Click the arrow to see and hear the iconic song, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”, written and recorded in 1908, the founding year of the Winston-Salem Twins baseball team.
It would be nice to be able to make a simple post about a simple subject. This one started out to be such a post, in keeping with a recurring theme, the centennial of the city of Winston-Salem.
I wanted to tell you about the 1913 baseball team, the Winston-Salem Twins, and their struggle to win the first ever pennant in the brand new North Carolina State League. The problem is that all stories are about people, and people have a way of taking over stories and telling them themselves.
Everybody knows that baseball was the national pastime from the mid-19th century until well into the mid-20th century. By 1900, nearly every town in America had at least one amateur baseball team. Manufacturing companies, in the South, mostly textile, tobacco and furniture companies, sponsored teams and leagues. Many high schools and most colleges had teams. And the beginnings were well underway for the professional sport.
Cooleme High School, Davie County, 1915
Cooleme Textile Heritage Center Archive
Proximity textile mill team, Greensboro, NC, 1908
North Carolina A & M (later NC State), team, 1903. The man in the hat and tie is the manager, O. Max Gardner, governor of North Carolina, 1929-1933.
University Archives, NC State University Libraries
Baseball special streetcar, Greensboro, ca 1910
Greensboro Historical Museum Archives
In 1905, the towns of Winston and Salem, sort of by accident, got their first professional team. One of the reasons was that a new baseball park was being built near the intersection of Twelfth Street and Highland Avenue. William Neal Reynolds, R.J.’s baby brother, who owned the land, and Henry E. Fries, head of the Fries manufacturing and power conglomerate, were the driving force. The local papers reported that Fries could be seen daily at the site, with his sleeves rolled up, supervising and shoveling. Fries may have done much of the work, but Mister Will owned the land, so the field would be known as Prince Albert Park in honor of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s successful pipe tobacco brand.
Jim Crow dictated that races be separated in seating at all events in the South. The irony is that the local black team, the Pond Giants, often used Prince Albert Park to host games against teams from the Negro National League. During those events, all seating was “Negro”, and the crowds often exceeded those of the white teams by a considerable number.
The first game was to be a contest between the North Carolina state college champions Davidson College and the Virginia state college champions Washington & Lee. The field was ready in time, but on the morning of the game came a deluge of rain, turning the new field into a sea of mud, and the game was moved to the older Southside Park.
The other reason was that North Carolina’s first professional baseball organization, the Virginia-Carolina League, was struggling to survive. On July 17 that year, the Salisbury-Spencer franchise gave up the ghost and moved to the brand new Prince Albert Park. But that move was in vain. The league folded on August 18, with the local team, managed by Earl Holt, mired in third place in a four team league.
Three years later, a new league, the Carolina Association, made up of teams from both of the Carolinas was formed. The local team was known as the Winston-Salem Twins, five years before the two towns would be officially joined.
The first three years, the Twins finished fourth in a six team league. Then in 1911, led by a young pitcher named Josh Swindell, who posted a won-lost record of 29-8, the Twins took the league title. Charles Clancy, the manager, also played shortstop and led the team in hitting with a .337 batting average.
Charlie Clancy was an outstanding hitter, fielder and coach. He managed the UNC baseball team for several years in the early 20th century, as well as the professional championship Fayetteville team in the Eastern North Carolina League and the Winston-Salem Twins championship teams of 1911 and 1913.
Yakety Yak, UNC yearbook.
In 1912, the Twins finished in second place, three games behind the Anderson, South Carolina team. But the league was struggling, so in 1913, the Twins moved to a new association, the North Carolina State League.
Bill Schumaker starred for Manager Clancy at Fayetteville and Winston-Salem. In 1913, he led the new North Carolina State league with 18 home runs.
Library of Congress
Manager Clancy, along with first baseman Bill Schumaker and pitcher Pete Boyle, who had helped lead the Twins to the 1911 pennant, returned in 1913. As the season began in April, optimism was the watchword. The Twins got off to a good start, taking the league lead in the first week. And thanks to the pitching of J.R. Lee and the all around play of shortstop/left fielder Luke “Tiny” Stuart, they would maintain that lead for most of the season, never more than two or three games ahead of their closest rivals, Asheville and Durham, and sometimes much closer.
J. Raymond “General” Lee, a law student, was UNC’s top pitcher, and in 1913, posted a record of 25-14 to lead the Winston-Salem Twins to the NC State League pennant.
Yakety Yak, UNC yearbook, 1912
Luke “Tiny” Stuart played shortstop for Guilford College and the Winston-Salem Twins, hitting 11 home runs and leading the league in scoring in 1913.
