures the excitement and provides a very detailed description of the park:

"The large grandstand held twelve hundred people, among them hundreds of ladies. The long semi-circular tiers of seats were black with men and boys, and hundreds were standing, unable to get seats. The commodious space for carriages was completely filled, and one or two May Day riding parties also graced that part of the grounds...Two registering turnstiles gates admit the patrons to the grounds, and as each ticket holder passes through the gate he steps on a raised platform, and by a mechanical arrangement is registered, and only one person can pass through the gate at a time. Near the gate are two ticket offices, and a large entrance through which the crowd can pass at the end of the game. At the southeast corner there is a large gate to admit carriages to the park. The ground, which contains nearly six acres of land, is enclosed by a fence twelve feet high. The diamond is as level as constant rolling by heavy stone and iron rollers can make it. Inside of the base lines is turfed, except a space nine feet in width, reaching from the pitcher's position to the home plate. Twenty-two feet are sodded outside of the diamond. Paths leading to and from the bases have been rolled hard, and the out-field is sown with grass seed. The grand stand which will seat nearly 1200 people, is 151 x 40 feet (12 m), and in the rear is raised 34 feet (10 m). The stand is reached by steps at both ends. It will be covered by canvass, requiring nearly 7,000 feet (2,100 m). Seats are arranged in a circle at the eastern and western sides of the field. A platform 60 x 8 feet (2.4 m) has been erected for the reporters, scorers and invited guests, seating nearly 60 persons. Under the grand stand for the visiting and local clubs are rooms 20 feet (6.1 m) square and fitted up with wardrobes, dressing rooms 20 feet (6.1 m) square, a wash room supplied with Pawtucket water, closet, etc. The Western Union Telegraph Company have a room 8 x 10 feet (3.0 m). There is a stockholders' room 20 feet (6.1 m) square, and a refreshment saloon 40 x 20 to be managed by caterer Ardoene. A fence with gateways has been erected in front of the club rooms, thereby preventing the crowd from having any talk with the players. The grounds are without doubt as fine as any in the country, and Harry Wright said yesterday, 'They are beautiful."

The left field fence was apparently quite close to home plate. One reporter complained that "a hit made in Providence near that foul line post is not a long hit; in fact that same hit in the right field seldom gives more than one base." Despite the allegedly short fence, the Messer Street Grounds was not a friendly home run park. Only eight home runs were hit there in National League games all year long, compared to about two hundred at Chicago's tiny park. Those eight included four over the left field fence, an inside-the-park home run by Paul Hines, and one smash by Jerry Denny that landed in the carriage driveway in right-center field, which was called "the longest ever made upon the grounds." Just beyond the short left field lay a building where fans could sit on the roof and watch the game for the discounted rate of 25 cents, probably to the chagrin of the team management. One particularly powerful home run by Jerry Denny "sailed away like a hawk, rising and rising until long after it passed the left field fence, and until it was far above the housetops, finally dropping in a garden near the street."

The Grays were the first professional team to install a backstop in their park. The screens were installed in 1878 along the grandstand section directly behind the catcher, an area known as the "slaughter pens" for all the foul ball injuries that occurred there.[1]


Before the 1884 season, a few minor improvements on the park were made. The reporters' area of the grand stand was supplied with comfortable cushions by former team president Flint, which all of the reporters noted with gratitude. A score slate was also placed in left field to show the Boston scores by inning as they came in over the telegraph. Finally, "some elaborate pictures have been obtained by Director Allen, measuring 7 x 13 feet (4.0 m), giving a life-size illustration of the diamond and a game in progress, which will be displayed on prominent boards on schedule days."

The End of Messer Street Grounds

The park housed the minor league Providence Grays of the Eastern League in 1886, but the park was too large for the pitiful attendance that the team drew, and by early June the park was once again empty. Rumors began circulating about the sale of the park in September 1886. On February 16, 1887, trustee Greene finally sold off the property that the Messer Street Grounds sat on, in a deed to the Franklin Institute for Savings. The exact demolition date of the park is unknown, but must have been at some point during the next few months. By the end of the year, the subdivided plots were selling off at a rapid clip, and houses started to spring up where the old ball park used to stand.

External links


  1. ^ J.G. Hylton, "A Foul Ball in the Courtroom: The Baseball Spectator Injury as a Case of First Impression", 38 Tulsa L. Rev. 485, 487–88 (2013). Retrieved March 18, 2019
1878 Providence Grays season

The Providence Grays were a new franchise that joined the National League for the 1878 baseball season. They finished in third place.

