July 30, 2017

Casey Stengel and Worcester’s Baseball Hall of Fame connections

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Wikimedia Commons / The Sporting News / Library of Congress

Clockwise from top: Boulevard Park; Casey Stengel with Yogi Berra; J. Lee Richmond; and Jesse Burkett.

The most enduring name connecting Worcester to the National Baseball Hall of Fame is turn-of-the-century star Jesse Burkett, a two-time .400 hitter with a .338 career batting average whose namesake Little League on the city’s West Side became a part of hardball history itself by advancing to the 2002 Little League World Series.

Burkett, who married the former Ellen G. McGrath after his first season in Worcester and settled in the city until his death in 1953 — less than two weeks before the devastating Worcester Tornado killed 94 and injured more than 1,000 — is not alone on the Worcester-to-Cooperstown ledger.

Wikimedia Commons / The Sporting News / Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett was a coach for the New York Giants in the early 1920s.

Indeed, there are three other enshrined stars whose careers brought them to Worcester — more on two of them and other luminaries later — but the most endearing and unforgettable character to share the lineage is the indefatigable and incomparable Casey Stengel, manager of the Mickey Mantle-era New York Yankees.

If you didn’t remember — or ever know — that the irrepressible Stengel’s famed managerial career got its start in Worcester, and included a complicated transaction that would live in baseball lore, you can surely be forgiven.

As the Hall of Fame inducts its newest class today, it seems a fitting time to take a dusty and mostly monochromatic trip down memory lane through the early days of Burkett, Stengel and baseball in Worcester.


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