Fleming Stadium
Wi
lson, NC


Fleming Stadium in Wilson, NC
Photo Brian Merzbach courtesy Ballpark Reviews

The history of baseball in Wilson started in the late 1800′s with club teams that eventually became minor league farm teams in the early 1900′s. With as 3,000 seat capacity Fleming Stadium in Wilson, North Carolina opened in 1936. The famous players that passed through included such greats as Jim Thorpe and Rod Carew to recent Justin Verlander (currently the highest paid pitcher in the MLB). The Red Sox played the Phillies at the stadium in the early 50′s with Ted Williams' batting practice before the game was the highlight for many of local children.1


Rederick C. Henderson, ballboy, with players in Fleming Stadium in Wilson, NC ca. 1945
Photo courtesy Lisa Henderson and Wilson county local history library

courtesy Lee Cotten

On September 14, 1955, while on tour with Cowboy Copas and the Louvin Brothers, they performed in Fleming Stadium in Wilson, NC. Lee Cotten wrote that Elvis was brought to Wilson by Slim Short (real name Bob Allen), a local deejay on WGTM. Tickets for the show, which were only $1.00 in advance and $1.25 the night of the show, were badly oversold. Some 2,000 fans crowded the stadium. Elvis came on stage last, following Cowboy Copas. When he bounded up the stairs to the stage, he slipped and fell. His composure was rattled, and he told a few jokes while he got his bearings. Following the show, Elvis ate at Cliff's Drive-ln.2

With 3,000 seats its not clear why the show was reported as oversold with only 2000 in attendance.  Its possible that reports were confused with their next appearance in Wilson, on February 14, 1956. This time however the show at the Charles L. Coon High School Auditorium. That tour started in Richmond on the 5th and also included the Louvin Brothers. According to Peter Guralnick the show was oversold and trouble ensued when the Colonel tried to get the supporting acts to work an additional show for no additional money. Elvis, however, would still be entitled contractually to half of the net take. Though the performers did get paid it was the last tour that the Colonel would use any of them.3


Fleming Stadium in Wilson, NC - 2002

Photo courtesy usgwarchives.net

For a ballpark that has not seen professional baseball since the early 1970's, Fleming Stadium is in fabulous condition. In fact, it's probably in better shape than many parks that are still hosting minor league baseball. The large covered grandstand contains all the seating, half of which is plastic folding chairs and the other half which is metal benches. The park is home to a collegiate league team in the Coastal Plain League. It also is used by various youth leagues and is home to the Babe Ruth League World Series. Set in a residential neighborhood, Fleming Stadium is boxed in by streets on every side. Another charming ballpark which is a throwback to a different era in minor league baseball.4


Fleming Stadium in Wilson, NC
Photo Brian Merzbach courtesy Ballpark Reviews

The stadium was also used for filming of the rain-out scene from the 1988 movie Bull Durham with Kevin Costner. Today Fleming Stadium is the home of the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League and also home to the North Carolina Baseball Museum.1

page added August 11, 2013

 

1 according to Wilson county local history library
2
according to or excerpt from Did Elvis Sing in Your Hometown? by Lee Cotten
3 according to or excerpt from Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
4 according to Fleming Stadium - Wilson, North Carolina courtesy Ballparkreviews.com

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

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