Lee Richmond, Worcester Worcesters 1879-1882
Worcester is home to many firsts. The first envelope folding machine was in invented in the city in 1853. The first female presidential cabinet member was Worcester's Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor under FDR. Valentines were first massed produced in Worcester and the first radio station in America to play the Beatles was WORC in Worcester. There's one first that even many baseball fans in Worcester surprisingly don't know.
The Worcester Worcesters were a minor league team in 1879 when the National League came calling because they were looking to replace the Syracuse Stars. To raise money to enter the league the city sold shares (similar to what the Green Bay Packers do today) for $35. This also entitled you to a season ticket. The city had a walking race and held benefit concerts to raise even more money. In an effort to attract fans from outside Worcester the team offered special discounts on train fares and game tickets for fans. There was one issue that could potentially keep Worcester from fielding a Major League team. The city's population at the time was 58,000 and the league required that cities in their league have a population of at least 75,000. The National League was willing to overlook that because they really wanted one of the best pitchers in baseball at the time playing in the National League.
Lee Richmond was Worcester's ace. He threw left-handed and in 1879, before Worcester joined the National League he threw a no-hitter against Springfield. When Worcester joined the National League in 1880 he was twenty-three years old and was given a salary of $2,400, which was the highest salary in professional baseball at the time. Not to shabby. That would be $60,861 in today's dollars.
Saturday, June 12, 1880 Worcester was scheduled to take on Cleveland. The night before Richmond, who was senior and class president at Brown University, was in Providence taking part in some well, partying like seniors who are about to graduate might do. The partying actually ended with a baseball game that started at 4:50am Saturday morning. Richmond, who had been up all night took part in the game and went to bed at 6:30am. He woke up in time to catch the 11:30am train to Worcester. His train was delayed so he had no time to eat before the game. Things were shaping up to be less than "perfect".
This would not be the case. The game would be a classic pitcher's duel. Worcester actually only had three hits the entire game, including one by Richmond. The only run by either team was in fifth when an error by Cleveland second baseman, Fred Dunlop allowed a runner to cross the plate and just like so many perfect-games throughout history this game included that one play to keep the perfect game in tact. In the top of the fifth Cleveland's Bill Phillips hit a ball to right field that looked like would be a base hit, but right-fielder, Lon Knight was playing shallow enough that he picked up the ball and threw it to first for the out. That's the old 9-3 if you're scoring at home. Worcester went on to win 1-0 and history was made.
Richmond graduated from Brown University four days later. He pursed a medical degree at what is now Colombia University and New York University over the next three off seasons. When the Worcester team disbanded after the 1882 season he joined the Providence Grays of the National League and notched another first. He became the first physician to play Major League Baseball. Since we're talking about firsts I'll mention that Richmond also gave up the first grand slam in MLB histrory, but they don't make plaques for that. Richmond pitched over 400 innings in both 1881 and 1882. (No pitch counts back then) This most definitely lead to the arm problems he faced and was converted to an outfielder in 1883.
After the 1883 season he retired from the game and opened his own medical practice in northeast Ohio. In 1890 he moved to Toledo and became a teacher. Coincidently, he taught the son of Addie Joss who threw the fourth perfect game in baseball. Richmond reportedly told the boy, “Your father pitched a perfect game. Well, so did I. It doesn’t mean anything around here and it isn’t going to help you with your geometry.”
Richmond died in 1929 at the age of seventy-two and is buried in Toledo, but his perfect-game record will live on forever and it took place right here in Worcester 138 years ago today.