In the summers, I get really preoccupied with baseball games. It’s a relatively recent obsession for me. I didn’t play growing up and was never a huge baseball fan other than an inexplicable and fleeting devotion to Frank Thomas and the White Sox. I love minor league baseball though–the less corporate and cheaper the better. And I’m fascinated with its origins, especially because they came from perhaps the most prevalent form of expressive culture for Southern working people in the early 20th century. Mill music (rightly) gets a lot of credit for its depth of expression, but baseball was more universal and almost certainly more popular. At one point, I spent several dozen hours looking through all the pre-1923 North Carolina newspapers for all news items related to a particular mill, and amid the thousands and thousands of items, fully half were related to baseball. Like the time Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers took on the Boston Braves at the Loray Mill field in Gastonia. Or when 1,000 or more people would turn out for mill league games.
Anyway, I partnered with the folks over at Bit and Grain to write some words about one of my favorite teams, the Wilson Tobacconists. And they took some really pretty pictures to pair with my overwrought observations. Enjoy!