Minor League history: Coastal Plain League

The Coastal Plain League was a class D league between 1937 and 1952. It grew out of a semi-pro league that ran from 1935 through 1936 and that carried the same name. Through the years it appeared to be a rather stable league as no team moved during a season. Only in 1951, the Tarboro Athletics and the Greenville Robins disbanded on June 6, leaving the league behind with six teams.

Cities represented:

Ayden, NC: Ayden Aces 1937-1938
Edenton, NC: Edenton Colonials 1952, moved from Virginia League 1951
Fayetteville, NC: Fayetteville Cubs 1946, moved to Tri-State League 1947-1948
Goldsboro, NC: Goldsboro Goldbugs 1937-1941, 1946-1949; Goldsboro Cardinals 1950-1951; Goldsboro Jets 1952
Greenville, NC: Greenville Greenies 1937-1941, 1946-1949; Greenville Robins 1950-1951
Kinston, NC: Kinston Eagles 1937-1941, 1946-1952
New Bern, NC: New Bern Bears 1937-1941, 1946-1952
Roanoke Rapids, NC: Roanoke Rapids Blue Jays 1947; Roanoke Rapids Jays 1948-1952
Rocky Mount, NC: Rocky Mount Leafs 1941; Rocky Mount Rocks 1946; Rocky Mount Leafs 1947-1952
Snow Hill, NC: Snow Hill Billies 1937-1940
Tarboro, NC: Tarboro Serpents 1937-1939; Tarboro Cubs 1940; Tarboro Orioles 1941; Tarboro Tars 1946-1948; Tarboro Athletics 1949-1951; Tarboro Tars 1952
Williamston, NC: Williamston Martins 1937-1941
Wilson, NC: Wilson Tobs 1937-1941, moved to Bi-State League 1942; Wilson Tobs 1946-1952

Goldsboro, Kinston, New Bern, Tarboro, and Wilson competed every year of the league, even though Goldsboro and Tarboro left the league after the 1952 season, which signaled the end of the league.

Goldsboro Goldbugs 1938 Home
1938 Goldsboro Goldbugs jersey

 

From 1937 through 1941 no team won more than one championship:

1937 Snow Hill Billies
1938 New Bern Bears
1939 Williamston Martins
1940 Tarboro Cubs
1941 Wilson Tobs

In 1938, the league was rather controversial as several clubs used ineligible players. Several games were forfeited because of that.

The Wilson Tobs joined the league in 1939 but left the league rather soon in 1942 as the team joined the Bi-State League. In 1941 the Rocky Mount Leafs would join the league, but after the league suspended activities due to the American war effort and the travel restrictions that were upheld, the team would join te Bi-State League for the 1942 season and participated as the Rocky Mount Rocks. But when the Coastal Plain League resumed play in 1946, the Rocky Mount franchise returned.

After World War II, only the New Bern franchise won more than one championship as they won back-to-back championships in 1950 and 1951.

Champions 1946 – 1952:

1946 Rocky Mount Rocks
1947 Kinston Eagles
1948 Tarboro Tars
1949 Greenville Greenies
1950 New Bern Bears
1951 New Bern Bears
1952 Edenton Colonials

The Edenton Colonials joined the CPL in 1952 after the Virginia League folded. The team immediately won the championship.

After World War II, there was a boom in affiliations with Major League clubs. Before the war only a handful was affiliated with clubs in higher leagues. The 1938 Williamston Martins were affiliated with the Durham Bulls of the Carolina League. The Greenville Greenies were affiliated with the Washington Nationals in 1939.

The 1937 and 1938 Tarboro franchise were a fine example of a team that were named after their manager, like the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) that were named after their manager Wilbert Robinson. The Tarboro team was called the Serpents as their manager was
Snake (!) Henry.

One of the Major Leaguers that played in the Coastal Plain League was Gene Hermanski. Hermanski made his first steps in professional baseball in the Coastal Plain League in 1939. Eventually he would end up with the Brooklyn Dodgers where he played from 1943 through 1950. In 1951 he played 31 games before he was traded to the Cubs. He played in Chicago until June 4, 1953, when he was traded to Pittsburgh. With the Pirates, the outfielder only played five games and did not return as a player after the season. With the Kinston Eagles, Hermanski hit .244 in his first professional year. During the 1947 season, Hermanski proved to be a great team mate as he suggested that every Dodger player should wear nr. 42 to confuse potential snipers that were said to be out there to kill Jackie Robinson because he broke the colour barrier.

The Wilson Tobs finished the 1941 season with a 87-30 record (.744). That year, the team led the league in six different categories (of which three personal bests: batting average, ERA and wins), had two 20+ game winning pitchers, and were managed by a 28 year old pitcher who had a 16-3 record with 19 complete games and three shutouts. Because of those numbers the team was voted nr. 82 of the top 100 teams in the history of minor league baseball. In the current Coastal Plain League (collegiate summer league) the team in Wilson is named after the Tobs (short for tobacconists). The nice thing is that the current Tobs are still playing at Fleming Stadium, the original ballpark that was built in 1939 as the Tobs joined the class D  Coastal Plain League.


Fleming Field (photo: courtesy of http://www.digitalballparks.com)

At times the Rocky Mount franchise was run by former Major Leaguer Frank Walker. Walker had a short Major League career in which he played parts of five seasons with the Detroit Tigers (where he was the room mate of Ty Cobb during road trips), the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Giants.  Walker had a life time batting average of .214. In 1946 he was even president of the Coastal Plain League.   In 1949 Walker was vice-president of the league and GM of the Rocky Mount Leafs.  Shortly before the 1952 season he gained a major interest in the Rocky Mount Leafs.  He complained about the costs that got out of control: salaries, transportation and ballpark rent.  He suggested that he would pull the Leafs from the league and that the league would dissolve. Eventually he was right after the league did not return for the 1953 season.

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