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
Years 1878 - 1885
Based in Providence, Rhode Island
Major league affiliations

Steel Gray, Gray, Light Blue

  • C. T. Gardner (1882-1885)
  • Henry Root (1878-1881)
Major league titles
National League pennants 2 (1879, 1884)

Origins and formation

1879 Providence Grays.jpeg
1879 National League champion Providence Grays

Rhode Island was a hotbed of baseball in the 1870s with several notable amateur clubs along with Brown University's powerhouse collegiate team.[1] In 1875, the semi-pro "Rhode Islands" were formed. After successful seasons (along with excellent paid attendance) in 1875, 1876, and 1877, the team drew the attention of the recently formed National League. When the League elected to drop the Hartford franchise after the 1877 season, Providence was awarded a franchise to replace the Connecticut club.[1]

The new team was 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.[2] On January 21, 1878, Providence applied for membership in the NL, and was officially approved on February 6.[2]

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.[2][3] On May 30, the Providence Base Ball Association was incorporated by the Rhode Island General Assembly.[4]

While the team practiced at the Dexter Training Ground in the spring of 1878, preparations were made to provide them with "the best baseball plant in the country". Construction on the Messer Street Grounds 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.[1]

The following season the team installed a screen behind home plate to protect the fans sitting there from injury due to foul balls and wild pitches. They were the first team in baseball history to do this; while some fans protested, complaining that they obstructed their view of the game, by the end of the next decade they were commonplace.[5]

In a break with tradition, the National League's newest addition adopted gray flannel instead of white for their home uniform and the team became known as the Grays.[1]

1879 champions

One of the leading players from the 1879 pennant winner was Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward.

The team had a putative claim to being the first Major League Baseball team to field an African-American baseball player, William Edward White, a Brown University student who played one game for the Grays on June 21, 1879. Evidence is strong but not conclusive: Peter Morris of the Society for American Baseball Research has researched this issue, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2004.[6]

1884 champions

1884 National League champion Providence Grays

The 1884 team was led by ace pitcher Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn (sometimes spelled Radbourne), who won a record 60 (59, according to some sources) games that year and led the Grays to the pennant. When the team's other star pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, defected to the rival Union Association league in July, it looked like the Grays' season was doomed, but "Old Hoss" offered to pitch the rest of the team's games. The Grays went on a 20-game winning streak and topped the league ahead of their New England rivals, the Boston Red Stockings.

At the close of the season, Providence officials accepted New York Metropolitans (AA) manager Jim Mutrie's challenge to a three-game postseason match. All of the games took place at the Polo Grounds in New York and were played under American Association rules, which forbade overhand pitching.[7]

On October 23, 1884, the Providence Grays (NL) whitewashed the New York Metropolitans (AA), 6–0, behind Radbourn, in what is considered to be the first official postseason interleague game. Radbourn allowed two hits and strike out nine. Tim Keefe was the losing pitcher. The very next day, Radbourn three-hit the Metropolitans and won 3–1 in a game called after seven innings due to darkness. Grays third baseman Jerry Denny hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning. It was the first home run in World Series history. Keefe lost for the second time. On October 25, 1884 the Grays defeated the Metropolitans, 11–2, in the final game of the series. Radbourn won for the third time in three days. Buck Becannon took the loss as Keefe umpired the contest.[7]

Although post-season games prior to 1903 were considered exhibitions, the 1884 World Series is recognized today as the first inter-league postseason championship.[8][9] This would be Providence's last appearance in a World Series. Due to financial problems, the team folded in 1885.

Other highlights

Other memorable highlights of the Grays' short existence include a no-hitter by Radbourn on July 25, 1883; the second perfect game in MLB history, pitched by John Montgomery Ward on June 17, 1880; and pitcher Charlie Sweeney striking out 19 batters in a nine-inning game on June 7, 1884, a record that would stand until broken by Roger Clemens 102 years later. They also still hold the record for the largest score in a shutout victory, with a 28-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on August 21, 1883.[10]

Season records

Season Record Pct. Result
1878 33-27 .550 Third place
1879 59-25 .702 Won National League pennant
1880 52-32 .619 Second place
1881 47-37 .560 Second place
1882 52-32 .619 Second place
1883 58-40 .592 Third place
1884 84-28 .750 Won National League pennant
1885 53-57 .482 Fourth place

Notable alumni

  • John Montgomery Ward: Hall of Fame member; founder of the first player's union
  • Charles Radbourn: Hall of Fame member; holds single season wins record for a pitcher (59)
  • George Wright: Hall of Fame member; player-manager of the 1879 National League championship squad
  • Harry Wright: Hall of Fame member; manager of the 1882 and 1883 squads
  • Lip Pike: Major League Baseball four-time home run champion; first prominent Jewish player
  • Arthur Irwin: used first fielder's mitt; shortstop on 1884 World Series team

See also


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ a b c "Charlton's Baseball Chronology - 1878". The Idea Logical Company, Inc. 2006. Archived from the original on September 20, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2009.
  3. ^ Seymour, p. 157
  4. ^ Island, Rhode (1878-01-01). At the General Assembly of the State of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Begun and Holden, ... at ... Within and for the Said State, on ..., in the Year of Our Lord ... Henry Ward, Secretary.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ Black Baseball Pioneer William White's 1879 Game
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ 1884 World Series
  9. ^ World Series Summary
  10. ^ "Largest Score in a Shutout". Retrieved 15 July 2016.

