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New: Play Ball, Rhody-style

With the new baseball season upon us, I've got an homage in this week's Providence Phoenix to some of the more obscure and interesting connections between Rhode Island and the grand old game:

This connection runs deep in Rhode Island, a historic base of support for the Red Sox (Narragansett Beer was a proud sponsor back in the day), and the longtime home of the team’s top minor league club. Any self-respecting local knows, of course, how the longest game in baseball history, a 33-inning epic spread over two days in 1981, took place in Pawtucket.
 
Like anthropologists, the more zealous baseball fans among us can recite how the surge of ethnic pride fired more than a half-century ago by Joe DiMaggio underlies Italian-American support for the Yankees in Rhode Island. How NESN color commentator Jerry Remy, even if he decamped for plusher digs, hails from nearby Somerset, Massachusetts. They might even know how state Treasurer Frank Caprio, while playing for Harvard, once squared off against Roger Clemens during a spring training exhibition game in Winter Haven. (C’mon, Frank, put in a word for a mid-season return by the Rocket.)
 
Rhode Island’s link with baseball is longer and richer, however, than even many enthusiasts might imagine. Think you got the bat-speed? Then read along in celebration of the new season.

1ST INNING: THE RI ROOTS OF THE GAME
The Red Sox occupy the central consciousness, of course, of most local fans — not a surprise considering the storied franchise’s up-and-down-and-up history, and how Fenway Park, the oldest park in Major League Baseball (MLB), will celebrate its 100th birthday in a mere five years.
 
Yet 100 years before Bucky-Fucking-Dent dealt a crushing blow to the New England psyche, the Providence Grays burst on the local scene in 1878, playing at the bygone Messer Street Grounds, in what is now the Armory District.

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