The courtesy season pass issued by the National League contains this quaint little phrase: REPRESENTING TWELVE GREAT CITIES. That is incorrect. It should read: REPRESENTING TWELVE GREAT CITIES AND TWO NOT-SO-GREAT ONES.
Let me explain. In 1882 the National League consisted of eight teams—Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Detroit, Buffalo, Providence (R.I.), Troy (N.Y.) and Worcester (Mass.). Troy and Worcester were the weakest members, both in record (35-48 and 18-65, respectively) and attendance (fewer than 400 customers per ball game). At a meeting of the league in Providence on Dec. 6, 1882, the two clubs were asked to withdraw in favor of two new entries from the cities of New York and Philadelphia.
According to the 1883 edition of Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide, the following resolution was unanimously adopted: "That the resignations of the WORCESTER B.B. CLUB, and the TROY CITY B.B. ASSOCIATION, are hereby accepted, and that the names of said clubs be placed on the roll of honorary League membership."
Troy and Worcester were also promised four exhibition games a year if they could field representative teams. The crumbs tossed to the two cities were quickly forgotten, but the National League never bothered to rescind Troy's and Worcester's honorary memberships. So, you see, these two frayed-collar cities are still part of the Senior Circuit. (Before any of the good people of Troy or Worcester get upset with my description of their burgs, I know whereof I speak. I grew up in Troy, and I recently had to fly in and out of Worcester.)
The way I figure it, the National League owes the two cities more than 400 games apiece. Making up all those games would, of course, be a logistical nightmare, although teams could stop in Troy when traveling between Montreal and New York. The best solution, I think, would be for the league to expand to Troy and Worcester. The National League is going to expand in the next few years anyway, and these cities have first claim. Troy and Worcester also have a much richer baseball history than, say, St. Petersburg, Fla. The Troy Haymakers were among the original teams in the first professional league, the National Association. Troy is also the birthplace of two Hall of Famers—Mike (King) Kelly and Johnny Evers of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame. I How many teams in history can claim four future Hall of Famers? Well, the last Troy club in 1882 could; it had pitchers Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch, catcher Buck Ewing and first baseman Roger Connor.
Worcester is even more important to baseball lore because it was the hometown of Ernest Lawrence Thayer, author of Casey at the Bat, the greatest single piece of baseball literature. The poem first appeared in The San Francisco Examiner, but the inspiration for the name Casey was a bully Thayer had recalled from his Worcester youth.
I know what you're thinking. Worcester (pop. 160,000) and Troy (pop. 55,000) are too small to be major league. But Troy is one of the tri-cities (along with Albany and Schenectady) in New York's growing capital district, an area that encompasses a population of three million. (Kansas City, the smallest major league market, has only 1.4 million people in its metropolitan area.) When asked if the capital district could support a major league franchise, New York Yankees pitcher Dave LaPoint, of nearby Glens Falls, said, "We get more people to watch an Adirondack Red Wings game [of the American Hockey League] than Cleveland gets to watch an Indians game."
As for Worcester, it is only 40 miles west of Boston, which can surely support another major league team. Besides, Troy and Worcester are in need of the kind of economic boost baseball teams would give, and it would be a grand gesture on baseball's part to help revive these once prosperous cities. Denver doesn't need any help.
Bringing these two teams into the league also makes great geographic sense. We could have an NL West of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati, and an NL East of Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Troy and Worcester. Now, what should we call the new teams? How about the Trojan Horses (HORSES CHASE PHILLIES, the headlines will read) and the Mudville Nine (OUTLOOK ISN'T BRILLIANT)?
I'm getting pretty excited about this. The fact that I'm from Troy has nothing to do with it.
NATIONAL BASEBALL LIBRARY, COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.
With Worcester would come echoes of "Casey at the Bat."