The recent arrival of the Woodpeckers and the Segra Stadium represent a new page in the long history surrounding baseball. Most of us are familiar with the recent history of local baseball to include the Generals and the Crocks, and some will even remember the Highlanders. This article will test your knowledge of the earlier Fayetteville history concerning one of America’s favorite sports.
Q: When and under what circumstances did baseball as we know it arrive in North Carolina?
A: It was during the Civil War. A group of Union prisoners in 1863 engaged in games of baseball at the prisoner-of-war camp located in Salisbury.
Q: When was baseball first played in Fayetteville, and what was the name of the first team?
A: Baseball was first played in Fayetteville in 1867. The first team was named the Lafayette Club, in honor of Fayetteville’s namesake, Gen. Lafayette. He was a young French nobleman who aided the colonies during the American Revolution.
Q: Where was baseball first played in Fayetteville?
A: The first game was played on an empty lot off Rowan Street but quickly shifted to the Military Green, which served as a militia parade field. The Military Green was located where the Transportation & Local History Museum is now located at 325 Franklin St., just a few blocks from the new Segra Stadium.
Q: When did African American baseball teams begin to play in Fayetteville?
A: An African American club was formed soon after the Lafayette Club. The local newspaper reported in July 1867 that the Fayetteville African American Baseball Club would be engaged in competition against a team in Charleston South Carolina. The name of one of the early Fayetteville African American teams was the Teasers.
Q: How much did it cost to watch a baseball game in Fayetteville during the late 1800s?
A: The admission was between 5 and 10 cents, and to encourage ladies to attend, they were often admitted free.
Q: How did our local citizens support Fayetteville teams playing out of town?
A: Bit by the baseball fever bug, many local citizens would board steamboats or trains and travel to other towns to root for the Fayetteville teams. Fayetteville and Cumberland County were consumed with the spirt and enthusiasm of baseball fever.
Q: By the early 20th century, Fayetteville had the reputation of having one of the best baseball fields in the South. Where was it located?
A: It was located at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds, where the Department of Transportation is now located, at Gillespie Street and Southern Avenue. The fairgrounds featured a covered grandstand and an oval track with the baseball diamond laid out in the middle of the track.
Q: When did Fort Bragg first get involved with local baseball?
A: Camp Bragg was established in 1918, and within one year, the assigned soldiers formed teams and engaged in competitive games with Fayetteville teams and surrounding cities. They were part of the Red Circle Baseball League organized by the War Camp Community Service.
Q: What is Fayetteville’s earliest connection with professional baseball?
A: It dates back to 1909 with the incarnation of the Fayetteville Highlanders, which was a Class D Eastern Carolina League franchise in 1909- 1910. The Highlanders won the 1910 ECL title with the help of future sports legend Jim Thorpe.
Q: What is Fayetteville’s connection with the famous “Babe” Ruth?
A: On March 7, 1914, while playing an intra-squad exhibition game at the Cape Fear Fairgrounds, Babe Ruth hit his first home run in professional baseball. Ruth hit the ball a distance of 135 yards. It was Ruth’s fifth day as a professional, his first game, and his second time at bat. It was also here that he acquired the nickname “Babe.”
Q: What is the connection between Crown Ford automotive dealership near the intersection of Skibo Road and Bragg Boulevard and baseball?
A: Crown Ford occupies the land that was developed shortly after World War II as the Cumberland County Memorial Stadium, later renamed Pittman Stadium. From 1946 to 1956, the stadium was home to Fayetteville Cubs, A’s and Highlanders, which were minor league baseball teams. After the 1956 season, the Highlanders decided to disband the team, and shortly after that, Pittman Stadium closed.
Fayetteville is rich in baseball history. If you wish to explore this fascinating topic further, visit the “Fayetteville Baseball Fever” exhibit at the Fayetteville Transportation and Local History Museum located at 325 Franklin St. The exhibit features a wealth of local history, trivia, photographs and artifacts. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. Tours and guest speakers can be arranged by calling 910-433-1457, 910-433-1458 or 910-433-1944.