Charlotte’s appeal to teams: ‘absence of temptation’

Despite its less-than-tropical Aprils, turn-of-the-century Charlotte provided spring training for at least two National League baseball teams.

After the Philadelphia Phillies trained there in 1899, Sporting Life magazine noted that “the place offers so many natural advantages for such work and there is such an absence of temptation in that inland city that Manager [William] Shettsline thinks the Quaker team could not do better than return to the Queen City.”

The Brooklyn Dodgers followed in 1901. “They have already learned that if they signal a street car between blocks and want to get on it, they have to race for it,” the Observer noted after the team’s first day in town. “And that is about as good as running bases.”

The Dodgers capped their week-long stay at Latta Park with a 30-13 exhibition victory over Raleigh of the Carolina-Virginia Inter-State League. Brooklyn right fielder “Wee Willie” Keeler, a future Hall of Famer, managed only a single in six at-bats.


How N.C. helped keep Red Barber in Brooklyn

[After Larry MacPhail of the Yankees made an offer to radio announcer Red Barber to leave the Dodgers, Branch Rickey made a counteroffer for him to stay.]

“I was deeply troubled that Rickey’s offer might be because MacPhail’s offer had put him on the spot, that in time he might regret having had to make such an offer. Sometimes in our needs a completely unplanned, unprepared, unrehearsed response breaks through.

” ‘Branch,’ I began, ‘down in North Carolina recently — in fact, the day my dad was to be buried — the kinfolks and friends from all around gathered at my aunt’s house. There were so many there they had to stand in the yard. They didn’t come to mourn, they just gathered like a clan, to sort of strengthen everybody. They just visited.

” ‘One fellow said to another, “Jim, what did you ever do with the piece of land you had down on the South Carolina line?” And Jim said, “I found me a willing buyer.” ‘

“Rickey got up from behind his desk, walked around to me, stuck out his hand and said, ‘I’m a willing buyer.’ ”

– From “1947: When All Hell Broke Loose” by Red Barber (1982)

In 1954, after a contractual dispute,  Barber did switch to the Yankees. Later in life he and Bob Edwards chatted weekly on NPR.