The Quaker, Guilford College yearbook, 1914
But on July 25, in a crucial matchup with their closest pursuers the Durham Bulls at Prince Albert Park, the season became overshadowed by other events. As the sports editor of the Winston-Salem Journal put it, there was scrap in the wind that day, and once scrap gets into the wind, it is bound to affect human beings in its path.
Durham started their best pitcher, Lee Meadows, who would finish the season with a 21-14 record and go on to a long and successful career in the major leagues. The Twins countered with Charley Harding, who since joining the team after the college season ended, had been the best pitcher on the staff. He would go on to win twelve games in only nineteen starts that season, but on July 25 he was the first to feel the wrath of the scraps.
Lee Meadows went on from the Durham Bulls to a fifteen year career in the National League with the St. Louis, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh teams. In 1926, he won 20 games, and in 1925 and 1927, with identical 19-10 records, led Pittsburgh to the World Series. His major league career record was 188-180.
Library of Congress
Charley Harding started the July 25, 1913 game for the Twins. He went on to post a 12-6 record in nineteen starts that year.
From the first inning, the Bulls hit Harding hard and often. By the time that manager Clancy yanked him in the fifth inning, he had yielded ten hits and seven runs and the game was pretty much out of reach. But then the scraps got to Durham pitcher Meadows, who was coasting toward an easy win.
In the sixth, the umpire called one of his pitches a ball. Meadows thought it was a strike. He complained. The umpire told him to “play ball”, and Meadows lost it. He began screaming curses at the umpire and predicting where that official would be spending eternity, at which point he was ejected from the game. But he refused to leave, so the umpire summoned the Winston-Salem police, who escorted Meadows from the field with his civilian clothes in hand, to the jeers of Twin City fans.
But when the Bulls scored three runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth, turning the game into a route, the jeers turned to the local players. The worst offender was one Charles Snipes, whose father had operated the local slaughterhouse for many years, accumulating significant wealth and influence in the community. Snipes and his spoiled brothers had become a sort of local terrorist group known to one and all as the “Snipes gang”, who for nearly thirty years committed a series of assaults, robberies, other mayhem and at least one murder without ever incurring any significant penalties.
One of our regular patrons, a Snipes descendant, has accumulated dozens of newspaper articles regarding the exploits of the “Snipes gang” and will eventually publish an account of their misdeeds, so I will confine myself here to this singular event.
Since catcher Henry Smith, one of the team’s best players, was closest to the stands, Snipes focused on him, challenging Smith to fight him man to man on the field. Smith, having a ball game to complete, tried to ignore him. But when the game ended, Charles Snipes was waiting at the exit and assaulted catcher Smith with a baseball bat.
The 1913 Winston-Salem Twins, in their snappy team coats. #3 is catcher Harry Smith, the initial target of the Snipes Gang. #13 is Luke Stuart, the hero of the day. #9, unidentified here, is probably pitcher Pete Boyle, who had a 16-14 record during the season. As is often the case, Stuart’s name is misspelled in the caption.
Smith’s teammate Luke Stuart, the team’s star hitter, rushed to Smith’s aid and an all out brawl erupted involving other players and a number of “fans”. The Journal sports editor, who was also the official scorer, stated that it was a “…glorious free for all…” with the local police being “…quite conspicuous by their absence…We take it back, for there were two present, but if they did anything we, and others, did not see it.”
With intervention by team officials and some spectators, the melee eventually subsided and everyone supposedly went home. But that was only the beginning, because the instigator, Charles Snipes, had been thoroughly beaten up, receiving two black eyes in the interim. He began walking toward his home on Trade Street, shouting curses and brandishing a knife and making a general nuisance of himself.
At that point, police officer William Byrd and constable Frank Martin took him in hand and escorted him onto a streetcar. But Snipes conduct was so egregious that the conductor made the officers put him off. Byrd and Martin then escorted Snipes to the corner of Eighth and Liberty, where they released him on promise to go home and stay there and appear in court the next day. By this time, the whole of northeastern Winston-Salem was aware that something bad was going on.
Snipes went home and cleaned up, then he and his brother Frank armed themselves with a pistol and a Winchester rifle, collected other members of their gang and went to the Webster Hotel on East Third Street near the railroad depot where most of the baseball team members lived. There, Police Chief Thomas and officer Byrd intercepted them and began leading them toward the police station in the Town Hall at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets, where the Reynolds Building now stands.
Frank Snipes told the chief that he better not put him in jail because he, Snipes, had too much dirt on the chief and would ruin him. When officer Byrd objected, Frank Snipes struck him and his brother Charles Snipes began cursing Byrd. Believe it or not, at this point, Chief Thomas released Charles Snipes yet again on the promise from his brother to take him home. Maybe Frank was right about the dirt.
