WORCESTER – The 218 suggestions for the nickname of the Worcester Red Sox came from more than 1,000 fans and ran a gamut. Over 15 months of deliberations and community feedback, the team mulled a number of possibilities around which to build its identity while working toward a move from Pawtucket to a new city and ballpark for the start of the 2021 campaign.
The possibilities included “the Worcesters,” a nod to the name of the professional baseball team that resided in Worcester in the 1880s; the “Wonderdogs” and the “Dirt Dogs,” meant to reflect the spirit of the city and a minor leaguer’s hard-nosed, dogged pursuit of a big league future; the “Rocket Sox,” in homage to Robert Goddard, a city native who invented the modern rocket; the “Mudville 9,” inspired by Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat,” a poem written in Worcester; the “Defectors,” presumably suggested by aggrieved Pawtucket residents; and the “Wicked Awesomes.”
Yet in the end, in what team president Charles Steinberg described as a bracket-like competition, one name emerged as the clear and consistent favorite among fans. And so, at a naming ceremony at Mercantile Center on Monday night, the minor league franchise introduced “the WooSox,” giving an identity to a team that will start playing in Polar Park in 17 months.
“The fans were the ones who kept making WooSox defeat all oncomers. It was an unusual display of verbal pugilism,” said Steinberg. “This was designed to be the opposite of an imposition of some independently clever name that could have gone to any city. This is what the fans were talking about, and the logo was what we’ve learned from the fans.”
The outcome wasn’t always a given. Team officials spent months trying to see if another moniker might take hold. But ultimately, those debates gave way to a landslide.
“Nothing ever really displaced WooSox,” said team executive vice president Dan Rea. “It’s kind of like the political candidate that wins Iowa and New Hampshire and then goes week after week and wins every one.”
The WooSox logo, which was also introduced on Monday, features numerous elements meant to celebrate both the city and the team’s links to the Red Sox. The “W” in the logo invokes the lettering style of the Worcester Worcesters, with the creation of a heart in the middle of the letter pointing to the city’s self-selected title in 1848 as “the Heart of the Commonwealth.”
The swinging smiley face in the logo – dubbed “Smiley Ball” – pays homage to the original Smiley Face, designed in 1963 by Worcester advertising executive Harvey Ball. The swing, meanwhile, was meant to bear resemblance to those of Red Sox greats Ted Williams and David Ortiz.
The introduction of a team nickname and logo drew excitement among the few hundred people who crowded into the lobby of the building where the naming event took place. For them, the day represented a landmark.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams we would have Triple-A baseball in the city of Worcester. It’s crazy,” said 44-year-old Russ Lamacchia, a lifelong Worcester resident. “I’m a diehard Yankee fan, but the fact that I’m wearing this [jersey], my love of Worcester trumps the Yankees. This will bring some national recognition to the city I love.”
“We never thought we would get a team here,” said 71-year-old Pete Rojcewicz. “To see this night come to fruition, I’ve got goosebumps. I’ve got tears of joy in my eyes. What it’s going to mean to the city, I told somebody tonight, I think this is going to be the most successful minor league franchise in minor league history.”
Despite that enthusiasm, the team still has a significant amount of work remaining before it moves to its future home. The groundbreaking ceremony for Polar Park in the Canal District took place in July. The ballpark – whose design continues to evolve – is a long way from completion.
For that reason, while principal owner Larry Lucchino viewed Monday as a celebration that “concretizes the concepts” surrounding the team’s future in Worcester, he also described the event merely as “the end of the beginning.”
“We’re now in a race. We’re really out there doing this, doing a lot of the excavation and all of the site preparation that has to be done. It will be a challenge to get it done right and well,” said Lucchino. “But if ever there was a city that deserved us to do it right and well, it’s this one.”