Archive for the ‘North Carolina Ballparks’ Category

Fleming Stadium and the North Carolina Baseball Museum

April 11th, 2020

Fleming Stadium is located at 300 Stadium Street SW, in Wilson, North Carolina.

Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

It also houses the North Carolina Baseball Museum, located on the stadium ground past the third base grandstand.

Fleming Stadium and North Carolina Baseball Museum Sign, Wilson, North Carolina

According to Chris Epting’s Roadside Baseball: The Locations of America’s Baseball Landmarks, Fleming Stadium was erected in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, with the stadium’s official dedication on June 29, 1939.

Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

When it opened, the stadium was known as Wilson Municipal Park. In 1948, the name changed to Wilson Municipal Stadium and in 1952, it was renamed Fleming Memorial Stadium, in honor of Allie W. Fleming, former president of the minor league team that played there.  Mr. Fleming passed away in 1952.  His house is part of the Wilson, North Carolina, Historic District and is located at 112 North Rountree Street in Wilson.

Plaque Honoring Allie W. Fleming, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolinaa

Mr. Fleming worked in the tobacco industry.  According to the Wilson Historic District National Register of Historic Places application, “[i]n 1939 Fleming, a former summer semi-pro baseball player, joined with a group of businessmen to purchase the Ayden franchise of the Coast [sic] Plain League and re-establish professional baseball in Wilson. He was president and general manager of the “Wilson Tobacconists” for the several years they were active in Wilson.”  https://files.nc.gov/ncdcr/nr/WL0007.pdf.

Infield on a Rainy Day, Fleming Stadium, North Carolina

In 1939, the Coastal Plain League was a Class-D league consisting of eight teams, the Goldsboro Goldbugs, the Greenville Greenies, Kinston Eagles, New Bern Bears, Snow Hill Billies, the Tarboro Serpents/Goobers, the Williamston Martins, and the Wilson Tobacconists.  https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/league.cgi?id=f1db885b.

Grandstand, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

At some point after the team’s arrival in 1939, the Wilson Tobacconists’ name was shortened the Wilson Tobs.  The Tobs were Coastal Plain League  champions from 1940 to 1941.

Scoreboard, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

In 1939, the stadium held 3,800 fans, which was increased to 4,000 in 1950, and 5,000 in 1973.  The dimensions of the ballpark, from left field to center, to right field were 350-380-350  in 1939, and were decreased in 1973 to 332-450-332.  https://www.statscrew.com/venues/v-2937.

Outfield Wall, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

The Coastal Plain League did not play during the 1942 season with the United States’ entry into World War II.  Wilson Tobs joined Bi-State League for just that season, and the Tobs returned to the Coastal Plain League in 1946, through 1952, and won the championship in 1947.  The league folded after the 1952 season.  https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Wilson_Tobs.

Outfield Wall Signage, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

In 1956, the Tobs joined the Carolina League, where they played until 1968.  The Tobs were affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1956, the Washington Senators in 1957, and 1960, the Baltimore Orioles  in 1958, the Pittsburgh Pirates 1959, and the Minnesota Twins from 1961 to 1968.  https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Wilson_Tobs.

Light Stanchion, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

In 1991, the Southern League Carolina Mudcats  played part of their season at Fleming Stadium, before moving to Five County Stadium later that season.

Five County Stadium, Home of the Carolina Mudcats

Since 1997, the summer collegiate wooden bat Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League have called  Fleming Stadium home.  Current Major League Baseball Stars such as Justin Verlander have played at Fleming Stadium for the Tobs.

Wilson Tobs Lineup Board, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

The collegiate Coastal Plain League All-Star games were played at Fleming Stadium in 2000, 2005, and 2012.  https://www.wilsontobs.com/fleming-stadium/History

Office Entrance, Wilson Tobs of the Collegiate Coastal Plain League, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

On September 14, 1955, Elvis Presley performed at Fleming Stadium.  http://scottymoore.net/tourdates50s.html.  In 1987, a scene from the movie Bull Durham was filmed at Fleming Stadium.

First Base Grandstand, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

The scene was filmed along the first base grandstand, with the actors entering between the grandstand and the brick building to the right of the grandstand.  Known as the “rain out scene,” it featured  starsKevin Costner and Tim Robbins.

In 2014, the City of Wilson renovated and added improvements to the ballpark.

Welcome to Wilson Plaque, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

The stadium was rededicated Historic Fleming Stadium by the City Council of the City of Wilson.

Historic Fleming Stadium Plaque, Wilson, North Carolina

Fleming Stadium is a wonderful place to see a game.  The stadium and grounds are well kept and the pride the City of Wilson has for its stadium is apparent as soon as you enter the entrance.