1878 in baseball

The following are the baseball events of the year 1878 throughout the world.

1879 Providence Grays season

The 1879 Providence Grays won the National League title in only their second season in the league.

1880 Providence Grays season

The Providence Grays finished the 1880 season in second place in the National League.

1881 Providence Grays season

The Providence Grays finished the 1881 season in second place in the National League for a second straight season. However, management strife and sagging attendance hurt the team's bottom line and they occasionally had trouble meeting payroll.

1882 Providence Grays season

The Providence Grays hired veteran manager Harry Wright to guide the team in 1882 and the team seemed to improve. They held first place until September 17, but then suffered a losing streak that dropped the team into second place.

After the season ended, they played a three-game postseason series against the Boston Red Caps for the "Championship of New England." Providence won the series, two games to one, thanks to shutouts pitched by John Montgomery Ward and Hoss Radbourn.

1883 Providence Grays season

The Providence Grays finished the 1883 season in third place after a hard-fought four-way battle for the National League pennant.

1883 in baseball

The following are the baseball events of the year 1883 throughout the world.

1884 Providence Grays season

The Providence Grays went 84–28 during the 1884 season, easily capturing the National League championship. They then faced the American Association champions, the New York Metropolitans, in 1884 World Series. Thanks to excellent pitching by Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn, the Grays swept the series and became the "World Champions."

During the last half of the regular season, Radbourn was the team's main pitcher after Charlie Sweeney jumped to the Union Association. Radbourn won 59 games for the Grays, which set a Major League Baseball record that has stood for over 130 years.

1885 Providence Grays season

After the team's success in 1884, things went downhill for the 1885 Providence Grays. The team dropped in the standings, finishing 30 games back in fourth place and attendance fell drastically. After the season, the club's directors sold all the remaining players to the Boston Beaneaters and folded the team.

Harry Wright

William Henry "Harry" Wright (January 10, 1835 – October 3, 1895) was an English-born American professional baseball player, manager, and developer. He assembled, managed, and played center field for baseball's first fully professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. It was there where he is credited with introducing innovations such as backing up infield plays from the outfield and shifting defensive alignments based on hitters' tendencies. For his contributions as a manager and developer of the game, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952 by the Veterans Committee. Wright was also the first to make baseball into a business by paying his players up to seven times the pay of the average working man.

John Montgomery Ward's perfect game

John Montgomery Ward, pitcher for the Providence Grays, pitched a perfect game against the Buffalo Bisons by retiring all 27 batters he faced on Thursday, June 17, 1880. This event took place in the Messer Street Grounds in Providence, Rhode Island.

List of Boston and Milwaukee Braves Opening Day starting pitchers

The Braves are a Major League Baseball team that was originally based in Boston. They moved to Milwaukee in 1953 before moving to their current home, Atlanta in 1966. They played in the National League since its formation in 1876. At various points in the history in Boston, they were known as the Beaneaters, the Doves, the Rustlers and the Bees. During the 20th century until their move to Milwaukee, they played their home games primarily at two home ball parks – South End Grounds until 1914, and Braves Field from 1915 through 1952. They also played some home games at Fenway Park in 1914 and 1915, including Opening Day of 1915. Their home ball park in Milwaukee was County Stadium. The first game of the new baseball season for a team is played on Opening Day, and being named the Opening Day starter is an honor, which is often given to the player who is expected to lead the pitching staff that season, though there are various strategic reasons why a team's best pitcher might not start on Opening Day.The Braves used 40 different Opening Day starting pitchers in their 80 National League seasons they played prior to moving to Atlanta. The Braves won 46 of those games against 42 losses in those Opening Day starts. They also played two tie games.Warren Spahn had the most Opening Day starts for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves with ten between 1952 and 1964. Kid Nichols made six Opening Day starts between 1893 and 1901. Jim Whitney (1881–1885) and John Clarkson (1888–1892) each had five Opening Day starts. Tommy Bond (1877–1880), Vic Willis (1900–1904), Dick Rudolph (1915–1917, 1919), Al Javery (1942–1945) and Johnny Sain (1946–1949) each made four Opening Day starts. Irv Young (1906–1908), Bob Smith (1927–1929) and Ed Brandt (1932, 1934, 1935) each had three such starts. Other pitchers with multiple Opening Day starts for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves were Charles Radbourn, Jack Stivetts, Hub Perdue, Joe Oeschger, Joe Genewich, Danny MacFayden and Lew Burdette.

