Archive for April, 2020

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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The West Coast Wrigley Field

April 5th, 2020

Wrigley Field was located at 425 East 42nd Place, in Los Angeles, California, on the northwest corner of East 42nd Place and S. Avalon Boulevard.

Fan Photo Front Entrance of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

William Wrigley, owner of the National League Chicago Cubs, became principle owner of the Pacific Coast League California Angels in 1921.  Wrigley set about constructing a ballpark based upon the design of Cubs Park, the home of his National League team.  Wrigley hired architect Zachary Taylor Davis, who had designed Cubs Park, as well as Cominskey Park on the south side of Chicago.  See James Gordon, Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field: “The Finest Edifice in the United States, https://sabr.org/research/los-angeles-wrigley-field-finest-edifice-united-states.

Postcard of “Los Angeles Baseball Park, ‘Wrigley Field.’ Newest And Finest In The United States.” Western Publishing & Novelty Co., Los Angeles, California.

Cubs Park began its existence in 1914 as Weeghman Park, a Federal League ballpark for the Chicago Chifeds (known as the Chicago Whales in 1915). After the Federal League folded at the end of the 1915 season, Charlie Weeghman, owner of the Federal club, purchased a majority ownership of the National League Chicago Cubs and move the team to Weeghman Park.  See James Gordon, Wrigley Field (Los Angeles), https://sabr.org/bioproj/park/3912a666, and Scott Ferkovich, Wrigley Field (Chicago), https://sabr.org/bioproj/park/wrigley-field-chicago.

Postcard “National League ‘Cubs’ Ball Park Chicago” copyright © 1914 Max Rigot,,Published By Max Rogot Selling Company Chicago

Three years later, Wrigley took a controlling ownership of the team and in 1923 expanded the grandstand down both foul lines, according to Davis’s design. Wrigley Field in Los Angeles opened in September 1925, as the first ballpark by that name. The ballpark seated approximately 20,000 fans, several thousand more than Cubs Park in Chicago did at the time.

In 1927, the ballpark was renamed Wrigley Field and an upper deck was added.  See Raymond D. Kush, The Building of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, https://sabr.org/research/building-chicagos-wrigley-field.

Postcard “Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois,” Aero Distributing Co., Inc., Chicago, Genuine Curteich-Chicago C. T. Art-Colortone Postcard

While Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, was modeled after Cubs Park, the California ballpark included an upper deck three seasons before the Chicago ballpark.  With the addition of the upper deck in Chicago, the Cub’s Wrigley Field more closely resembled Wrigley Field Los Angeles.

Postcard “Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Calif.” Silver Lake Studios, Los Angeles, California, Tichnor Quality Views

Postcard “Wrigley Field,” Published by Cameo Greeting Cards, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, Plastichrome by Colourpicture Publishers, Inc., Boston, Mass., Color by Egon Berka, Chicago

One distinctive difference between the two parks was the entrance to Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, which included a nine story clock tower, dedicated by Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis in January 1926.

Fan Photo of Wrigley Field (Los Angeles) 150 Foot Tall Clock Tower

Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, was home to the Pacific Coast League  (PCL) Los Angeles Angels from 1925 to 1957, and the PCL Hollywood Stars from 1926 to 1935, and again in 1938.  The Chicago Cubs also played some Spring Training games Wrigley Field, Los Angeles.

Fan Photo of Spring Training, Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Calfornia, March 19, 1938, Tony Lazzeri at Bat

Fan Photo of Pre-Game Ceremony Honoring Connie Mack, Chicago Cubs/Philadelphia Athletics Exhibition Game at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, April 17, 1940.

Given Wrigley Field’s proximity to Hollywood, as many as 14 movies were filmed there, beginning with the silent film Babe Comes Home, in 1927 (starring Babe Ruth as himself) and ending with Damn Yankees.  See Gordon, Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field: “The Finest Edifice in the United States.”   Just as Wrigley Field is a lost ballpark, Babe Comes Home is a lost movie, as there are no known copies in existence.

In December 1959, the TV show Home Run Derby was filmed at Wrigley Field, featuring many of baseball’s greatest stars of the day.  The show aired in 1960.  The episode in the YouTube video linked below features Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

In 1961, a Major League Baseball tenant, the Los Angeles Angels, called Wrigley Field home, but for just that season.  In 1962, the Angels relocated to Chavez Revine and shared the stadium there with the Los Angeles Dodgers, before moving in 1966 to their own stadium, Anaheim Stadium, now Angels Stadium.

