Posts Tagged ‘Harmon Killebrew’

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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Bloomington’s Metropolitan Stadium – MIA At The MOA

October 18th, 2013

Metropolitan Stadium was located in Bloomington, Minnesota, 15 miles south of Minneapolis and just south of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport off I-494.

Metropolitan Stadium "Home of the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings" (Post Card Dexter Press, copyright Northern Minnesota Novelties)

The ballpark was home to the American Association Minneapolis Millers from 1956 until 1960, the American League Minnesota Twins from 1961 to 1981, and the National Football League Minnesota Vikings from 1961 to 1981. Prior to construction of Metropolitan Stadium, the Minneapolis Millers played their home games at Nicollet Park and the Minnesota Twins played at Griffith Stadium as the Washington Senators, prior to the franchise relocating to Minnesota after the 1960 season.

Metropolitan Stadium Circa 1957 (Plastichrome Post Card by Colour Picture Publishers and St. Marie's Gopher News Co.)

Once construction was completed on the Hubert H. Humphre Metrodome in 1982, the Twins and the Vikings both relocated to the new stadium for their respective 1982 seasons.

Looking Toward Right Field from Killebrew Drive (Prior To Construction of Raddison Blu Hotel)

Metropolitan Stadium was demolished in 1985 and is now the site of the Mall of America, a megamall built on the footprint of the  old stadium, covering over 96 acres.

Metropolitan Stadium After Its Expansion to 42,000 Seats (Plastichrome Post Card by Colour Picture Publishers and St. Marie's Gopher News Co.)

Home plate was located near the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Lindau Lane.

Mall of America, Looking Toward Former Third Base Foul Line From Lindau Lane

Within the Mall of America, Metropolitan Stadium’s  former field is now subsumed by an enclosed amusement park known as Nickelodeon Universe. A marker for home plate is located near the entrance to the Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge (which for roller coaster enthusiasts is the shortest Gerstlauera Euro-Fighter roller coaster in the world).

Home Plate Marker, Metropolitan Stadium - Located Next To Sponge Bob Square Pants Rock Bottom Plunge

Prior to Nickelodeon Universe, the Mall of America amusement park was known as Camp Snoopy, a homage to former St. Paul resident and Peanuts creator Charles Schultz.

Home Plate Looking Down Former Third Base Line (Former Camp Snoopy Configuration)

As part of the change over from Camp Snoopy to Nickelodeon Universe, the amusement park was completely redone and all references to Peanuts characters were removed.

View of Home Plate Looking Towards Pitchers Mound (Camp Snoopy Configuration)

With the change from Camp Snoopy to Nickelodeon Universe, “Blockhead Stadium” – like Metropolitan Stadium – is now just another lost ballpark.

Mall of America's Camp Snoopy Blockhead Stadium - Now Just Another Lost Ballpark

One of the most popular attractions at the Mall of America, next to Nickelodeon Universe, is the Lego Imagination Center, which resides in what was once right field.

Mall of America Lego Imagination Center, Former Location of Right Field

Former Minnesota Twins first baseman, third baseman, and outfielder Harmon Killebrew is twice honored at the former site of Metropolitan stadium. Killebrew Drive, named in his honor, is an east-west road south of the mall that runs parallel to the former third base foul line.

Looking Toward Right Center Field from Killebrew Drive

In addition, Killebrew’s 522 foot home run off California Angels pitcher Lew Burdette is commemorated in Nickelodeon Universe near the Log Chute.

Harmon Killebrew's Historic Home Run Marker at Mall of America - Located Near The Log Chute

A red stadium seat that once marked the spot where the home run landed in Metropolitan Stadium’s left field upper deck on June 3, 1967,  hangs on the wall above the ride.

All By Myself - The Harmon Killebrew Home Run Red Stadium Seat

With an estimated 40 million annual visitors to the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium is perhaps the most visited lost ballpark site in the country. Located just 11 miles south of the Twins current ballpark, Target Field, Metropolitan Stadium’s former site certainly is worth a visit. Of course, if you live in Minneapolis, or if you are just passing through, chances are you’ve already been. So on your next visit, be sure to look for the home plate marker at the feet of Sponge Bob Square Pants and the lone red chair perched above the Log Chute.

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