Pawtucket’s Baseball Legacy

The connection between a team and its community holds both a sentimental and enduring bond. Individuals identify its home franchise as the fabric of its city. As an adolescent, the wins and losses assume the same level of meaning as it has for the players. Moods and emotions sync with the previous day’s result. Appreciation and understanding of the game resonate through the home allegiance. These feelings and tendencies endure and any deviation from the norm creates resistance. Sentimentality and profit emerges as an on going struggle with the future uncertain. The Pawtucket Red Sox have been emblematic of shared communal interest for over four decades. A transfer of ownership coupled with a potential move to nearby Providence evokes memories of days past and self reverence of the ongoing evolution of minor league baseball.

The function of a farm system is the convergence of the parent club with an affiliate on the respective minor league level. The contractual nature of many accords do not keep the local club in conjunction with the same Major League franchise. The Pawtucket Red Sox with its viability and recognition are the exception to the rule. Their forty-two year tenure with the International League beckoned widespread recognition and lasting influence. Success on the field came in their maiden Triple-A season in 1973 as Jim Rice, Rick Burleson, and Cecil Cooper led the Pawsox to their first Governor’s Cup over the Charleston Charlies. Remnants of the 1973 club would lead the Boston Red Sox a World Series appearance in 1975, remembered most for the heroics of Carlton Fisk in Game 6. The young nucleus of former Pawsox would fall one game short of the World Championship, while Rice and Burleson would reconvene in 1986 on opposite sides as the Red Sox defeated the California Angels in the American League Championship Series. The longest game in professional baseball history between the Pawsox and the Rochester Red Wings took place at McCoy Stadium in 1981. The thirty-three inning marathon, suspended over two months saw future Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett score the winning run as twenty three future major leaguers participated on both sides including future Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr. Future seasons would feature Red Sox prospects who would later become household names on Yawkey Way. From Roger Clemens to Nomar Garciaparra to Dustin Pedroia, McCoy Stadium would serve as the final spot on the precipice of big league stardom. Future success of the Red Sox farm system would breed a reputation for winning tradition and a destination for minor league baseball played at its highest level.

The familiar tenors of the radio are the vehicle for the transmission of baseball programming. The Pawsox Radio Network serves as both the voice of a listening public and the initial step for future big league broadcasters. Aside from being east coast cities, Pawtucket, Rhode Island and Flushing, New York share few similarities. One of their commonalties is Gary Cohen. The Queens native would spend two seasons of his career with the Pawsox during the late 1980s before getting his dream position with the New York Mets seated next to Hall of Famer Bob Murphy. Cohen would emerge as one of baseball’s most respected voices following his stint at Pawtucket. Don Orsillo would assume Cohen’s former seat in 1996 and his time in Rhode Island coincided with the tenures of Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. The batterymate would help lead the Red Sox break the curse of the Bambino in 2004 and Orsillo would become the lead announcer in Beantown, calling Hideo Nomo‘s no hitter in 2001 during his first Red Sox broadcast. Dave Jageler, Andy Freed, Dave Flemming and Aaron Goldsmith each served as the team’s voice before departing for the major leagues. By 2013, Bob Socci and Jeff Levering would become the broadcast tandem. Socci, a two decade minor league veteran would spend three months in Pawtucket before replacing long time Patriots broadcaster Gil Santos in New England. Socci would gain national credibility, calling Super Bowl XLIX in February, 2015. Levering spent two seasons as the club’s lead broadcaster, culminating his tenure by calling the 2014 Governor’s Cup. “I can’t say enough great things about everyone with the PawSox for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful organization for the past two years, Levering said. And to cap my experience in Pawtucket with a 2014 Governors’ Cup Championship is something I will always cherish.” (

Historic McCoy Stadium has been the site for each moment of the club’s illustrious run in the International League. Built in 1942, the facility became as renowned as the team itself. Four championship titles would be clinched with the PawSox calling the stadium home. Record attendance figures followed by the mid-2000s following multiple renovations, becoming one of the top draws in New England sports, despite compressed seating. More viable economic opportunities outside of Pawtucket and the desire for a modern baseball venue signifies the notion that the days of Pawsox baseball at McCoy Stadium are numbered. New ownership is expressing a desire to relocate the team to nearby Providence, keeping the Red Sox affiliation but severing ties with their original home. The changes are bittersweet for a community eager to hang on to past tradition. A distance of just six miles between cities soften the blow as adjustments are made and realizations of the transition become more apparent and finalized.

Economics, prosperity, and modernity are each factors in any significant alternation of tradition in sports. The idea of a constant fuels baseball where culture and convention become the pillars of stability. The Boston Red Sox and Pawtucket appeared to epitomize established permanence. The desire to become economically solvent and provide better amenities for the fans and players necessitate the move. The opportunity to relocate to a nearby venue affords the Red Sox to retain its current demographic of fans. Unlike many migrations in sports, the PawSox intend to remain within the immediate area and re-establish professional baseball in the city of Providence, which had seen success with college sports and minor league hockey. The city is no stranger to baseball. The minor league Providence Grays played from 1886-1949 in three different iterations, including the 1914 season with a young Babe Ruth. The construction of a new ballpark in Providence provides the avenue for the PawSox to give McCoy Stadium a proper sendoff before exiting the city. The 2015 edition of the club projects to include top prospects Henry Owens and Deven Marrero barring any last minute trade as they attempt to defend their Governor’s Cup title. The memories of Pawtucket’s past and present will resonate within the community and remain the link between baseball and the individuals who dedicate their lives to support the sport. New beginnings await and a legacy of excellence remains the standard for success.

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