Did the Philadelphia Phillies Move to Philadelphia From Worchester, Pennsylvania?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL/MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: The Worcester professional baseball team moved to Philadelphia to become the Philadelphia Phillies.

Let’s say that you own a franchise of a company that only gives out limited amounts of franchises. You open your franchise in Cleveland. It fails.

The company then decides to give your spot to me, and I open a franchise in Duluth (where Bob Dylan was born).

Did I purchase your franchise and move it from Cleveland to Duluth? Or is the only connection between the two of us the fact that your franchise going under made an opportunity for me to get a franchise?

That’s the question that is at the heart of the great “Are the Philadelphia Phillies descended from the Worcester baseball team?” debate.

On the Phillies’ own website it reads in their history:

The original Phillies began when the Worcester Ruby Legs were disbanded and the franchise was moved by the National League to Philadelphia. Al Reach, who in 1866 had become the first professional baseball player and was later a successful sporting goods dealer, became the Phillies first owner along with attorney John Rogers. Reach named the team the Phillies, a take-off on the team’s geographic roots, “Philly.”

The Worcester Ruby Legs (or Brown Stockings, or just plain ol’ Worcesters) were a short-lived team that had at least one notable moment in their three year history.

In their first season, 1880, pitcher Lee Richmond pitched the first perfect game in Major League history…

But by 1882, they realized something that would likely be even more evident today – you can’t get enough attendance to keep a Major League baseball team playing in Worcester, MA.

So the team folded.

THEN Al Reach and John Rogers were offered a NEW franchise.

We know this is a new franchise because NO ONE from the Worcester team was involved with the Philadelphia team of the next season. NO ONE.

That sure doesn’t sound like a team that was moved from Worcester to Philadelphia, now does it?

And it’s not like the above quote from the Phillies’ website isn’t wrong on OTHER stuff, too. The Philadelphia baseball team was known as the QUAKERS for the first seven years of the team existence until the Phillies name came around in 1890 (here they are in 1888)…

And yet their site doesn’t mention the Quakers at all.

I think it is pretty evident (and pretty much all baseball historians agree) that the Worcester team was not purchased and moved to Philadelphia – their spot was merely taken in the National League.

The legend is…

STATUS: False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]

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