The Providence Grays were a Major League Baseball team based in Providence, Rhode Island who played in the National League from 1878 until 1885. The Grays played at the Messer Street Grounds in the Olneyville neighborhood. The team won the National League title twice, in 1879 and 1884. Following the 1884 season, they won the first World Series over the New York Metropolitans of the American Association. The team folded after the 1885 season.
Rhode Island was a hotbed of baseball in the 1870s with several notable amateur clubs along with Brown University's powerhouse collegiate team. In 1875, the semi-pro "Rhode Islands" were formed. After successful seasons (along with excellent paid attendance) in 1875, 1876, and 1877, the team drew the attention of the recently formed National League. When the League elected to drop the Hartford franchise after the 1877 season, Providence was awarded a franchise to replace the Connecticut club.
The new team was officially organized on January 16, 1878 by Benjamin Douglas, who became the team's general manager. Henry Root was hired as the team president‚ and Tom Carey was initially hired to be the on-field captain, whose duties were similar to the modern-day manager. On January 21, 1878, Providence applied for membership in the NL, and was officially approved on February 6.
On April 10, Root took over ownership of the team, fired Douglas for incompetence and insubordination, and hired Tom York to replace Carey as captain. On May 30, the Providence Base Ball Association was incorporated by the Rhode Island General Assembly.
While the team practiced at the Dexter Training Ground in the spring of 1878, preparations were made to provide them with "the best baseball plant in the country". Construction on the Messer Street Grounds began on April 1 and took exactly one month to complete; the final nail was hammered a mere five minutes before the opening game got underway on May 1.
The following season the team installed a screen behind home plate to protect the fans sitting there from injury due to foul balls and wild pitches. They were the first team in baseball history to do this; while some fans protested, complaining that they obstructed their view of the game, by the end of the next decade they were commonplace.
In a break with tradition, the National League's newest addition adopted gray flannel instead of white for their home uniform and the team became known as the Grays.