Regular readers of this blog known I’ve written several articles about the Statesville Owls, one of two Angels minor league teams in their inaugural 1961 season.
On September 25, we reunited many of the surviving Statesville players at the Angels’ minor league complex in Tempe, Arizona. The Statesville Record & Landmark published an article on November 15 about the reunion.
Statesville resident Steve Hill contacted Jerry Fox, an Owls outfielder in 1961, to send some photos from his collection of Statesville Stadium as it looked in that era. Jerry sent the photos to me. Here are two angles of the park:
The stadium structure no longer exists, but the field remains as it’s used by the adjacent Statesville High School baseball team. Here’s a satellite image of how it appears today:
The neighborhood doesn’t appear to have changed that much.
Note in the top photo that the park has an all-dirt infield. I’m told that only four ballparks in the minor leagues still had all-dirt infields in 1961.
Look down near the right field foul pole. You’ll see a standalone bleacher structure. That was where African-Americans had to sit. It was still the era of segregation in the Deep South. I’ve written in past blogs about the indignities suffered by the Black players on the team.
At the reunion, one Black player recalled a contest sponsored by a local clothier. A Statesville player who hit a home run could come in and get a suit. The problem was the Black players weren’t allowed in the store! So the contest meant nothing to them.
Steve also sent along a photo of Owls franchise owner Fleete McCurdy:
Rumor has it McCurdy was very tight with his money, but given the primitive conditions I can’t imagine where he’d find the money to provide the players with a state-of-the-art clubhouse and new uniforms.
Despite it all, the Statesville alumni say they had a ball, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.