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New WooSox Hall of Fame to recognize city's rich baseball history

Veteran sportswriter makes predictions/recommendations for the newly-erected Worcester Red Sox Hall of Fame, which won't just include WooSox players
February 26, 2024

WORCESTER—The Worcester Red Sox Hall of Fame has wasted no time in organizing and the region’s baseball fans can expect specific names, dates and events sooner rather than later. One of the most significant aspects of this Hall of Fame is that it will not be just WooSox-related. It will

WORCESTER—The Worcester Red Sox Hall of Fame has wasted no time in organizing and the region’s baseball fans can expect specific names, dates and events sooner rather than later.

One of the most significant aspects of this Hall of Fame is that it will not be just WooSox-related. It will also recognize important people and moments from the city’s long baseball history.

Here is an early list of some of those people and moments from the past for the Hall of Fame to keep in mind as it ponders the whos, whats and wheres of its immediate and future selections from the game’s history in the city:

June 12, 1880: Southpaw J. Lee Richmond throws the first perfect game in major league history with a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Blues at the Driving Park on Sever Street. The perfect game was made possible when Cleveland’s Bill Phillips hit a ball into right field in the fifth inning that Worcester’s Lon Knight fielded and threw to first base, the throw beating Phillips to the bag for a 9-3 putout.

Aug. 17, 1887: The last major league game played in Worcester. Boston beat Washington, 6-5, in a previously postponed home game for Boston. It was played in Worcester, at the Driving Park, at the request of city resident and noted umpire Honest John Gaffney, Washington’s manager at the time.

April 29, 1899: The Worcester Farmers beat Montreal, 12-11, before 3,300 fans at the Oval on Coburn Avenue in the first Triple-A baseball game in city history. What is now the International League was named the Eastern League then and the Triple-A classification had not yet been developed but the level of play, and the league, are the same as today’s WooSox.

The Farmers franchise remained in the city until it was relocated to Montreal in July, 1903.

Sept. 6, 1906: The Worcester Busters of the New England League split a doubleheader with Lowell at Boulevard Park on Shrewsbury Street and clinched the pennant. For the Busters, a first-year team managed by Jesse Burkett, it is the first of four straight New England League titles.

Under various names and ownerships, the team played in Worcester through 1925, making it the longest continuously operating pro sports franchise in the city’s history.

April 26, 1912: Grafton native and Worcester resident Hugh Bradley hits the first home run over the left field wall, later to be known as the Green Monster, at Fenway Park. Bradley finished the day with five RBIs in Boston’s 7-6 victory over Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics.

June 26, 1917: Arnold “Jigger” Statz goes 2 for 6 to help Worcester Classical beat Boys Trade, 15-1, for the city high school championship. It is the final game of Statz’ high school career. He goes on to play 24 seasons and 3,473 games combined in the major leagues and Triple-A.

Only Pete Rose has played more professional games than Statz who, along with Rose, is in a select group of nine players with at least 4,000 professional base hits. Statz had 4,093. While at Classical, Statz was considered to be the best amateur golfer in the city.

May 2, 1921: Charles Leo “Gabby” Hartnett makes his pro debut for the Worcester Boosters of the Eastern League. The starting catcher, he is 0 for 2. Hartnett, raised in Millville, spends the entire year with Worcester then is signed by the Chicago Cubs during the winter. He spends the next 20 seasons in the National League.

Hartnett is voted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.

Sept. 23, 1922: In Worcester, Native American Jim Thorpe plays his final game as a professional baseball player. Arguably the greatest American athlete of the 20th Century, Thorpe excelled at many sports but the only one that paid real money during his time was baseball. Thorpe spent six years in the major leagues, mostly with the Giants, and closed out his pro career with Worcester.

He was 35 at the time and went 1 for 2 and stole home as the Boosters beat Albany, 8-3, at Boulevard Park.

