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Baseball in New England, Past & Present

Learn more about the history of professional baseball in New England.

Beyond the Sox

While they are by far the longest enduring and the most popular professional baseball team in New England’s history, the Boston Red Sox are not the only pro team to have played in the region. This guide will give a brief overview of all of the professional baseball teams ever to be based in New England.

Boston Braves (1871-1952)


Teams lined up for National Anthem at Braves Field

The Atlanta Braves organization holds the dual distinctions of being the oldest continuously playing professional sports franchise in the U.S. and of being the first professional baseball team to set up shop in Boston, pre-dating any other team by thirteen years and the Red Sox by forty years. The team also pre-dates the founding of the National League by five years and is one of only two of the National League’s charter franchises to still be in existence (the other being the Chicago Cubs.)

League Affiliation: National Association (1871-1875), National League (1876-1952)
Seasons played in Boston: 77
Pennants in Boston: 14 (1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1877, 1878, 1883, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, 1898, 1914, 1948)
World Series Title in Boston: 1914- The Braves achieved the first sweep in World Series history against the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics after having finished 31.5 games back from first in the League the previous season.
Reason for Moving: Then-owner Lou Perini had promised to help Milwaukee get a Major League team to the city. He moved the Braves there in 1952, citing the declining support of fans in Boston. The team remained in Milwaukee until 1966 when they moved to their current home in Atlanta.

 


Boston Beaneaters, 1888
(click on image to see full-size)

Due largely to frequent changes in ownership in the first few decades of the team’s history, the Braves underwent many name changes during their 77 seasons in Boston. While in the National Association League, they were known as the Red Stockings. When the NA folded and the team joined the National League, they were still officially the Red Stockings but were also referred to as the Red Caps in order to avoid confusion with the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Name Years
Boston Red Stockings 1871-1875
Boston Red Stockings/Red Caps 1876-1882
Boston Beaneaters 1883-1906
Boston Doves 1907-1910
Boston Rustlers 1911
Boston Braves 1912-1935, 1941-1952
Boston Bees 1936-1940

 


South End Grounds, 1899 (Bromley Atlas of Boston)
 

Braves Field, 1916 (Bromley Atlas of Boston)
 

The Braves played at three different fields during their time in Boston. For over four decades they played at the South End Grounds, which was re-built twice during their tenure there. Eventually the park proved to be too small for the amount of fans coming to the games and the Braves played for one season at Fenway Park until the new Braves Field opened in 1915.

South End Grounds (a.k.a. Walpole Street Grounds, Boston Base Ball Grounds)
Location: Columbus Avenue & Walpole Street
Years in Use by Team: 1871-1914
Current Disposition: Demolished after Braves left it in 1914. Currently the site of Northeastern University's Columbus Parking Garage and Ruggles Station on the MBTA's Orange Line.

Project Ballpark- South End Grounds
Society for American Baseball Research- South End Grounds (Boston)
South End Patch- Remembering the South End Grounds

Braves Field
Location: Off Commonwealth Ave between Babcock Street and Gaffney Street (now Harry Agganis Way)
Years in Use by Team: 1915-1952
Current Disposition: Partially demolished, currently the site of Boston University's Nickerson Field.

BPL Photos of Braves Field in Digital Commonwealth
Project Ballpark- Braves Field
Brighton Allston Historical Society- Braves Field
Society for American Baseball Research- August 18, 1915: Braves Field opens in Boston
WBUR News- Photos: Braves Field, Now BU's Nickerson Field, Is 100

Seven players have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as members of the Boston Braves.

(click on the images for more information)


John Clarkson

Hugh Duffy

Rabbit Maranville

Tommy McCarthy

Kid Nichols

Vic Willis

George Wright

 

Hartford Dark Blues (1874-1876)


Hartford Ball Club Grounds, 1877 (O.H. Bailey & Co.)

A charter member of the National League, Connecticut’s only Major League baseball team was created primarily so teams traveling between Boston and New York City could have a layover point. Despite putting up some impressive pitching stats the team was not able to draw large enough crowds to sustain itself in Hartford.

