According to this map tallying Facebook likes — hat tip, Business Insider — North Carolina’s major-league baseball loyalties are closely divided between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees.
Why would the Yankees engender such fan interest east of I-95? Could it be residual reverence for Catfish Hunter? Or a previously underestimated in-migration of New Yorkers?
Neither, apparently. As Business Insider observes, “The Yankees are the default team in areas without a team close-by: Louisiana, southern Virginia, New Mexico, Utah, etc.”
[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.
On this day in 1926: Babe Ruth visits Charlotte for a spring training exhibition and sets the town on its ear.
Before the game he gives the local press a brief hotel-room interview. Reclining nude beneath a sheet and smoking a large cigar, he remarks on Southern women (“all they were cracked up to be”) and the demands of celebrity (“Not exactly annoying. One gets used to it. Doesn’t one?”).
A crowd of 4,000 jams Wearn Field to see the potent Yankees toy with the Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers). To give Ruth’s legion of admiring kids a better look, the Yankees move him from right field to left. They swarm out of the stands and spill into the outfield.
In the seventh inning Ruth grants the crowd its wish. In the words of Observer sports columnist Jake Wade: “Ruth had previously singled, but that only whetted the appetite of the hungry mob. They had come from miles around to see Babe Ruth knock a home run. Nothing else would satisfy them.
“The Bambino took his stout stand at the plate. With the air tense with excitement, he slammed one of Williams’ fast ones out of the park, bringing home Paschal and Gehrig ahead of him. Immediately after the smash of the Bam, the crowds began to file out of the grandstand. Everybody was happy.”