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Let 'Worcester Caseys' up at bat.

When I read that the owners of Worcester's new baseball team would be looking for a team name, I decided to explore the archives. I never had warmed up to the "Tornadoes'' designation, perhaps because I remember too well that dark day in June 1953, when the big twister mangled Worcester.

Worcester County has a long baseball history, going back to 1858, when the Upton Excelsiors first took the field. Other county teams soon followed -- the Fairmounts, the Mazeppas, the Clippers and others.

On Oct. 12, 1859, the Worcester Daily Spy reported an exciting game between the Excelsiors and the Medway Unions, supposedly the first baseball game to charge admission.

I decided to dig deeper. Surely there was a serviceable name in the local baseball chronicle that could be resurrected for current use.

In the early 1880s, Worcester organized the "Worcesters,'' which played two years in the newly formed National League. The team made the record books when on June 12, 1880 Lee Richmond, pitched the first perfect game on record, beating Cleveland 1-0. Not a single Cleveland player made it to first base.

The "Worcesters'' were the first team to play in Cuba. The "Worcesters'' management notched another first when it was instrumental in getting the Cincinnati Reds expelled from the league for allowing beer to be sold at the ballpark.

The game was somewhat different then. The pitching mound was only 50 feet from home plate and the pitcher threw the ball underhanded. I pondered the team name. Would the "Worcesters'' work today? Maybe. What about the "Richmonds''?

I decided to look further.

Worcester was dropped from the National League after 1880 because Worcester did not have the required 75,000 population. For a couple of decades it fielded a series of teams -- the "Worcester Busters,'' the "Worcester Farmers,'' the "Worcester Panthers,'' etc.

The teams were affiliated with various organizations -- the Atlantic League, the Northeastern League, the Eastern League among them.

The quality of play was not always impressive. On Aug. 2, 1901, the Worcester Evening Post made a judgment: "The team as it stands today is a patched-up collection of has-beens ... Their harvest days are over, and all they are good for is to sell gold bricks till they are caught in the act.''

The Telegram was equally caustic. One game in particular caught its ire: "Yesterday the feeling against the team and its management culminated in one continuous sound of boos and hisses, lasting for minutes at a time, which told the management that at long last the long-suffering Worcester baseball public had rebelled.

"There has never in the history of baseball been so blatant an attempt to bunco the public as the career of this season's local team has put in evidence.

"The team today is an absolutely crippled team. There are at least six players who are in such physical condition from various causes that they are unfit to play.''

The Post went further. It accused Manager John Reed, "a polished bunco steerer,'' of paying the team from Rochester to throw a game in order to help the gate. One account profiled players by name, listing their inadequacies on the field. "Griffin in right field is out of his position, Pappalau cannot pitch, and never could.''

Things took a turn for the better after Jesse Burkett bought the franchise in 1906 and built a new stadium on Shrewsbury Street. The team was then known as the "Boosters.'' Casey Stengel managed it briefly, but Worcester baseball faded away when the big Depression hit in the 1930s.

I still had not found the right name for our new baseball team.

"Worcester Boosters'' has a nice alliteration but little else to recommend it. "Panthers,'' "Busters,'' "Farmers.'' None of them seemed quite right. I was stumped.

But then came a remarkable suggestion from an unexpected quarter -- my wife.

Why not call them the "Caseys,'' she asked. It took me a few moments to realize what an inspired thought that was. The "Caseys.'' Of course. Casey is the immortal, mythical baseball figure -- the Paul Bunyan of baseball, given everlasting fame by the iconic verse written by a Worcester man.

The "Caseys.'' OK, you baseball moguls, there it is. No charge.

Albert B. Southwick's column appears regularly in the Telegram & Gazette.
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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 24, 2013
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