League AffiliationPlayers League (1874-1875), National League (1876)
Seasons Played in Hartford: 3
Home Field: Hartford Ball Club Grounds, located at Wyllys and Hendrixon Streets in what was formerly a cow pasture on the Colt family estate.
Reason for Folding: Financial difficulties due to low game attendance led the team to move to Brooklyn in 1877 (where they were re-named the Brooklyn Hartfords) in the hope of drawing larger crowds. This plan failed and the team folded after one season in Brooklyn.


Candy Cummings, 1875.

Often credited as being the inventor of the curve ball, Ware native William “Candy” Cummings played for the Hartford Dark Blues from 1875 to 1876. Whether or not he actually invented the curve ball, his mastery of it made him in-demand as a pitcher for several years. He played for five teams in his career, retiring in 1877 after one season with the first iteration of the Cincinnati Reds. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Providence Grays (1878-1885)


Messer Street Grounds, 1882 (O.H. Bailey & Co.)

Rhode Island’s only professional sports team lasted less than a decade but still managed to rack up some impressive stats. Pitcher Charlie Sweeney struck out 19 batters in an 1884 game, a record which stood for 102 years. Still unbroken is the largest score in a shutout victory, dating from an 1883 game in which the Grays defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 28-0.

League AffiliationNational League
Seasons played: 8
Pennants: 2 (18791884)
World Championships: 1- the 1884 Baseball Championship of America, the first post-season championship in pro-baseball to be referred to as the “World Series.” The Grays defeated the New York Metropolitans (no relation to the current New York Mets) in a three-game sweep. It is not officially considered a World Series by Major League Baseball.
Home FieldMesser Street Grounds located at Messer & Willow Streets. The park was demolished after the team folded and the area is now a largely residential neighborhood.
Reason for Folding: Financial difficulties due in part to poor game attendance.


Charles Radbourne, 1885

Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn is the lone player representing the Providence Grays in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He played for the team from 1881 to 1885 and was instrumental in their sweep of the 1884 Baseball Championship of America, playing three complete games in the series. He is widely regarded as one of if not the best pitchers of the 19th century. After the Grays folded he played for the Boston Beaneaters, the second Boston Reds, and finally for the Cincinnati Reds.

He also has the notable distinction of being the first known person to be photographed giving the finger, in an 1886 Opening Day photo of the Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants which can be seen here. Radbourn is pictured in the back row on the far left.

Worcester Worcesters (1879-1882)


Worcester Agricultural Fairgrounds, 1886 (Bromley Atlas of Worcester)

Sometimes referred to in contemporary sources as the Ruby Legs or Brown Stockings, the short-lived team made news in 1880 when pitcher Lee Richmond threw the first perfect game in the history of the Major Leagues in a 1-0 victory against the Cleveland Blues. They also have the distinction of holding the record for lowest paid attendance at a game for 133 years, dating back to a 1-4 loss against the Troy Trojans in 1882 in which they had only six paying spectators.

League Affiliation: National League
Seasons played: 3
Home Field: Worcester Driving Park Grounds, which were part of the Worcester Agricultural Fairgrounds and originally served as a horse trotting race track. The fairgrounds were bordered by Highland, Sever, Cedar, and Agricultural (now Russell) Streets. The driving park was located approximately at the current location of Becker College. A small monument memorializing Lee Richmond's perfect game is located on the college's campus.
Reason for Folding: Dropped due to lack of fan support. Replaced in the League by the Philadelphia Quakers (soon to be called the Phillies.)

Boston Reds (1884)


Approximate location of Dartmouth Street Grounds, 1895 (Bromley Atlas of Boston)

Also known as the Boston Unions, the first team to be called the Boston Reds did little to distinguish itself and finished fifth in their league’s (Union Association) standings in the one season of their existence. Two UA teams (the St. Louis Maroons and the Chicago Browns) survived the league’s failure only to fold themselves within a couple of years. Due to its lack of success and the shortness of its existence, the UA is not considered a Major League by many baseball historians.