At this point, an emergency session of the Winston-Salem city commission was called, and both Chief Thomas and officer Byrd were suspended from active duty. Sergeant John Thompson was appointed acting chief. Shortly thereafter, Charles Snipes returned to the Webster Hotel, accompanied by his father, Frank Snipes, Sr. There he punched Luke Stuart, knocking him down. Stuart drew a gun and so did Snipes. But his father disarmed him before anything further could happen. The Snipes were then allowed to post bond for appearance in municipal court the next morning and went home.
Journal headline, July 26, 1913
The next day in Municipal Court, the two ballplayers were convicted of simple assault and fined $10 plus costs each. Frank Snipes was sentenced to four months on the chain gang, and his brother Charles to six months. Both appealed.
Charges of inciting to riot against both of the Snipes were referred to Superior Court. The appeals and the inciting to riot charges were supposed to have been heard at the August session of Superior Court. But the day before the trial, a “doctor” told the judge that Charles Snipes was ill and would be unable to attend, so the judge granted a delay until a later session, to begin on the first Monday in October.
But on the Thursday before that date, the Superior Court judge announced that his wife had been stricken with appendicitis and that the court session would be delayed while he accompanied her to a hospital in Greensboro. Just in case you might think that that was a coincidence, be aware that the Snipes brothers had been in serious trouble many times before. And be aware that their father, Frank Snipes, Sr. had been operating the city slaughterhouse for many years, thus accumulating wealth and influence just below that of the Reynolds, Hanes and Gray families. Considering the series of crimes committed by the Snipes brothers without incurring any serious jail time it becomes obvious that their father owned a host of policemen, prosecutors and judges.
A few days after the incident at the ballpark, a local minister wrote a letter to the editors of the Winston-Salem Journal. He had a clear understanding of what had happened. Charles Snipes had bet on the baseball game and lost, so took his wrath out on the players. This was not the first time that that had happened, nor would it be the last. In the minister’s letter, he said that if the owners of the baseball team could not control gambling at the ballpark, that he would return his season tickets and demand a refund and suggest to his congregation that all of them do the same. We have no idea how that came out, but we do know that his demand was unreasonable. Baseball officials cannot control gambling…witness the Black Sox World Series scandal just a few years later.
So far, we have been unable to find the long delayed court dates for the Snipes brothers. As long as their cases were under appeal, they were free men, and perhaps if there were enough delays, the cases would be forgotten altogether. We know that neither of them ever spent any serious time in prison.
On the 27th, the Journal reported that the players Smith and Stuart received huge ovations on their first appearances at the plate. The editor, who fancied himself a humorist, could not resist making fun of what had happened on the 25th.
Oh, by the way, getting back to that original simple story, the Winston-Salem Twins came to the final day of the season with a half game lead over the Durham Bulls, who had a double header scheduled. So even if the Twins won, if the Bulls won both games of their double header, the season would end in a tie.
But on that day, one of the worst storm systems in North Carolina history hit, wiping out games from the coast to the mountains. In his story, the Journal’s sports editor called that “Jupiter Pluvius”, a faddish reference of the time to the Roman god who brought rain. So the Twins won by the narrowest possible margin, 1/2 game.
This is not quite the end of the story, because Jake “Tiny” Stuart’s story goes on, from his connection with Guilford College and future Forsyth County sheriff Ernie Shore to an extraordinary moment in the history of the American League to a tragic end on Fourth Street in Winston-Salem. Look for “Take me out to the ballgame, Part 2”, coming soon.
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About “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”:
Jack Norworth (Shine on Harvest Moon), while riding a subway train in Manhattan, was inspired by a sign that said “Baseball Today — Polo Grounds”. In the song, lovely Katie Casey is “baseball mad”. Her beau calls to ask her out to see a show. She accepts the date, but only if her date will take her out to the ballgame. The words were set to music by Albert Von Tilzer. The song was first sung by Norworth’s then-wife Nora Bayes and popularized by many other vaudeville acts.
The first recorded version was by Edward Meeker. It became one of the most popular hits of 1908, spending 16 weeks at the top of the pop music charts. In 2010, Meeker’s version was added to the National recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
The version included here is by the Haydn Quartet singing group, led by popular tenor Harry MacDonough, recorded in 1908 on Victor Records.
In 1958, Jack Norworth appeared on Ed Sullivan’s TV show and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with four New York Yankees stars, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron and Mickey Mantle. He admitted that he had not seen an actual baseball game until 1942, 34 years after his song went viral. You can see that performance here.