baseball

How the Tobs got a bat boy.

It’s Opening Day of the 2018 Major League Baseball season. Wilson has hosted minor league teams since 1908; most called Tobs (for Tobacconists). In 1939, the year Fleming Stadium opened, Wilson was a member of the Class D Coastal Plain League.

Wilson Daily Times, 17 August 1939.

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In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 715 Stantonsburg Street, hospital orderly Calvin Swinson, 31; wife Alice, 25; and children Jesse, 6, Calvin Jr., 3, and Earlean, 1.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hospital orderly Calvin Swinson, 41; wife Alice, 35; and children Jessie, 15, Calvin, 12, Earlean, 11, Horace, 9, Soisetta, 6, and Charles, 2.

[Note that, like many newspapers of the era, the Daily Times exaggerated the speech of African-Americans no matter that Southern whites also spoke a heavily accented dialect.]

 

Pop-Eye Leonard and the Wilson Braves.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 21 September 1925.

Charles “Pop-Eye” Leonard is not well-known, but his brother Walter F. Leonard — better known by the nickname Charles gave him, “Buck” — was a legend. The Leonards were natives of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, 18 miles north of Wilson. I have not been able to discover much about Charles, but a bio brief about Buck in Jason T. Powers’ Bringin’ Gas and Dialin’ 9: A Seven Score Addition to the National Pastime, volume 1, describes the brothers’ relationship, and Buck’s attempts to steer his brother away from baseball.

The Wilson Braves, presumably, were affiliated with an African-American minor league.

The finest game of ball ever played.

Today is opening day of Major League Baseball’s 2016 season. In keeping:

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Wilson Mirror, 20 July 1892.

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Wilson Mirror, 8 August 1894.

6 19 1896

Wilson Times, 19 June 1896.

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Wilmington Morning Star, 8 May 1904.

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Raleigh News & Observer, 30 April 1910.

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Wilson Times, 3 May 1910.

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Wilson Times, 6 May 1910.

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Wilson Times, 2 May 1911.

Homestead Grays at spring camp.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 13 April 1935.

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The Homestead Grays were a storied professional baseball team that played in the short-lived American Negro League and then the National Negro League. The team was formed in 1912 by Cumberland Posey (who wrote this article) and remained in continuous operation for 38 seasons. The team was originally based in Homestead, Pennsylvania, crossed the Monongahela River to play all home games in Pittsburgh in the 1920s. Later, they also played home games in Washington DC.

First baseman and future National Baseball Hall-of-Famer Walter F. “Buck” Leonard (1907-1997) was a Rocky Mount native. Other players mentioned in the article include Tom Parker, Tommy Dukes, Jimmy, Binder, George Scales, Norman Jackson, Matthew Carlisle, Vic Harris, Buddy Burbage and Ray Brown. For 1935 season stats, see here.

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