Don’t do it, Rhode Island.
Don’t take the devil’s ride up Route 146 past Purgatory Chasm to Larry Lucchino’s pleasure palace in Worcester.
Don’t listen to Lucchino’s smooth words as he gloats about his shiny new $157 million stadium for his transplanted Worcester Red Sox, then turns churlish and talks smack because Rhode Island wouldn’t finance his field of schemes to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox.
As Lucchino took his victory lap around Polar Park last week, hard hat and hard heart firmly in place, he told the Globe’s Dan McGowan to “make sure you hand-deliver [your column] to Mattiello.” That was a jab at former Rhode Island House speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who killed a deal to finance a new stadium in Pawtucket and drove the Carpetbagger Sox up Route 146 to the Elysian Fields of Kelley Square.
It’s never good for fans when their local team becomes a pawn in a fight over money and politics. Guess who loses?
Mattiello rightly deserves blame for his role in killing the PawSox. Happily, voters sent him packing last fall, partly because of anger over the failed stadium deal.
But that doesn’t let Lucchino off the hook. His sense of entitlement and his disregard for what the PawSox represent contributed to the team’s demise. He disliked McCoy Stadium from the start. He didn’t appreciate the gritty charm that had drawn generations of fans for half a century to see future stars from Carlton Fisk to Mookie Betts.
To Lucchino, history was not baseball’s longest game — the PawSox defeating the Rochester Red Wings in 33 innings back in 1981 and restoring fans’ faith in baseball amid a bitter major-league strike. History was building a new stadium, as Lucchino had done before with Baltimore’s Camden Yards and San Diego’s Petco Park; Polar Park turned out to be the most expensive in minor-league history. In Rhode Island, Lucchino and his partners overreached, demanding extravagant taxpayer support for a new ballpark on the waterfront in Providence. That antagonized Rhode Islanders and irreparably set back negotiations.
Ultimately, the ball may have gone through Mattiello’s legs — but a string of misplays by both sides led to that moment.
So now Lucchino hawks his new stadium and talks his Music Man talk of building community in Worcester, even as he peddles PawSox trinkets at bargain-basement prices. (”ALL SALES FINAL FOR PAWSOX ITEMS,” warns the WooSox web site.)
Lucchino can take his trolling to Purgatory Chasm, the nature-built wonder off Route 146 between Providence and Worcester. Various legends say the 70-foot deep chasm was carved by a glacier 14,000 years ago or cleaved from the granite bedrock by Hobomoko, a Native American devil. Perched above, like a luxury box overlooking home plate, is a rocky promontory called the Devil’s Pulpit.
In Pawtucket, we didn’t need a brew pub down the right-field line or a kids zone beyond left-center to connect families. McCoy Stadium was a pleasant place to be on a soft summer night, the sun sinking beyond the left-field grandstand and casting timeless shadows on the outfield grass as kids dangled cut-out milk bottles holding baseballs for autographs.
So don’t do it, Rhode Island. And since I won’t be making the devil’s ride up 146, maybe someone can make sure to hand-deliver this to Lucchino.
Mike Stanton is a journalism professor at the University of Connecticut.