Ups and Downs of the Worcester Base Ball Club: League Season 1880
The National League was still pretty green in 1880, its fifth season of existence. Reduced to only six teams in 1878, it had bounced back to eight only by adding such small-population franchises as Troy, Buffalo, and Syracuse for 1879. For 1880, Worcester replaced Syracuse. This “base ball sketchbook” by Frederick E. Pollard, recounting the Ups and Downs of the Worcester Base Ball Club: League Season 1880 is a gem of cartoon art, in fading purple ink. Each panel depicts the outcome of a Worcester game during its inaugural year in the National League, with colorful language and highly uncomplimentary depictions of opposing players (Cap Anson and his White Stockings were a favorite target) and cities (pigs running in the streets of “Porkopolis,” or Cincinnati). The Worcester men finished that season 26 and a half games behind Anson’s men, but they made their mark for sure.
This scorecard tells the story of June 12, 1880, when Lee Richmond of the Worcester Brown Stockings threw the first perfect game against the Cleveland Blues. Look closely at the fifth inning. See that “9-3”? Yep, Richmond’s masterpiece stayed intact because right fielder Lon Knight threw out Bill Phillips at first base. Only five days later John Ward matched Richmond’s perfect game. The feat didn’t occur again till the estimable Cy Young performed it in the American League against Philadelphia in 1904. Four years later Addie Joss of Cleveland also held the opposition runner-less for nine innings. The story is told that after Joss’s gem, someone ran into his son’s schoolroom to shout, “Your dad just pitched a perfect game.” The teacher wasn’t thrilled. “So what?” he said. “So did I.” The teacher was Lee Richmond.
Now, getting back to Pollard and his incredibly rare book. Only one copy is known to have survived, and it resides in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, which has graciously permitted me to display it in its entirety in a gallery setting tomorrow. Never before presented on the web, Pollard’s endearingly crude masterpiece did yield three postcards which came up at at the Old Judge auction in 2007, selling for $7200. Old friend Lew Lipset described them thus in his auction listing: “The postcards measure 5 1/8″ x 3”, were all postally used, with a Worcester postmark (probably in 1880) and were all sent to a Miss E.M. Bacon in Albany New York. The first game represented on the postcards was from May 27th. Worcester lost to Providence 4-1 and the card notes ‘… Tho’ 4 games out of six, aint so bad after all,’ referring to the fact that Worcester, despite the loss, had won 4 of the 6 games with Providence to that point in the season. The second postcard represents two games against Buffalo on June 4th and 5th. The card depicts a Buffalo and makes no comments. The final postcard was from June 10 and represents a 5-0 shutout win for Worcester against Cleveland.”
Tomorrow, a page-by-age presentation of the book. The day after, to conclude the week’s trio of articles devoted to the Worcester club: “J. Lee Richmond’s Remarkable 1879 Season,” a fine article from The National Pastime of thirty years ago, by my friend John Richmond Husman–Lee Richmond’s great-grandson (!). Also worth checking out is Brian Goslow’s 1991 article, “Fairground Days: When Worcester Was a National League City, 1880-1882,” at http://www.wsc.mass.edu/mhj/pdfs/Goslow%20combined.pdf.