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19th Century Baseball Teams: Providence Grays 1878–1885

Providence Grays came into being after several minor and major league baseball teams that were based in providence in Rhode Island.  In 1884, Providence Grays became a major league baseball city. It played at the Messer Field in the Olneyville neighborhood and was one of the eight teams which formed the national league.

At that time, they were led by Radbourn Charles who, even today, is remembered for his 59 games record winning in that year. He also led the Providence Grays to their 20 games winning streak blowing past their rivals- Boston Red Stockings.

When the seasons concluded, the Providence Grays had won the national league title by five games.  Later on, they played the New York Metropolitans who were the champions of the rival American Association. This was in a three game championship series in which they won all of the games. At this time, it wasn’t known as the World Series but they were the undisputed world champions.

The Providence Grays disbanded right after the 1885 season.  Thereafter, there was a minor league going by the same name which played in providence from 1891-92 of which at some point their roster included Babe Ruth – a promising young pitcher.

The team played at Messer Street Grounds, Olneyville neighborhood.  At that time, one of the leading players from the 1879 remnant winner went on to become Hall of Famer, John Montgomery Ward. In 1884, the team was led by fellow Hall of Famer Radbourn who had scored 59 games in one season.

The team was virtually the first major league of baseball to field an African American baseball player – William Edward White from Brown University who played a game for Providence Grays on 21st June 1879.

Some of the memorable highlights of Providence Grays’ short existence include no-hitter by Radbourn on 25th July 1883 which was the second perfect game in the major League Baseball history. This was pitched by John Montgomery Ward on 17th June 1880 and also Charlie Sweeney who struck 19 batters in nine inning game on 7th June 1884. This was a record that stood unbroken for 102 years.



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