Fan Photo, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

The ballpark site is utilized by both public and private organizations, including a hospital and two community centers.  On land adjacent to the former ballpark, including a portion of what was once the parking lot out beyond the third base grandstand, is the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, named after a former city councilman.

Wrigley Little League Field, Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

The recreation center includes a youth baseball field,  appropriately named, “Wrigley Little League Field,” on the southeast corner of E. 41st Place and San Pedro Street.

Wrigley Little League Field, Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

To the south and east of Wrigley Little League Field are two soccer fields.  The soccer field to the east of the little league field is located adjacent to what was once a portion of Wrigley Field’s parking lot.

Soccer Field, Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

In the middle of the block on E. 42nd Place are basketball courts and an indoor recreation center, located near what was once the main entrance to Wrigley Field (behind home plate).

Basketball Court and Indoor Rec Center, Part of the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

Wrigley Field’s 150 foot tall clock tower sat just to the east of the front entrance to Wrigley Field, on E. 42nd Place.

Fan Photo Front Entrance of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

The former site of that clock tower is just east of the basketball court fronting E. 42nd Place. Several tall trees now mark the spot.

Trees Mark Approximate Location of Wrigley Field Clock Tower, Los Angeles, California

The Watts Labor Community Action Center (WLCAC), Theresa Lindsay Center, named after the wife of Councilman Lindsay, is located on the former site of the first base grandstand.

WLCAC Theresa Lindsay Center, Los Angeles, California

Just north of the Theresa Lindsay Center on S. Avalon Boulevard and E. 41st Place, is the Kedren Community Health Center.

Theresa Lindsay Center and the Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

The building housing the Kedren Community Health Center is constructed on what was once Wrigley Field’s infield.

Entrance to Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

First Base Grandstand, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

The right side of the infield was located in what is now the Kedren Community Health Center front lobby.

Lobby, Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

A courtyard with a bust honoring Dr. J.Alfred Cannon, Founder of the Central City Community Mental Health Center (1962), sits in the approximate location of right field.

Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

A grass field with large trees marks the the former site of center field, and the center field bleachers.

Former Site of Center Field, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, Looking From Center Field Toward Infield

Former Site of Center Field Bleachers, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, Looking South Down Right Field Line

The center field bleachers and scoreboard can be seen in this fan photo of Wrigley Field, looking across left field.

Fan Photo, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Left Field Corner Looking East toward Center Field

The former site of left field is now a parking lot for the community health center.

Former Site of Left Field, Wrigley, Field, Los Angeles, Now The Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, California

Several houses that date to the time of Wrigley Field remain on E. 41st Place, across from the former left field and center field wall.

Houses On E. 41st Place (looking west), Across From The Former Left Field to Center Field Wall of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

Houses On E. 41st Place (looking east), Across From The Former Left Field to Center Field Wall of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

These houses are visible in the photograph of Wrigley Field below.

Fan Photo, Wrigley Field , Los Angeles, California, With Houses On E., 41st Place Visible Beyond Outfield Wall

Of particular note is the distinctive two-story bungalow that is visible in the above photo just beyond the left field wall.  Presumably, the residents could watch games from the second story of that house, a la the rooftop bars along W. Waveland and N. Sheffield Avenues, across from Wrigley Field in Chicago.

House on E.41st Place, Los Angeles, California, Located Just Beyond What Was Once the Left Field Fence of Wrigley Field.

Many of the buildings that line S. Avalon Boulevard also date to the time of Wrigley Field.

Building Located on northeast intersection of S. Avalon Boulevard and E. 42nd Street, Los Angeles, California

Intersection of  E. 41st Place and S. Avalon Boulevard, Los Angeles, California

The former site of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, is located 13 miles southwest of Dodger Stadium and 37 miles northwest of Angels Stadium of Anaheim. Although Wrigley Field obtained its lost ballpark status almost sixty years ago, there still are several buildings in the area surrounding the former site which helped mark where the ballpark once sat.  Baseball is still played close by to the former ballpark site, at Wrigley Little League Field.  There also is plenty of open green space at the former site of center field, enough perhaps to imagine what it once looked like when baseball was played at LA’s Wrigley Field.

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