Mass. minor league baseball team to retire No. 6 jersey to honor fallen FFs

The number on the jersey represents the six Worcester Fire Department firefighters who died 20 years ago in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire


Michael Bonner
MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.

WORCESTER, Mass. — Tears welled in the eyes of Worcester Fire Chief Michael Lavoie Tuesday as he spoke about the approaching 20th anniversary of the blaze that claimed the lives of six firefighters.

“It’s still agonizing. It’s still emotional. We have to be here. We can’t forget,” Lavoie said. “We have to have these ceremonies. Every single one of these deaths take a little piece out of us. It just brings us back here. We can never forget.”

No player for the Worcester Red Sox will ever wear No. 6 as the team announced the number would be retired to honor those firefighters who died 20 years ago in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire. (Photo/Polar Park)
No player for the Worcester Red Sox will ever wear No. 6 as the team announced the number would be retired to honor those firefighters who died 20 years ago in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire. (Photo/Polar Park)

Behind Lavoie, a pair of red baseball jerseys that say Worcester across the front hung on the Engine 12 fire truck inside the Franklin Street Fire Station.

No player for the organization will ever wear No. 6 as the team announced the number would be retired to honor those firefighters who died 20 years ago in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire, the Worcester Red Sox announced Tuesday afternoon. The team made the announcement as city officials discussed planned ceremonies to remember the fallen firefighters.

At 6 p.m. on Dec. 3, thousands are expected to gather at the Franklin Street station with more than half the Worcester fire department. The city is asking the public to avoid the area due to traffic concerns.

On Dec. 8, eight years after firefighter Jon Davies died inside a fire on Arlington Street, he will be remembered at the Franklin Street station at 6 p.m. The ceremony will include a wreath-laying.

On Dec. 9, the department will honor firefighter Christopher Roy, who died last year in a fire on Lowell Street. He will be honored at Webster Square Fire Station. The large ceremony at 6 p.m. is expected to affect traffic in the area.

A pop-up fire museum will feature an exhibit that pays tribute the “Worcester Six.” The 1,000-square-foot exhibit will open to the public from Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 at Union Station.

“Every year, this time of year, it just gets emotional for us,” Lavoie said, "because it’s hard to explain what we’ve gone through and what we’ve been through.”

Members of the Pawtucket Red Sox, which will make Worcester its home in 2021, attended Roy’s funeral. The emotion from the day and learning about Worcester’s firefighters left the president of the minor league club, Charles Steinberg, determined to honor the department.

Last December, he began discussing with city officials the idea of retiring the No. 6 jersey in honor of the six firefighters who were killed in the 1999 fire: Lt. Thomas Spencer, Lt. Timothy Jackson Sr., Lt. James Lyons III, as well as firefighters Jeremiah Lucey, Paul Brotherton and Joseph McGuirk.

“The emotion was obvious,” Steinberg said. “I ran it by the city manager. You could just see it in his face that we were learning what the real heart is of Worcester.”

The team also announced it will reserve eight tickets to every game at Polar Park in memory of the eight Worcester firefighters killed in the line of duty since 1999. The eight tickets are meant for the friends and families of the eight firefighters.

“You try to do what you can,” Steinberg said. “If we can be a storyteller so that broadcasters from all over North America when they come to broadcast a game, they have to say why that number is retired. Well then, those six firefighters are alive in our hearts. If they have to explain why there are eight seats devoted, then Firefighter Davies and Firefighter Roy are alive in our hearts.”

The No. 6 jerseys will be sold to fans with a portion of the proceeds going to the Worcester Fire Department Memorials Care Fund.

Lavoie held one of the red jerseys in his hand on Tuesday. He said he hopes to one day sit in one of the eight seats reserved for his fallen brothers.

Lavoie said, if and when he does, his focus will be on those firefighters, but also the community they served.

“I’ll be thinking how much the community cares and supports us,” Lavoie said. “This is how we get through it. I was just asked how do I get up in the morning and go to work. This is how. It’s the community support we receive.”

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©2019 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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