Ticket Booth, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

First Base Grandstand, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

Because the city was careful to maintain the original feel of the ballpark, spending a day or evening  at Fleming Stadium is like stepping back into the 1940s, when the ballpark was built.

Portal Through Which Visitors Can Step Back Into Time , Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

Improvements over the years include the replacement of the grandstand seats.

Steel and Plastic Grandstand Seats, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

In renovating the stadium, however, it is evident that care was taken to maintain many of the original features that make the grandstand so unique.

New Aluminum Bench Seating With Original Steel Stair Risers, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

Storage Area Underneath Grandstand, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

Fleming Stadium also is home to the North Carolina Baseball Museum http://ncbaseballmuseum.com/.

Entrance to North Carolina Baseball Museum, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

The museum celebrates the many baseball players from North Carolina, as well as those who played at Fleming Stadium.

North Carolina Baseball Museum, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

The museum features memorabilia from the stadium, such as original wooden stadium seats re-purposed as part of a seating area for museum events.

North Carolina Baseball Museum, Original Stadium Seats, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

On October 15, 1961, a Home Run Derby contest was held at Fleming Stadium, featuring the new Home Run King, Roger Maris, Harmon Killebrew, and Jim Gentile.  A poster from the event hangs in the museum and is signed by Mr. Killebrew.

Home Run Derby Poster, North Carolina Baseball Museum, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

The museum includes display cases featuring Hall of Fame Players who played at Fleming Stadium, such as Rod Carew.

Rod Carew Display, North Carolina Baseball Museum, Fleming Stadium, Wilson, North Carolina

If Fleming Stadium was simply an empty, old ballpark where professional baseball once was played, it still would have been worth the trip off I-95 just to see the vintage 1940 ballpark.  But Fleming Stadium offers so much more, including first class college baseball and an outstanding baseball museum.  It is just 50 miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina, and 30 miles south of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  Be sure to add it to your baseball pilgrimage list.

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Durham Athletic Park – A Real Life Major Motion Picture Site

September 8th, 2013

Durham Athletic Park (often referred to with the acronym DAP) is located at the intersection of Washington Street and W. Corporation Street in Durham, North Carolina.

Durham Athletic Park, Former Home of the Durham Bulls

Home to minor league baseball beginning in 1926, for the first seven years of its existence the ballpark was known as El Toro Park. The ballpark was renamed Durham Athletic Park in 1933 after the stadium was acquired by the City of Durham. The original ballpark, which included a wooden grandstand, was destroyed by fire in 1939. A new steel and concrete grandstand was constructed and ready for the 1940 season.

Durham Athletic Park Turret Topped Building That Housed Ticket Booth

Although there were some years where minor league baseball was not played in Durham, the ballpark primarily was home to the Durham Bulls up through the 1994 season. Local Durham Negro League teams including the Eagles and the Rams also played at Durham Athletic Park.

Entrance Behind To Durham Athletic Park Behind Home Plate

Durham Athletic Park is perhaps the most famous minor league ballpark in the country, thanks to its use as the primary filming site for the movie Bull Durham, staring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and the late Trey Wilson. War Memorial Stadium, located in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina, 50 miles west of DAP, also was used for filming some of the scenes in Bull Durham.

View of DAP Grandstand From Home Team Dugout

For fans of Bull Durham, a visit to Durham Athletic Park is like walking through a movie set.

View Of DAP Grandstand From Behind Home Plate

The City of Durham recently completed a $4 million renovation of the ballpark. Although some things have changed, like the color of the grandstand wall that runs along the infield, which is now brown, not green, the ballpark is readily recognizable as the ballpark where Crash Davis helped tutor Nuke LaLoosh to become a major league pitcher.

Box Seats And General Admission At DAP

The home team dugout where many memorable scenes were filmed now has a protective fence in front of it.

DAP Home Team Dugout

The radio announcer’s booth, made famous by Garland Bunting, remains. In real life, Bunting was a North Carolina Revenue Agent.

DAP Radio Announcer's Booth

The press box remains as well.

Box Seats Behind Top Of Press Box, Durham Athletic Park

In the movie, the press box was visible directly behind home plate.

Press Box At DAP

The outfield signage has been removed, including the famous bull that blew smoke and moved its tail when hit by a home run ball. In addition, at least two of the buildings beyond the right field fence have been painted blue.

Buildings Behind Right Field Where Once Sat The Bull SIgn

Durham Athletic Park and the movie Bull Durham helped revive the popularity of minor league baseball in the United States. They also helped end the ballpark’s affiliation with a minor league team.

Concession Stand, Durham Athletic Park

The team soon found that the small stadium could no longer hold the crowds that came to see the Bulls.

