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We are the Worcester Red Sox, future Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and we are getting ready for Opening Day at Worcester’s brand new Polar Park in 2021.
Worcester, Massachusetts is the second largest city in New England, and home to many notable inventions, people, and contributions - both baseball and otherwise.
The WooSox logo features a smiley face brandishing a bat emblazoned with a "W," interlocking with a heart in the middle. The logo honors two of Worcester's historic contributions. The city is home to both the invention of the smiley face and the popularization of modern valentines.
Harvey Ball and the Smiley face
Harvey Ball was born in Worcester on July 10, 1921. He attended Worcester South High School and went on to study at the Worcester Art Museum school. In 1963, State Life Mutual Assurance company of Worcester hired Ball to create a symbol to help boost company morale following a merger. In under 10 minutes, Ball drew up a simple smiley face sketch with a right eye that was slightly larger than the left. State Life paid Ball $45 for his creation, neither Ball nor the company bothered to copyright the sketch. State Life initially purchased 100 buttons featuring Ball's smiley face. Soon clients were requesting the buttons and the company began ordering them in batches of 10,000 to meet the demand. The smiley face continued to spread and rise in popularity, notably becoming an iconic symbol of the 1970's.
Years later, Harvey Ball became worried that his smiley face symbol had lost its meaning due to widespread commercialization. He established World Smile day in 1999 to serve as an annual reminder to spread smiles and good cheer. The slogan for the day is "Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile." The smiley face logo will continue to bring smiles to the faces of baseball fans for years to come.
The "Heart of the Commonwealth" is also the site for the popularization of the modern valentine. Esther Howland was born in Worcester on August 17, 1828. After graduating from Mount Holyoke in 1847, she received a beautiful but expensive handcrafted Valentine from England. She quickly realized the potential in producing ornate valentines for the masses and persuaded her father, the owner of a stationery store, to purchase materials from England. Howland employed an all-female staff and turned the third floor of her family's home on Summer Street in Worcester into a shop. The team was soon producing thousands of valentines. Esther Howland was a trailblazer - she was the first to pay women a decent wage, she made a name for herself at a time when female entrepreneurs were incredibly rare, and she helped to put Worcester and its heart on the map.
In addition to the historical contributions honored in the WooSox logo, Worcester claims many notable baseball innovations and firsts.
Baseball's first ever perfect game was thrown in Worcester, at the Agricultural Fairgrounds, where Becker college stands today. On June 12, 1880, Brown University student J. Lee Richmond tossed the perfect game during a National League contest with Cleveland. The newspapers called Richmond's feat "the most wonderful game on record."
Richmond was scheduled to graduate from Brown on June 16. He had spent the night before his perfect game reveling in graduation festivities. The next morning, his train from Providence to Worcester was delayed causing him to miss dinner. Despite foregoing sleep and food, Richmond threw the first perfect game on June 12. It was his third shutout in nine days. A plaque stands at Sever Street on the Becker College campus commemorating Richmond and the historic feat.
Baseball also has Worcester to thank for the pentagon-shaped home plate used in today's game. Worcester's John Gaffney "the King of Umpires" studied the game closely and brought rule changes to the league after each season. Home plate was originally square and one foot wide in each direction, uniform with the other bases. The plate was later angled and set against the back of the diamond, but this left a triangular shaped gap resulting in some pitches that were strikes but technically did not cross the plate. After the season, Gaffney questioned rule makers on the decision, which ultimately led to the 17 inches wide pentagon-shaped home plate used today.
Umpire Gaffney's many baseball contributions also include being the first to call a ball "fair" or "foul" based on the point where it went over the fence rather than where it landed, inventing the ball blouse for storing extra baseballs, and being the first to wear a cork pad for protection behind the plate.