World Series to Scratch

October 29, 2016

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The Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs are in the World Series. 
The odds on that are improbable.

by Trey Nosrac

Unless you are deep into the history of baseball, you will be surprised to learn that Providence, RI was one of the original franchises in Major League Baseball. For eight seasons, from 1878 until 1885, the Providence Grays not only played in the National League, the teams of this small New England city were consistent winners.

The 1884 team, led by the incomparable pitching of Charles (Old Hoss) Radbourne, won what many consider to be the first official World Series. Old Hoss was indeed a Hoss; in one season he was credited with winning 59 games.

However, the 1884 season almost did not happen because of harness racing.

You see, in the fall of 1883 the board of directors of the Providence Grays, led by Colonel Henry B. Winship, planned to take the team out of Major League baseball and concentrate their sporting interests and their money on harness racing and build a track at nearby Narragansett Park.

Debate about which fork in the sporting road Providence would take culminated in a very raucous shareholders meeting on Sept. 25, 1883. The Colonel wanted a racetrack, others preferred baseball.

In a move to force the hand of shareholders, the board doubled salaries in an effort to squeeze out the baseball team and pave the way for harness racing. The controversy raged. Eventually Colonel Winship and the rest of the original board were forced to resign amid a flurry of accusations that they had intended, “to abandon baseball for harness racing.”

They should have listened to the Colonel and switched to harness racing. World Series or not, financial problems caused the Providence Grays to fold after the 1885 season.

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