Prior to moving to Atlanta, the Braves played in the World Series four times. The played in the World Series as the Boston Braves in 1914 and 1948, and as the Milwaukee Braves in 1957 and 1959. They won the World Series in 1914 and 1957. Their Opening Day starting pitchers in World Series years were Lefty Tyler in 1914, Sain in 1948, and Spahn in 1957 and 1958. They lost their Opening Day game in 1914, 1948 and 1958, and won in 1957. In addition, the franchise won the National League championship eight times during the 19th century, prior to the existence of the modern World Series. Nichols was the team's Opening Day starting pitcher in three of those season, Clarkson and Bond in two of those seasons each, and Whitney was the Opening Day starting pitcher in one such season.

Jesse Barnes made an Opening Day start for the Braves against the New York Giants in 1925, after having made an Opening Day start for the Giants against the Braves in 1920. Spahn is the only pitcher to make an Opening Day start for both the Boston Braves and the Milwaukee Braves. Tony Cloninger, who made the last Opening Day start for the Milwaukee Braves in 1965 and the first for the Atlanta Braves in 1966, is the only pitcher to make an Opening Day start for both the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves.

List of Providence Grays Opening Day starting pitchers

The Providence Grays were a Major League Baseball team that was based in Providence, Rhode Island and played in the National League from 1878 through 1885. The Grays used four Opening Day starting pitchers in their eight years as a Major League Baseball franchise. The first game of the new baseball season for a team is played on Opening Day, and being named the Opening Day starter is an honor that is often given to the player who is expected to lead the pitching staff that season, though there are various strategic reasons why a team's best pitcher might not start on Opening Day. The Grays had a record of five wins and three losses in their Opening Day games.

The first game in Providence Grays history was played on May 1, 1878 against the Boston Red Caps (now known as the Atlanta Braves). Fred Corey was the Opening Day starting pitcher in that game, which the Grays lost by a score of 1–0. The Grays' last Opening Day game was played on May 2, 1885 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Charles Radbourn was the Grays' Opening Day starting pitcher in that game, which the Grays won by a score of 8–2.Four pitchers made Opening Day starts for the Grays. Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Ward made four Opening Day starts in the Grays' eight seasons. Radbourne, also a Baseball Hall of Famer, made two Opening Day starts for the Grays. Thus, in six of the Grays' eight seasons (75%), the Grays' Opening Day starting pitcher was a Baseball Hall of Famer. Corey and Charlie Sweeney each made one Opening Day start for the Grays.In their history, the Grays won two National League championships, in 1879 and in 1884. In 1884, the Grays went on to win the 19th century version of the World Series. In both years, the Grays' Opening Day opponent was the Cleveland Blues. In 1879, Ward was the Grays' Opening Day starting pitcher, in a game the Grays won by a score of 15–4. In 1884, Radbourn – who was the Grays' Opening Day starting pitcher in both 1883 and 1885 – started 73 of the Grays 114 games. However, the Grays Opening Day starting pitcher in 1884 was Sweeney, not Radbourn. The Grays lost their Opening Day game that year by a score of 2–1.


Messer may refer to:

Messer (name)

Messer (weapon), class of single-edged bladed weapon

Messer, Oklahoma, United States

Messer Group (established in 1898), gas supply company from Germany

Messer (band), an American hard rock band from Dallas, Texas

Olneyville, Providence, Rhode Island

Olneyville is a neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island bordered by Atwells Avenue to the north, U.S. Route 6 to the south and Rhode Island Route 10 to the east. The Woonasquatucket River runs through the southern portion of the neighborhood. The area is roughly triangular.

Olneyville Square is a major traffic intersection in Olneyville, defined by the intersection of Westminster Street, Broadway, Hartford Ave, Plainfield Street, and Manton Avenue.

Providence Grays

The Providence Grays were a Major League Baseball team based in Providence, Rhode Island who played in the National League from 1878 until 1885. The Grays played at the Messer Street Grounds in the Olneyville neighborhood. The team won the National League title twice, in 1879 and 1884. Following the 1884 season, they won the first World Series over the New York Metropolitans of the American Association. The team folded after the 1885 season.

Providence Grays (minor league)

The minor league Providence Grays was the name of several minor league baseball teams between 1886 and 1949. These teams were unconnected to the Major League Baseball Providence Grays.