May 22, 1925: Casey Stengel makes his professional managerial debut and gets three hits as the Worcester Panthers lose to Bridgeport, 6-5, at home. Stengel is eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. He managed the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, Yankees and Mets in the major leagues as well as Worcester, Toledo, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Oakland in the minor legues.

During his acceptance speech at Cooperstown, the only city he mentioned by name was Worcester.

April 13, 1935: Babe Ruth plays his only game in Worcester as the Boston Braves beat Holy Cross, 5-2, in an exhibition contest before about 10,000 fans at Fitton Field. Ruth was 0 for 1 with two walks in three trips to the plate. He signed autographs for fans and after leaving the game played the trombone in the Holy Cross band.

April 14, 1939: Ted Williams hits his first home run in Massachusetts as the Red Sox beat Holy Cross, 14-2, in a pre-season game at Fitton Field. Williams, only 20, hit a grand slam over the center field fence off Crusaders’ pitcher Mike Klamick. All four Red Sox runners who scored on the blast are in the Hall of Fame. Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin and Bobby Doerr were the baserunners.

Aug. 7, 1942: Two future Hall of Famers, Satchel Paige and Buck O’Neil, play for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League as they beat the All-Worcesters, 3-0, at Fitton Field. The game was played for the benefit of disabled veterans. Paige pitched two scoreless innings. He allowed only one hit, a bunt single, in his two innings of work. O’Neil dazzled the crowd with great defensive play at first base.

July 21, 1947: A native of West Virginia who spent about 70 years of his life in Worcester, Jesse Burkett is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Burkett played minor league baseball here, managed pro ball here, coached Holy Cross here and died here in 1953. Burkett finished with a .338 batting average in the majors and hit over .400 twice.

Nicknamed “The Crab,” Burkett did not attend his induction ceremony nor did he ever visit Cooperstown.

June 17, 1952: The Holy Cross Crusaders beat Missouri, 8-4, to win the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Crusaders were coached by former major league standout Jack Barry and went 21-3 for the season. Holy Cross pitcher Jim O’Neill was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Jan. 19, 1961: Sliding Billy Hamilton is elected to the Hall of Fame by a vote of the Veterans Committee. Hamilton grew up in Clinton but spent the last 25 years of his life in Worcester where he managed and owned the city’s team in the Eastern League.

Hamilton’s 914 stolen bases, most of them with the Phillies, are third on the major leagues’ all-time list behind Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.

May 19, 1974: Mark Fidrych pitches Worcester Academy to a 5-1 victory over New Hampton at Gaskill Field in his final appearance for the Hilltoppers. He allowed 5 hits and struck out 15. A Northboro native, Fidrych went 19-9 with the Tigers in 1976, was American League Rookie of the Year and led the major leagues in ERA at 2.34

Nicknamed “The Bird” he became a national sensation with his eccentric on-the-mound presence but his career was cut short by injuries.

Nov.14, 2001: J.P. Ricciardi, born in Worcester and a graduate of St. Peter-Marian High, is named general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays after serving as Director of Player Personnel for the Oakland A’s.

Sept. 15, 2005: The Worcester Tornadoes beat Quebec, 9-4, before 1,858 fans at Fitton Field to win the Can-Am League championship in their inaugural season. The team was managed by former major leaguer Rich Gedman and led offensively by future big leaguer Chris Colabello, who would graduate to the Minnesota Twins in 2013.

Aug. 14, 2014: The Worcester Bravehearts beat Martha’s Vineyard, 1-0, at Hanover Insurance Park to capture the Futures Collegiate Baseball League championship in their first season. Josh Deshai threw seven shutout innings on the mound and Andy Lack scored from the second base on an infield hit in the fifth for Worcester.

The Bravehearts also won the FCBL title in 2015, 2018 and 2019.

The list is a long one, and this list is just of people and dates directly connected to Worcester. The new WooSox Hall of Fame will be doing its work for many years.