Field Of Dreams, DAP Infield

Beginning in 1995, the Durham Bulls began play at newly constructed Durham Bulls Athletic Park (“DBAP”). Some of the iconic features of the DAP, such as the “Hit Bull Win Steak” sign are included in the new ballpark.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Current Home of the Durham Bulls

Thanks to the popularity of the movie Bull Durham and the forward thinking of the city of Durham, North Carolina, Durham Athletic Park is here to stay.

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War Memorial Stadium – Greensboro, North Carolina

September 5th, 2013

War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina, was opened in 1926. From 1930 until 2004, the ballpark was the home to a Greensboro’s minor league baseball teams.

War Memorial Stadium, Greensboro, South Carolina

The ballpark’s first minor league tenants were the Greensboro Patriots, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the years, the major league affiliated teams that made War Memorial their home included the Red Sox, the Pirates, and the Yankees, through 1968. The Greensboro Red Wings, a minor Negro Leagues team, also played at War Memorial in the late 1940’s. After a ten year absence, in 1979, professional baseball returned to War Memorial when the Greensboro Hornets of the South Atlantic League began play. That team had the longest uninterrupted stretch of professional baseball at War Memorial, with the Hornets, later named the Bats, playing at the ballpark through the 2004 season.

War Memorial Stadium Concrete and Stucco Exterior

In 2005, Greensboro’s minor league team moved to a new stadium located just one mile west of War Memorial Stadium. The team changed its name as well, to the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

NewBridge Bank Park, Current Home of the Greensboro Grasshopers

War Memorial Stadium is dedicated “In Memory Of All Those Of Guilford County Who Made The Supreme Sacrifice In The World War.”

War Memorial Stadium Plaque Honoring Military Members Who Lost Their Lives

On either side of the main entrance to the stadium are large bronze plaques listing the names of people from Guilford County who died in World War I. The plaques also state: “They Served That Liberty May Not Perish From The Earth.”

Detail of War Memorial Stadium

Although professional baseball has left, the game is still played at War Memorial Stadium. These pictures of the ballpark were taken in July 2010 during the Metropolitan Junior Baseball League Classic Tournament.

Greensboro Bats Ticket Booth

In addition, the ballpark still hosts college baseball. It is the home field of both North Carolina A&T University and Greensboro College.

Main Entrance Under Grandstand, War Memorial Stadium

In July 2014, the Greensboro Yankees held a reunion at War Memorial Stadium. Ike Futch, an infielder for the Greensboro Yankees in 1961, was kind enough to send me pictures of the reunion.

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina (Photo Courtesy Ike Futch)

The Greensboro Yankees also gathered inside the clubhouse. Around the table (clock wise) Johnny Smith (bat boy in 1961), Rudy Serrett, Jeff and Laura Womack’s daughters (Dooley Womack’s grandchildren), Butch Cretara, Ike Futch, Dooley Womack, Chuck Boone, Art Lopez, Unknown Local Sports Writer, Brian Dunphy (Producer, Channel 8, Greensboro Community TV), Judie Paul, Attonia Lopez, and Ron Paul.

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina (Photo Courtesy  Ike

Greensboro Yankees Reunion, 2014, War Memorial Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina (Photo Courtesy Ike Futch)

The craftsmanship that went into building War Memorial is evident throughout the ballpark.

Concession Booths Under Grandstand, War Memorial Stadium

A covered grandstand constructed of steel and concrete anchors the ballpark.

Main Grandstand War Memorial Stadium

The view of the playing field from the grandstand harkens back to an earlier era.

Playing Field at War Memorial Stadium

War Memorial made a cameo appearance in the 1989 movie Bull Durham, which was filmed primarily at Durham Athletic Park. About midway through the movie the team bus pulls up to the front entrance of War Memorial.

Steel and Wood Construction of the Main Grandstand

In addition, the locker room scenes in Bull Durham supposedly were filmed inside War Memorial’s locker room, including the late Trey Wilson’s famous “lollygag” scene. Apparently the locker rooms at Durham Athletic Park, where much of the movie was filmed, were considerably smaller.

War Memorial Stadium Entrance to General Admission Seating

With it’s major tenant gone since 2005, War Memorial has fallen into disrepair

War Memorial Stadium General Admission

Although the field is still maintained, the stadium structure itself shows signs of neglect.

Entrance to Concourse, War Memorial Stadium

In recent years there has been talk about tearing down War Memorial Stadium. However, the City of Greensboro has decided to renovate the stadium as part of a revitalization plan for the area surrounding the ballpark.

Entrance From Concourse To Third Base Seating

Although some parts of the ballpark have been demolished, such as some of the stands along third base and near left field, the future certainly seems brighter now for the ballpark. Perhaps now, with the help of the City of Greensboro, War Memorial Stadium will not become just another lost ballpark.

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