One pitcher who never shook off a sign

“Mechanical pitching machines have been fixtures in spring training ever since baseball managers found how much batting-practice work they could save a pitching staff. Last week, as was no doubt inevitable, one of the mechanical Mathewsons* was set out to pitch a full nine-inning game. Moreover, it pitched for both sides.

“Wake Forest College, which calls its apparatus ‘Iron Mike,’ got 11 hits (three of them homers), waited out Iron Mike for two walks. North Carolina State, batting against machinery for the first time, got three hits, drew five walks. Final score: Wake Forest 8; State 0. There were no balks and nobody stole any bases — stealing against Iron Mike was banned by agreement.”

— From Time magazine, April 17, 1950

*Christy Mathewson, one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, pitched for the New York Giants in the early 20th century.

After Worth Bagley: ‘No North and no South’

“As if orchestrated from on high to bring white Northerners and white Southerners together, the first soldier killed in the Spanish-American War was a white Southerner, Worth Bagley of North Carolina.

“Newspapers North and South vied with one another to describe the sectional symbolism of Bagley’s death. The New York Tribune announced the common theme: ‘The South furnishes the first sacrifice of this war. There is no North and no South after that…. We are all Worth Bagley’s countrymen.’ ”

— From “Southern Crossing: A History of the American South, 1877-1906”  by Edward L. Ayers (1995)

Pictured: badge from 1935 state convention of United Spanish War Veterans.

Carson McCullers to Steve Jobs: I want my iPod!

“Maybe [Mick Kelly] would be a great inventor. She would invent little tiny radios the size of a green pea that people could carry around and stick in their ears.”

— From “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” (1940), Carson McCullers’ first novel, begun in Charlotte and completed in Fayetteville

Singer-playwright Suzanne Vega recalls this prescient line in an interview about “Carson McCullers Talks About Love,” opening Thursday Off-Broadway.

McCullers lived in North Carolina during the late 1930s while her husband, Reeves, was working as a credit investigator. During her stay in Fayetteville she also wrote “Reflections in a Golden Eye.”

‘Financing extremists?’ History need not doubt

“WASHINGTON — The State Department identified a wealthy Saudi businessman Wednesday as ‘one of the most significant financial sponsors’ worldwide of extremist Islamic activities.

“Osama Bin Ladin, son of a Saudi construction magnate, has been indirectly linked to terrorist activities against Americans and U.S. facilities, including the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993….

“He also is said to have funneled money to Egyptian extremists and financed at least three terrorist training camps in northern Sudan…. ”

— From a wire-service roundup in the Durham Herald-Sun, Aug. 15, 1996

If not the first mention of bin Laden in a North Carolina newspaper (Nexis does have its limits), this item seems to have been among the first.

Headline: “Businessman financing extremists?”

Miss North Carolina 1933: First but forgotten?

As Jack noted in his comments on Margaret “Mug” Richardson, the archives yield scant information on early Miss North Carolinas.

According to contemporary news accounts, the first Miss North Carolina was crowned at Wrightsville Beach in 1933, and later she is pictured in a lineup of contestants in Atlantic City. But Leola Councilman of Sanford is inexplicably ignored in both Miss North Carolina and Miss America pageant histories.

I had hoped this badge and photo from the collection could be traced to an appearance by Miss Councilman at the 1933 national convention of the American Legion, held in conjunction with the Century of Progress world’s fair. Alas, no, says Donna Hay of Encino, Calif., who has done remarkably detailed research on the often chaotic 1933 competition. The Chicago exposition rolled out “lots of state beauty queens throughout its year of operation [that] had nothing to do with the Miss America pageant.”

So who is that off-brand Miss North Carolina riding regally past the crowds along Chicago’s waterfront? Her name is remembered even less than Leola Councilman’s.

For a lovingly amused look at North Carolina’s state pageant culture, see Frank Deford’s “There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America” (1971).

Babe Sowers was a brick-layin’ man

“[John D. Rockefeller Jr.] did not feel satisfied with the quality of red bricks being made for the reconstructions and restorations [at Colonial Williamsburg] until his staff found, by serendipity, Babe Sowers, a black man who still molded bricks by hand on a farm near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, just as his great-great-grandfather and everyone in between had done.

“Babe Sowers became a hero to the Rockefeller purists. He could mold 12 bricks a minute, or 4,000 per day. John Henry, move over and make way for Babe Sowers, a man whose legendary efforts were witnessed and documented.”

— From “Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture” by Michael Kammen (1991)