Posts Tagged ‘Jim Gentile’

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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