For Immediate Release: 11/27/2019 10:22 am
After 15 months of community conversation, and after more than 1,000 people submitted 218 unique names, the Worcester Red Sox have announced that the fans’ longtime frontrunner, the WooSox, will be the nickname of the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
The club plans to open the 2021 season at Polar Park in the resurgent Canal District at a remodeled Kelley Square in Downtown Worcester. Ground-breaking began July 11, 2019 in collaboration with the City of Worcester and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Fans and businesses have purchased nearly 1,200 full season tickets in the first three months of sales.
The WooSox logo acknowledges the birthplace of the original Smiley Face and the Heart of the Commonwealth, as well as the 1880 Worcesters of the National League, and the classic home run swings of iconic Red Sox Legends Ted Williams and David Ortiz, among others.
“We love that the fans actually named the team,” said Red Sox Hall of Famer and club Chairman and Principal Owner, Larry Lucchino. “We asked everyone from kids in kindergarten to octogenarians at senior centers to give suggestions and reactions, and while many suggestions and debates were clever, in the end, we discovered what Worcester already knew: nobody beats the WooSox.”
New fan apparel, including caps, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, went on sale at GoWooSox.com as the announcement was made live throughout New England on the New England Sports Network (NESN) and in person at the Mercantile Center in Downtown Worcester (100 Front Street).
Lucchino and Ballpark Design Consultant Janet Marie Smith, as well as Polar Park Architect and Worcester native Tommy Quirk of DAIQ Architects also provided a design update for the ballpark. See video here. In addition to GoWooSox.com, fans can connect with the WooSox via social media at GoWooSox on Facebook, @woosox on Twitter, @GoWooSox on Instagram, and WooTube on YouTube. Fans can also continue to use PolarPark.com and related social media.
Upon the announcement, the club opened a pop-up store, the WooSox Baseball Store, inside the Mercantile Center lobby, open Mondays through Saturdays through Christmas Eve (except Thanksgiving Day). Hours are M-F, 10 am-5 pm and Saturdays and Christmas Eve, 10 am-1pm. Local retailers, such as Worcester Wares, will also carry the fan apparel.
The club spoke to several thousand fans during the last year, and enlisted the help of Brandiose, a leading national consultant in the naming and branding of teams in Minor League Baseball, and Younts Design, Inc. for additional graphics design.
Submissions ranged from the Diggers, Diners, and Duck Boats to the Heart Sox, Hot Sox, and Holy Sox. Fans also offered such names as the Ruby Legs, RocketMen, and Righteous Rebels, as well as the Wicked Worms, Wicked Coolers, and Wonderdogs. Many were references to the city’s history, penchant for innovation, passion for baseball, and artistic iconography.
The heart is ubiquitous in Worcester, which officially declared itself “The Heart of the Commonwealth” when it transformed from a town to a city, February 29, 1848. Centrally located in Massachusetts and New England, Worcester has long been a hub of transportation. The icon adorns the city seal and every street sign. In recent decades, the city’s heart has taken on a deeper meaning, as Worcester has demonstrated exceptional compassion, pride, and unity, as well as multicultural harmony and an embrace of citizens from all walks of life.
“This city has a remarkable heart,” said Worcester Red Sox President Dr. Charles A. Steinberg. “This community comes together when hardship strikes, and celebrates together on joyous and proud occasions. The heart is more than a symbol of our team; it is a reflection of Worcester.”
A centerpiece of the logo is the original Smiley Face, drawn in December, 1963 by the late Worcester advertising executive Harvey Ball. His son, Worcester attorney Charlie Ball, viewed the WooSox logo design during the process to ensure accuracy, as did Bill Wallace of the Worcester Historical Museum.
“Our game is for children,” Steinberg said, “And the child that flourishes in all of us. What a gift Harvey Ball gave to the world by his uplifting drawing. May it inspire children for generations to come, to fall in the love with the game our nation and our world have been blessed to love for centuries.”
The Worcester Worcesters were a National League club in the early 1880s. Original artwork of that team was preserved, and it inspired the lettering style of the “W” of the WooSox wordmark.
The triumphant stance of the batter, dubbed “Smiley Ball” as an homage to Harvey Ball, his family, and the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, was a composite inspired by the home run swings of several Red Sox legends, including Hall of Famer Ted Williams and Red Sox Hall of Famer David Ortiz.
Williams, who hit 521 regular season home runs in his career despite missing five seasons in his prime to serve in the military, hit his first home run in Massachusetts in the City of Worcester at an exhibition game at the College of the Holy Cross, April 14, 1939. It was a grand slam that also knocked in Joe Cronin, Jimmie Foxx, and Jim Tabor.
Ortiz, who hit 541 regular season home runs while leading the Red Sox to three World Championships after an 86-year drought, capped Worcester’s “Grand & Glorious Civic Celebration” that welcomed the Triple-A affiliate on September 17, 2018, with an enthusiastic, energetic video tribute.
Pride in native son Robert Goddard, who invented the modern rocket, inspired references to “Rocket Sox” and variations on that theme. Baseball’s most famous poem, “Casey at the Bat,” penned in Worcester by Ernest Thayer, led to the “Mudville 9” and other related names. The birthplace of the Monkey Wrench led to more suggestions, as did Worcester’s civic persona as a proud, hard-working, blue-collar city.
Also, Minor League Baseball now allows clubs to change their name for a promotion that reflects the fun, food, and culture of a city. The Pawtucket Red Sox, for example, were the Hot Wieners for one night in 2018 and the Fightin’ Quahogs for a night in 2019.
“We were amused by the Gritty Kitties, Night Owls, and Green Bananas, a reference to the unripened fruit that will soon head from Polar Park to Fenway Park,” Steinberg said. “So some of the remaining suggestions, such as the Worcester Worcesters, the Wonderdogs, and the Wicked Worms, may yet see the light of day—or the grass and the dirt.”
Further, Minor League Baseball has also allowed some select clubs, including the Pawtucket Red Sox, to change their name on a particular weeknight to a Spanish name to enhance outreach to the Hispanic community. The PawSox have operated as the Osos Polares (Polar Bears) the past two years on each Tuesday home game.
Lucchino offered the final word: “So with apologies to Winston Churchill, ‘…this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning’ of the Worcester Red Sox nickname story.”