The Stanly County History Center hosts the virtual baseball exhibit - The Stanly News & Press

The Stanly County History Center hosts the virtual baseball exhibit – The Stanly News & Press

For the first time, the Stanly County History Museum has a virtual 3D tour on its website with its latest exhibit – the history of baseball in Stanly County.

Entitled “Play ball! The Stanly County Baseball Through the Years exhibition, which began in mid-May, features a wealth of artifacts, photos and videos about the origins of baseball, not just in Stanly but also in the country.

The first professional league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, was founded in 1871, six years after the end of the Civil War. The National League was created in 1876, followed by the American League in 1901.

Tons of recreational leagues across the country were founded in the early 20th century, including the Plowboys, one of the earliest known baseball teams in Stanly. The team, which was based in Finger, was so named because they plowed all day and played baseball games on the weekends.

Included in the exhibit is a picture of a baseball game played in Salisbury Prison in July 1862. The players are Union soldiers who play by “New York” rules. Although baseball rules had varied across the country – some players allowed a ball to be thrown directly at a player to count as one out, after the Civil War, the “New York” style of play spread across the country.

In 1890, the newly formed National Association of Baseball agreed to ban black players from playing in the organized league. Although they were excluded from playing in professional leagues, black baseball teams still played all over the country, other all-black teams played and often challenged all-white teams to exhibition games. The National Negro League was formed in 1920, followed by other professional Negro leagues.

Moses Fleetwood Walker was one of the first black men to play in Major League Baseball. He played for the Toronto Blue Stockings in the 1884 season and was the last black man to participate in professional baseball until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

Stanly County had many black baseball teams, including the Badin Sluggers, Kingville Gangbusters, Norwood Black Sox and Norwood Pirates. Badin Sluggers was known as one of the fastest teams in the state. The coach of the Kingville High School baseball team in the 1940s was its principal, Dr. Elbert Edwin “EE” Waddell, the namesake of the current community center facility.

The Stanly County History Center hosts the virtual baseball exhibit - The Stanly News & Press

Kingville High School baseball team coached by Dr. EE Waddell in the mid-1940s. Front row, from left to right: Bo Ingram, Gene Willoughby, (Bunk) Ingram, Mack Bruton, Stanly Cambell, Phenlo Ellis, Earl Colston, Troy Waddell and Howard Colson. Back row: Bill Staton, Tommy Richardson, Odell Lilly, Thomas Smith, Fisher Wall, EE Waddell, Arnold Flake, Owen Nance and JC Rivers.

For the exhibition, museum director Megan Sullivan shows footage of one of the earliest known videos taken of a baseball game. On May 20, 1898, Thomas Edison captured the first moving images of a baseball team. Entitled “The Ball Game”, the 28 seconds of the film feature a player named “NEWARK” on the jersey.

The textile leagues were popular in the South and the Wiscasset Mills team, the Spinners, first finished in their league in 1940 and advanced to the Piedmont Textile League Playoffs. That same year, the Albemarle Junior American Legion team took the final of the Little World Series and finally beat San Diego in five games played in front of an average of 10,000 fans in the city. Due to their victory, the players were guests at the World Series 1940.

The Stanly County History Center hosts the virtual baseball exhibit - The Stanly News & Press

Textile leagues were very popular in the South in the early 20th century, and the Wiscasset Spinners advanced several times to the playoffs in the Piedmont League. Photo courtesy of Megan Sullivan.

In 1948, Albemarle had a Class D NC State league franchise, the Albemarle Rockets. Brothers CW and CL Morton had recently completed the $ 45,000 Morton Ballpark building in Albemarle, including a $ 14,000 modern lighting system that for the first time allowed games to be played at night in the city.

The exhibition also includes excellent artists such as Pfeiffer baseball coach Joe Ferebee, who won 667 college games and led the Falcons to 10 conference championships and five NAIA District crowns, and newer teams such as the South Stanly High baseball club have won three state championships in the last 10 years.

While large groups are not allowed to enter the center of the story, families and smaller groups can come in to see the exhibition, although masks are strongly encouraged.

“Coronavirus has definitely been a learning experience for people working in museums,” Sullivan said.

While she had to think outside the box due to coronavirus restrictions, “it’s been a bit exciting because it’s got me out of my comfort zone,” when it comes to delivering content to society, she said.

Additional events and activities

In addition to the virtual exhibit, Sullivan also created a series of videos uploaded to the History Center’s Facebook page, titled “Treasures in the Attic,” where she shares information about some of the center’s oldest items in the collection. One such item is a document signed by Richard Dobbs Spaight, the eighth governor of the state and a signatory to the US Constitution. He died of injuries caused by a duel in 1802 with Congressman John Stanly, after whom the county is named. Sullivan says it was the last legal duel in the state.

The History Center will have a virtual ghost tour, where a storyteller will travel to and discuss seven alleged haunted places around the center of Albemarle.

There will also be a “Murder, Mystery and Mayhem” drive throughout the county in October, where people can learn about 14 places where people were allegedly murdered. Sites include Snuggs House and various cemeteries with cemeteries for murder victims. Maps and background information about the places can either be downloaded from the History Center or downloaded from the website.

The center also has time to travel to-go-sets and STEM to-go-sets for young children to enjoy.

“We’re trying to find ways to help teachers and parents,” Sullivan said.

About Chris Miller

The Stanly County History Center hosts the virtual baseball exhibit - The Stanly News & Press

Chris Miller has been with SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories of immigration and culture were published in national newspapers via the AP leadership.

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