Small-town N.C. life, as experienced by minor-leaguers

“Players [in 1960] found in these small Carolina cities what they were wont to find. New Yorkers first found them oppressive, too tranquil, and lamented their inaccessibility to Coney Island….

“Drive-in restaurants where one could get a a variety of sandwiches and beer abounded in this era predating most national fast-food chains. The downtowns all had small cafes, some of them run by snuff-dipping, middle-aged women who looked after a regular clientele but doted on the local ballplayers as well….

“Some store owners offered prizes to players who excelled. A four-hit night, a key home run, a well-pitched game, could bring a new shirt,  a couple pairs of underwear, some fancy new shoes…..

“The civil rights movement had not yet gained ground in the Western Carolina League cities…..Black players roomed in homes in the black section of town and seldom associated with white players off the field.”

— From “The Continental League: A Personal History” by Russell D. Buhite (2014)

The Western Carolina League was constructed to provide players for the Continental League, Branch Rickey‘s unsuccessful attempt at forming a third major league. It comprised Gastonia, Hickory, Lexington, Newton-Conover, Salisbury, Shelby, Statesville and Rutherford County (Forest City).

Author Buhite, now professor emeritus of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, played for the Rutherford County Owls before retiring to academia.


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