Providence Grays

From BR Bullpen

  • Affiliation: Major League (1878-1885); none (1886-1949)
  • Win-Loss Record (Major League): 445-292-9 (.604)
  • Post Season Record: 3-0 (1.000)
  • Ballpark: Messer Street Grounds (May 1, 1878-Sept. 9, 1885), Union Park, Pittsburgh, PA (Aug. 22-24, 1878)

The Providence Grays were one of several teams from Providence, Rhode Island in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 1870s, Rhode Island was known for many of its baseball teams, including the Collegiate Brown Bears as well as the semi-pro team "Rhode Islands" having been formed in 1875. The first Grays team was organized on January 16, 1878 and applied for membership in the National League five days later and was approved by the league on February 6th. Prior to the start of the season, there were a few changes within the team. Team President Henry Root took over majority owner of the team, and had Benjamin Douglas removed as General Manager removed due to insubordination. Root then replaced manager Tom Carey with Tom York.

Construction on the Messer Street Grounds began on April 1st and was completed exactly one month later. By the end of the month, the team was incorporated as the Providence Base Ball Association by the Rhode Island General Assembly. The Grays posted a 33-27-2 record in its first year in the league. During the off-season, York was replaced by George Wright as manager. Wright, the one-time member of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, Boston Red Stockings and Boston Red Caps, led the Grays to their first National League pennant with a 59-27-1 record in 1879. Thereby preventing his brother, Harry Wright, from getting his third straight pennant.

During the team's remaining years in the National League, they would change owners almost every year. This included a second stint by Tom York, and two-year stints by Harry Wright and Frank Bancroft. The creation of the Union Association made things difficult for many teams in both leagues in 1884. One of those teams that was affected were the Grays. At the start of the season, the Grays had two pitchers, ace Old Hoss Radbourn and Charlie Sweeney. The team jumped out to a 43-18-2 record and were in second place by mid-July.

On July 21st, the Grays had held an exhibition game in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Following the game, Sweeney remained behind. The next day, he returned to the team and pitched against the Philadelphia Quakers. After five innings, Bancroft wanted to change pitchers, but Sweeney refused, and continued to pitch another two innings. In the 8th, Bancroft tried again, but Sweeney, who was also intoxicated, refused. At the time, it was prevailing sentiment that a pitcher who started the game, had the right to finish it. Bancroft threatened to fine Sweeney. Sweeney then quit the team, and watched the rest of the game from the stands, a 10-6 loss after which, he was expelled from the league. But Sweeney wound up playing the rest of the season with the St. Louis Maroons. Sweeney wasn't the team's only problem as Radbourn also was guilty of insubordination as he demanded a raise. In the end Radbourn got Sweeney's salary, and a promise to be released from the team at the end of the season, if he would guide the team to the pennant. Radbourn, agreed and proceeded to do just that.

Radbourn guided the team to a 84-28-2 record, while he himself finished the season with a 59-12 record, and the defeat the New York Metropolitans 3-0 in a postseason series. Meanwhile Sweeney helped guide the Maroons to a pennant as well in the Union Association. The 1885 season found the team in fourth place, it what was their last year in the NL. The team joined the Eastern League for the 1886 season. They went 7-14 before folding on June 2nd.

Baseball returned to Providence in 1891 with the formation of the Providence Clamdiggers who were members of the Eastern Association. The Grays name made a return appearance in 1895 when the Clamdiggers changed their name. That year, under manager Billy Murray, the team finished in 2nd place with a 74-44 record, but lost in the league finals. The next year, 1896, they finished in first place and won their second pennant. During the last part of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, the team alternated between the names Clamdiggers and Grays. The Grays won another pennant in 1914. But in the World War I year of 1918, the Eastern League folded on July 22nd, taking the Grays down with it.

The Grays reappeared along with the Eastern League, in 1919, but this lasted a single season. In 1925 the Newark Bears of the International League moved to Providence in mid-May and finished the season as the Grays. The Grays came back in 1927, again as members of the Eastern League. This team played for three seasons in Providence before withdrawing in mid-July of 1930. The last minor league team Providence would have, also called the Grays, played ball in the late 1940s. The team disbanded in the mid-1949. Since then, professional baseball has been played in the nearby smaller city of Pawtucket, RI, but never again in Providence.

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs Notes
1886 7-14 -- John Doyle Team disbanded June 2
1895 74-44 2nd Billy Murray Lost League Finals
1896 71-47 1st Billy Murray League Champs
1897 68-60 5th Billy Murray
1902 67-67 5th Billy Murray none
1903 45-86 6th Dick Cogan {Sept ?)/ James Connor none
1904 52-81 7th Thomas Daly none
1906 65-75 6th Jack Dunn none
1907 72-63 3rd Hugh Duffy none
1908 79-57 2nd Hugh Duffy none
1909 80-70 3rd Hugh Duffy none
1910 61-92 8th Jimmy Collins none
1911 54-98 8th Jimmy Collins (15-29) / Jake Atz (39-69) none
1912 63-87 8th Fred Lake / Bill Donovan none
1913 69-80 6th Bill Donovan none
1914 95-59 1st Bill Donovan none League Champs
1915 85-53 2nd Dave Shean none
1916 76-62 2nd Dave Shean none
1917 90-61 2nd Jack Egan none
1918 34-22 3rd Eddie Eayrs League suspended operations July 22
1919 61-45 3rd Eddie Eayrs none
1925 55-80 (63-100 overall) 8th Eddie Onslow (6-11) / Frank Shaughnessy (49-69) none Newark (8-20) moved to Providence on May 16
1927 61-91 8th Patsy Donovan
1928 79-71 4th King Bader none
1929 81-70 3rd King Bader none
1930 49-46 -- Eddie Onslow Team withdrew on July 18
1948 45-80 7th Frank Archer / Donald Burke
1949 18-30 -- Frankie Pytlak / Joseph Pullano Team disbanded on June 20


  • Fifty-nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had, pg. 125
  • Providence Grays