Further reading

External links

1879 Providence Grays season

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

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.

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.

Charles Radbourn

Charles Gardner Radbourn (December 11, 1854 – February 5, 1897), nicknamed "Old Hoss", was an American professional baseball pitcher who played 12 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). He played for the Buffalo Bisons (1880), Providence Grays (1881–1885), Boston Beaneaters (1886–1889), Boston Reds (1890), and Cincinnati Reds (1891).

Born in New York and raised in Illinois, Radbourn played semi-professional and minor league baseball before making his major league debut for the Buffalo Bisons in 1880. After a one-year stint with the club, Radbourn joined the Providence Grays. During the 1884 season, Radbourn won 60 games, setting an MLB single-season record that has never been broken. He also led the National League (NL) in earned run average (ERA) and strikeouts to win the Triple Crown, and the Grays won the league championship. After the regular season, he helped the Grays win the 1884 World Series, pitching every inning of the three games.

In 1885, when the Grays team folded, the roster was transferred to NL control, and Radbourn was claimed by the Boston Beaneaters. He spent the next four seasons with the club, spent one year with the Boston Reds, and finished his MLB career with the Cincinnati Reds. Radbourn was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Ed Reulbach

Edward Marvin "Big Ed" Reulbach (December 1, 1882 – July 17, 1961) was a major league baseball pitcher for the Chicago Cubs during their glory years of the early 1900s.

Frank Bancroft

Francis Carter Bancroft (May 9, 1846 – March 30, 1921) was an American manager in Major League Baseball for the Worcester Ruby Legs, Detroit Wolverines, Cleveland Blues, Providence Grays, Indianapolis Hoosiers, and Cincinnati Reds of the National League, as well as the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. His greatest success came with the Grays, when he won the 1884 World Series with a record of 84–28 (.750 winning percentage). His stops with teams were short, usually in an interim role, with his last stop being with the Reds after Bid McPhee left the job as manager. Bancroft was 56 years old at the time.

He died in Cincinnati at age 74.

George Bradley

George Washington Bradley (July 13, 1852 – October 2, 1931), nicknamed "Grin", was an American Major League Baseball player who was a pitcher and infielder. He was 5'10.5" and weighed 175 lbs.

George Wright (sportsman)

George Wright (January 28, 1847 – August 21, 1937) was an American shortstop in professional baseball. He played for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first fully professional team, when he was the game's best player. He then played for the Boston Red Stockings, helping the team win six league championships from 1871 to 1878. His older brother Harry Wright managed both Red Stockings teams and made George his cornerstone. George was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. After arriving in Boston, he also entered the sporting goods business. There he continued in the industry, assisting in the development of golf.

Harry Davis (1900s first baseman)

Harry H. Davis (July 19, 1873 – August 11, 1947) was a Major League Baseball first baseman and right-handed batter who played for the New York Giants (1895–96), Pittsburgh Pirates (1896–98), Louisville Colonels (1898), Washington Senators (1898–99), Philadelphia Athletics (1901–11, 1913–17), and Cleveland Naps (1912).

Davis was born in Philadelphia. He attended Girard College. After having played the 1900 for the minor league Providence Grays, he decided to quite baseball, but Athletics manager Connie Mack made him an offer too large to refuse to return to baseball in 1901 with the Athletics. He led the American League in home runs from 1904 to 1907, one of only five players to have ever led their league for four consecutive seasons. He also hit for the cycle on July 10, 1901.

He led the AL in doubles three times and the NL in triples once.

Davis was the starting first baseman and first captain of manager Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 to 1910. In 1905 he led the American league in home runs, RBI, runs and doubles, and led the Athletics to the 1905 World Series against the New York Giants. He was the starting first baseman for the 1910 World Champions and hit .353 in the 1910 World Series. In 1911, the 37-year-old Davis was replaced at first base by the younger Stuffy McInnis, and Davis played a reserve role for the 1911 World Champions.

Davis managed the 1912 Cleveland Naps, but left with 28 games left in the season and a record of 54–71. He returned to the Athletics as a player, coach and assistant captain in 1913, amassing only 33 plate appearances over the next five seasons combined. He continued as a coach and scout with Mack's Athletics until 1927 and also served as a Philadelphia City Councilman.