League Affiliation: Union Association
Seasons played: 1
Home Field: Dartmouth Grounds, located approximately near intersection of Huntington Avenue & Dartmouth Street. The site is currently largely occupied by the Westin Copley Plaza Hotel.
Reason for Folding: League shut down after one season.

Boston Reds (1890-1891)


Approximate location of Congress Street Grounds, 1892 (Geo. H. Walker & Co.)

The second team to bear the name Boston Reds was significantly more successful than its earlier counterpart, winning a league pennant for both years of its existence. Unfortunately, it was part of two failed leagues (the first of which lasted only one year) and did not survive the move to the National League. 

League Affiliations: Players League (1890), American Association (1891)
Seasons played: 2
Pennants: 2 (1890, 1891)
Home Field: Congress Street Grounds, located in South Boston approximately at the intersection of Congress Street and Thompson Place. The site is now occupied by various businesses and mixed-use buildings.
Reason for Folding: When the league was shut down, AA teams that were not picked up by the NL were dissolved. The Reds were dropped largely because there was already a successful NL team in Boston (the Beaneaters, later the Braves.) There are four teams that were formerly part of the AA that still play today: the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Boston Red Sox (1901-present)


Harvard band at Fenway for opening game against the Yankees

Now Boston’s only professional baseball team, the Red Sox are a charter franchise of the American League and were known as the Boston Americans from 1901 to 1907. The Sox were one of the most dominant teams in the early years of the AL, winning 6 pennants and 5 World Series titles (including the first World Series of modern baseball) from 1903 to 1918. The third-longest title drought in Major League history (86 years) ended when the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2004 World Series, shortly after becoming the first team in Major League history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to win the American League Championship Series against long-time rivals the New York Yankees.

League Affiliation: American League
Seasons played: 120 and counting
Pennants: 14 (1903, 1904, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018)
World Series Titles: 9 (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018)


Huntington Avenue Grounds, 1906 (Bromley Atlas of Boston)

Fenway Park, 1915 (Bromley Atlas of Boston)

While Fenway Park is rightly famous for being the home of the Red Sox, it was not their first home field. The Huntington Avenue Grounds holds that distinction and thus also the distinction of being the site of the first World Series victory.

Huntington Avenue Grounds
Location: Intersection of Huntington Avenue and Rogers Avenue (now Forsyth Street,) across the railroad tracks from the South End Grounds.
Years in Use by Team: 1901-1911
Current Disposition: Demolished after the team left in 1911, now the location of the Northeastern University Physical Education Center. A plaque on the building commemorating the grounds marks the approximate location of the left field foul line, and a statue of Cy Young behind the building marks the former location of the pitcher's mound. 

Baseball Almanac- Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds Historical Analysis
Baseball Reference- Huntington Avenue Grounds
ProjectBallpark.org- Huntington Avenue Grounds
BPL Photos of Huntington Avenue Grounds in Digital Commonwealth

Fenway Park
Location: 4 Jersey Street
Years in Use by Team: 1912-present
The oldest ballpark still in use in the Major Leagues had its grand opening on April 20, 1912. It has since undergone extensive renovations, the primary objectives mostly being to add more seating. Fenway Park also hosted the Boston Braves in 1914 while they awaited the completion of Braves Field. The park has also been the home field for several pro-football teams, including the Boston (now New England) Patriots from 1963-1968.

Society for American Baseball Research- Fenway Park
MLB.com- Fenway Park
Baseball Almanac- Fenway Park
Baseball Reference- Fenway Park
ProjectBallpark.org- Fenway Park
BPL Photos of Fenway Park in Digital Commonwealth
Books about Fenway Park at the BPL

Ten players have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as members of the Red Sox. A further three have been inducted as members of other teams, but are depicted on their Hall of Fame plaques with Red Sox cap insignia.

(click on the images for more information)


Jimmy Collins

Joe Cronin

Bobby Doerr

Rick Ferrell

Jimme Foxx*

Lefty Grove*

Harry Hooper

Ted Williams

Wade Boggs

Carlton Fisk**

Pedro Martinez

Jim Rice

Carl Yastrzemski

*Inducted as a member of the Philadelphia (now Oakland) Athletics
**Inducted as a member of the Chicago White Sox