Thursday, January 03, 2008

Red Sox/Pilgrims

I found a 1912 picture on a message board of a bunch of people in Hot Springs, Arkansas (now home of Erik Estrada's "Hot Springs Village!"). The people in it, male and female, old and young, have "BOSTON" pennants, and below the pic it says "Boston Pilgrims." The person who supplied the pic knew nothing about it, and neither do I. We do know that the Red Sox used to have spring training in Hot Springs, so it really could be some team members or their families or something.

Then I remembered--by 1912, the Red Sox were the Red Sox. That is, they weren't the Pilgrims anymore. And then I thought back to the Bill Nowlin article in which he claims that the Red Sox were never called the Pilgrims--that the history books had it wrong.

Well, I'm about to disprove that theory. Kind of. Obviously, the name "Pilgrims" had to have come from somewhere. Nowlin even admits that he found it in a 1907 article, although he pretty much says that's the only time, and no fans or newspapers other than that called the team the Pilgrims.

But take a look at this New York Times article (left, or go here and click "view full article" for the PDF) from 1912, describing the Red Sox beating the Giants in the World Series. First of all, as per usual with these old baseball articles, the writing is absolutely fantastic. More on that later. But now let's focus on the key line:

It had been demonstrated that the Knickerbockers had it all over the Pilgrims at any style of going until Engle came up to bat and cracked a fly to centre.

Now, the actual team names were Red Sox and Giants. Those names are used in the rest of the article. But this one line occurs in a little section about how New York was about to be proven better than Boston, in general, as a city, until the Giants blew the game (even joking that anyone opposed to the idea was about to be shot). So they're talking about Pilgrims and Knickerbockers, referring to people from Boston and people from New York. This is where the confusion came from in the first place, I think. If you're saying "Pilgrims" when talking about the Red Sox, you're not saying that that's the team's nickname, you're just referring to them as a bunch of guys from Boston. So I'm sure when people started researching the old days, they came up with some references to "Pilgrims" or some other nickname in articles describing the Red Sox, and that's why we always used to hear that the Red Sox were "formerly called the ______." (Pilgrims, Beaneaters, Somersets, Americans, Nickel-Shoe-shiners, Speakeasies, Three-Penny-Operas, Crazy Frazees, Prohibition-Busters, etc., etc.)

But I don't care about that as much as I care about this awesome article. Click it to enlarge. Oh my lord, look at this line about the famous botched pop-up:

Anyone could have caught it. I could have jumped out of the press box and caught it behind my back.

Yeah, dude! Way to tell it like it is. There's so much other great stuff. Please read the whole thing. If you didn't know about the 1912 World Series, this tells you how crazy it was: The Royal Rooters being pissed and boycotting the last game, the Giants breaking down in the end, all the luck going Boston's way when it had gone the Giants' way up until the finish, the talk of the series being fixed and the focus on money shares, the celebratory dinners. He even uses the word "baseballic." And if you think paying attention to the fine details of the strategy in a baseball contest is new, think again. And check out this, about Christy Mathewson:

Mathewson, matching his brain and his experience against the driving power of the Red Sox, was out there pitching, lobbing his slow one around the corner, shooting his fast one across at unexpected intervals, while [Smoky Joe] Wood was burning holes in the air.

1912 rules!

(Like many things, this started with a discussion thread on Joy of Sox.)

Two things: I'm sure you've read "Red Sox Century," right? Also, you should check out, if you haven't already, "The Old Ball Game" by Frank Deford. It's a great story of Matthewson and McGraw; lots of good info on the '12 series, amongst other things. Lots of references to the old-timey language you've been waxing over; Deford actually writes some passages of the book in that style as well. Definitely a great book.
Great photo. Hugh Fullerton's articles are usually good ones - he was a nationally syndicated sportswriter of the day.

One use of the word "Pilgrims" in one article in 1912 does not reach the level of the nickname becoming an alternative name for the team. The photograph, of course, shows a bunch of fans who apparently traveled to Hot Springs to "worship" their team - the way I become a pilgrim myself when I travel to Fort Myers to see the Red Sox train these days.

The point of my article - which was based on a comprehensive content analysis of newspapers during the 1903 season - was that there is no evidence that in 1903 the Boston American League team was ever called the "Pilgrims" by anyone.

I found a handful of times in 1907 when some writers started calling them the Pilgrims, but not after the team was formally named the Red Sox later that year.

I can find hundreds of articles that refer to the post-1907 team as the "Crimson Hose" - that being an alternative way of saying Red Sox. But no history book would ever list that as the actual name of the team. History books HAD listed "Boston Pilgrims" as though that was the name of the 1903 ballclub. I got curious about it, did my research, and could not find even one instance in 1903 where anybody, any time referred to the team as the Boston Pilgrims.

The 1912 World Series was a great, great World Series.
Hello Mr. Nowlin! Glad you wrote in.

I don't want you to think I was out to shoot down your theory or anything like that. Just came across that article and thought maybe I had something. And I think it does tell us that "Pilgrims" was a nickname for the team--but I totally agree with you that it was never an "official" name.

But about the picture--you say "Pilgrim" used there is just describing as being visitors? In the article, he's not using that definition, as the team he's talking about plays in the city he's writing the article from, and was the home team in the game. So do you buy my "people from Boston were called Pilgrims," much like the way a Georgian could be called a Peach, or a Wisconsin person could be called a Cheesehead?

Matty--I got my dad RSC when it came out and pick it up whenever I'm over there, so I've read much of it, but never read that DeFord book. Thanks.
Hi Jere
I chimed in last night over at JoS but I was late joining in and it hasn't ever been posted yet.
A couple of things - A while back I found a great picture and story in one of my coffee table books about the 03 series. I know they aren't always the most historically reliable, but this one is pretty darn good. This was of course considered the first "modern" World Series, and they refer to the 03 team as the "Pilgrims". The 1st game was played at Huntington Ave. Grounds and Pittsburgh beat Cy Young, although Boston ended up winning the series in 8 (best of 9).
By 1905 they were referring to the team as "Red Sox". The only reference to them in the 1904 section simply said Boston AL. I have seen pre-1903 references that used the term Red Socks, but I have to wonder if that was the official name and Pilgrims was like Big Red Machine to us later, or was it vice versa, and then Red Sox just stuck?
Anyway - thanks to Matty for the book recommendations. I've looked at RSC in the book stores before but haven't picked it up yet. I will now, and I'll look for the other one.
One last thing - on a non-baseball topic you talked about on JoS yesterday - the conversation on Fresh Air with David Cay Johnston was great. The book is Free Lunch and I'll be looking for that as well when I go to get Red Sox Century
I think your book is what Nowlin was disputing. Why they would refer to the '03 team as the Pilgrims when no one called them that, especially not as an "official" nickname.

Glad you heard that Free Lunch thing. Sounds like a good book.
& The NY Giants, now based in Syringe, I mean AT&T Park in SF, were known by the Names of Green Socks & Gothams, prior to the Giants Name

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