The first minor league Grays were members of the Eastern League in 1886, playing at the Messer Street Grounds. The team folded in June. In 1894, a team from Providence joined the Eastern League again, this time known as the Providence Clamdiggers. That team also lasted only one season.

The third Providence team was a bit more successful, joining the EL in 1899 as the Clamdiggers, then changing its name to the Grays soon thereafter. That team remained in operation through 1919, at which point the EL had become the International League. The team moved back to the new Eastern League in 1918. Babe Ruth played for this version of the Grays in 1914.

The Grays returned to the Eastern League again in 1926 as the Providence Rubes before changing back to "Grays" in 1927. This team lasted until 1930. Finally, in 1946, the Providence Chiefs were formed as members of the New England League, who also changed their name to the "Grays" in 1948 before folding after the 1949 season.

Providence Grays all-time roster

The Providence Grays were a Major League Baseball franchise based in Providence, Rhode Island from 1878 to 1885. During the team's eight seasons in the National League (NL), which then comprised eight teams, they finished third place or higher in the final standings seven times, and won the league championship in both 1879 and 1884. Providence played their home games at the Messer Street Grounds, which was located in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. The Grays were officially organized on January 16, 1878 by Benjamin Douglas, who became the team's general manager. Henry Root was hired as the team president‚ and Tom Carey was initially hired to be the on-field captain, whose duties were similar to the modern-day manager. On January 21, 1878, Providence applied for membership in the NL, and was officially approved on February 6. On April 10, Root took over ownership of the team, fired Douglas for incompetence and insubordination, and hired Tom York to replace Carey as captain.Providence was successful in signing several star players for their inaugural season: Paul Hines had played the previous four seasons with the Chicago White Stockings; Tom Carey was signed after the Hartford Dark Blues folded; Doug Allison was the catcher for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, who had an 84-game winning streak from 1869 to 1870; and John Montgomery Ward, who was playing his first season in the major leagues. Ward had a win–loss record of 22–13 and Hines led the league in home runs, runs batted in (RBIs), and batting average as the Grays finished in third place among the six teams in the NL for the 1878 season, with a record of 33 wins, 27 losses, and 2 ties. The Grays won the NL championship in 1879, placing first among the league's eight teams with Ward winning 47 games as their starting pitcher, and the leadership of George Wright, who played second base and also managed. The team had a strong hitting line-up with Hines' league leading .357 batting average, as well as new additions Jim O'Rourke and Joe Start, who both had batting averages over .300. William Edward White, a Brown University player who played one game for the Grays on June 21, 1879, may have been the first African-American to play at the major league level; according to Peter Morris of the Society for American Baseball Research, the evidence for White is strong, but not conclusive. If this claim is true, then White pre-dated both Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Weldy Walker, who both played for the 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association (AA). In 1880, the Grays finished in second place among the eight NL teams, with Ward winning 39 games. On June 17 of that year, Ward pitched the second perfect game in major league history.For the 1881 season, the Grays signed pitcher Charles Radbourn, who split the starting duties with Ward over the next two seasons. Radbourn won 25 games in 1881 and 33 more in 1882, while Ward won 18 and 19 respectively. In 1882, the Grays hired Harry Wright to be their manager, who brought back his brother George to play shortstop. They placed second in the NL standings, behind the White Stockings, for the third straight season. In 1883, the team dropped to third place, though Radbourn was credited with 48 victories and on July 25, he threw a no-hitter. Harry Wright left the team before the 1884 season, and was replaced by Frank Bancroft. On June 7, 1884, pitcher Charlie Sweeney struck out 19 batters in a nine-inning game, the unofficial record that stood until Roger Clemens surpassed that total with 20 in a game on April 29, 1986. On July 22, manager Brancroft wanted to replace Sweeney in the line-up with right fielder and alternate pitcher Cyclone Miller, but Sweeney refused the move and left the game. He was suspended without pay, but quit the team instead and signed to play for the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association (UA). Without any other viable long-term pitching options, this result forced Radbourn to pitch nearly every game for the remainder of the season. Not only did Radbourn finish with 59 victories, an all-time record, but he also led the league in many pitching categories including strikeouts and earned run average, winning the triple crown. His leadership on the field led the team to their second and last NL championship; later besting the New York Metropolitans 3 games to zero in the 1884 World Series. The Grays' final season was in 1885, a season in which they finished at their lowest position in the standings in their history, as well as having their worst winning percentage. Following the 1885 season, the owner of the Boston Beaneaters, Arthur Soden bought the team and its players for $6000.

The Franchise


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