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Was there a semi-pro baseball team that played at Hilton Park in the early 1900s?

Chuck Carree
StarNews

I would say it is virtually impossible to research semi-pro baseball at the turn of the century, simply because record-keeping was not very good.

I can tell you professional baseball was played in Wilmington. According to Rich Pray, a local CVS pharmacist and member of the Society for American Baseball Research, Hilton Park was used as a neutral site by the Negro National League Birmingham Black Barons. The park was located near the railroad tracks and Clarendon Water Works pipeline close to the Cape Fear River, near Cape Fear Street and Hilton Pond Street. It is the area where the “The World’s Largest Living Christmas Tree” is located.

Pray also did local research for a book on professional baseball in North Carolina, written by J. Chris Holaday, and it includes the Wilmington Sea Gulls (sometimes called the Sailors), who played at Hilton Park in 1902.

It was called the Class C North Carolina League, but the team folded in July, 1902. The league reorganized in 1903 and Wilmington continued to play at Hilton Park.

Pray listed two other parks where minor league baseball was played before the Port City Roosters and Wilmington Waves played briefly at Brooks Field on the UNC-Wilmington campus in the middle 1990s and 2001, respectively.

There was a park on 13th and Ann Street, near Williston and east of Castle Street. It was a neutral site for the Negro National League Raleigh Tigers in 1959.

The other was American Legion Stadium, located near Carolina Beach Road, Southern Boulevard extension, Greenfield Lake and Morningside Drive. It also was a neutral site for the Raleigh Tigers in 1961. In 1940, the stadium’s capacity was listed as 7,000 and the field dimensions were 335 to left field, 430 to center and 370 feet to right.

User-contributed question by:
Bill Ulmer

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5 Responses to “ Was there a semi-pro baseball team that played at Hilton Park in the early 1900s?”

  1. On March 11, 2010 at 11:22 pm oakcitygal wrote:

    On Masonboro Loop Road near the school there, there was a baseball field with games being played on the weekends. I can’t remember much about it as to whether it was baseball or softball. I just know my dad would take us out there where we sat in the car to watch the game.

    Also dad and his brother played on softball teams at the Robert Strange park. The field was just across the street from Williston.

    I would like to add a comment about the racing at Legion Stadium. Dad took me to one or two of them. What year this was I don’t remember.

    I do remember the harness racers coming here in the winter to train. There were two stables on the north side of the parking lot and one on the south side. When the harness racers pulled out, the south stable was used for wrestling matches a few times.

  2. On January 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm sharon huffman wrote:

    My father played for a semi-pro team that I think went by the name of the Seagate Gators – this would probably have been in the early 50s.

  3. On December 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm Jim Ware wrote:

    Sports Editor Dan Spears received the following letter from Virginia Wallace:

    “My father, A.L. King, Sr., was a lifetime grocery owner in Wilmington. I was very young (maybe 7 or 8) so I don’t remember balls teams and games. However, after reading the article things came back to me.

    “My father had a baseball team by the name of the “Hi Kappas” who played at the Hilton. My brother, A.L. Jr., nicknamed ‘Hot Dog’ played for my dad. I vaguely remember one boy, Billy Peoples, and two brothers who I think also played. – Oscar and LeRoy Flowers were two brothers.

    “I’m 85 years old now, so you know the ‘old’ memory slips away. I have since reading the article found and talked with the two Flowers boys’ sister. Just thought I would drop you a line and brief you on this. It would be great if some of your readers remember this and/or some of the players. I also had a brother, Lenwood, who I believe was involved also. My brothers are both deceased now and so are the Flowers brothers, but their sister remembers this also.

    “Thank you, Mrs. Virginia Wallace.”

  4. On January 8, 2012 at 10:29 am Henrietta Gieschen Godwin wrote:

    I have a photograph of my grandfather, Homer Wysong, who played on a team called the Wilmington Pirates. He passed away in 1941. I have no idea when the picture was taken but on the back it did have the last names of those in the photo.

  5. On March 28, 2013 at 9:58 am Rachael Gieschen wrote:

    Ref semi professional or professional baseball in Wilmington and team names. In doing family genealogy, the Wilmington Sailors were in the Eastern Carolina League from 1908-1910 and owned by Bert Kite and Joe Fox [of the Fox Bakery and the Holsum bread distributor for those who remember this, I believe].



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