Davis died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 11, 1947, at the age of 74.

Jack Farrell

John A. "Jack" Farrell (July 5, 1857 – February 9, 1914), also known as "Moose", was an American Major League Baseball player who played mainly second base in his 11 seasons. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Farrell made his major league debut for the 1879 Syracuse Stars of the National League, where he played the majority of that season, until moving onto the Providence Grays, where he played the next six seasons. His career numbers include 877 hits in 884 games played, 23 home runs, and a .243 batting average. In 1881, he began the season as the player-manager for the Grays, compiling a 24 win, 27 loss record. On August 3, Farrell quit as "captain" of the team. He was succeeded by outfielder Tom York, and the team finished the season with 23 wins against 10 losses, good for second place.Farrell died in Cedar Grove, New Jersey at the age of 56, and was buried at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in East Orange, New Jersey.

Jim O'Rourke (baseball)

James Henry O'Rourke (September 1, 1850 – January 8, 1919), nicknamed "Orator Jim", was an American professional baseball player in the National Association and Major League Baseball who played primarily as a left fielder. For the period 1876–1892, he ranks behind only Cap Anson in career major league games played (1644), hits (2146), at-bats (6884), doubles (392) and total bases (2936), and behind only Harry Stovey in runs scored (1370) (Stovey was a younger player; Anson played five seasons and O'Rourke four prior to 1876.).

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward (March 3, 1860 – March 4, 1925), known as Monte Ward, was an American Major League Baseball pitcher, shortstop, second baseman and manager. Ward was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Renovo, Pennsylvania. He led the formation of the first professional sports players union and a new baseball league, the Players' League.

Lee Richmond

John Lee Richmond (May 5, 1857 – October 1, 1929) was an American pitcher in Major League Baseball. He played for the Boston Red Stockings, Worcester Worcesters, Providence Grays, and Cincinnati Red Stockings, and is best known for pitching the first perfect game in Major League history. After retiring from baseball, he became a teacher.

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.

List of Providence Grays managers

The Providence Grays were a Major League Baseball team that played in Providence, Rhode Island. They played in the National League from 1878 through 1885. During their time as a Major League team, the Grays employed eight different managers. The duties of the team manager include team strategy and leadership on and off the field.The Grays' first manager was left fielder Tom York. York managed the team in 1878 and led them to a record of 33 wins and 27 losses. York also managed the Grays for part of the 1881 season, and in total managed the Grays for 96 games, with 56 wins and 37 losses, for a winning percentage of .602. In their second season, the Grays were managed by shortstop and Baseball Hall of Fameer George Wright. Wright led the team to a record of 59 wins and 25 losses for a winning percentage of .702 in 1879, winning the National League pennant. Wright left the team to join the Boston Red Caps, managed by his brother Harry Wright in 1880. In 1880 and 1881 the Grays employed a total of five different managers, including York's second term and 32 games managed by Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward.In 1882, Hall of Famer Harry Wright, George Wright's brother, became the Grays manager, and George Wright rejoined the team as their shortstop. Harry Wright managed the team for two seasons, winning 110 games and losing 72. Frank Bancroft became the Grays' manager in 1884 and managed the team to record of 84 wins and 28 losses and a winning percentage of .750, winning the Grays' second National League pennant behind the strength of Charles Radbourn's record 59 pitching victories. The Grays also won the World Series in 1884; however the 19th century World Series was a very different event from the current World Series, which began in 1903. The 19th century World Series was considered an exhibition contest between the champion of the National League and the champion of the American Association. The Grays defeated the American Association champion New York Metropolitans in the 1884 World Series winning three games and losing none. Bancroft managed the team again for their final season as a Major League team in 1885 with less success. Bancroft finished with an overall managerial record with the Grays of 137 wins and 85 losses, for a winning percentage of .617.Bancroft managed the most games in Grays' history, 224, and his 137 wins and 85 losses are also the most in Grays' history. George Wright has the highest winning percentage of any Grays' manager, with .702. Three Grays' managers, Ward and the Wright brothers, were elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame.

Paul Radford

Paul Revere Radford (October 14, 1861 – February 21, 1945) was a Major League Baseball player in the late 19th century. Paul, nicknamed "Shorty", played with many teams over his 12-season career and was a starting outfielder with the Providence Grays club that won the 1884 World Series. His best performance was with the 1887 New York Metropolitans, when he set the major league record with 106 walks and produced an Offensive WAR rating of 3.4 that ranked sixth in the American Association. Radford died in Boston, Massachusetts, at the age of 83.

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
The Franchise
Providence Grays 1879 National League Champions
Providence Grays 1884 National League Champions
Histories of teams in Major League Baseball


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