CONE BALLPARK, AROUND 1910
In the early twentieth century, before the advent of national sports broadcasting on radio, minor league baseball was a major entertainment in the so-called "Tobacco Towns" along North Carolina's coastal plain, where bright-leaf tobacco was the major crop. The Eastern Carolina League fielded Class D teams in such towns as Rocky Mount, Wilson, Goldsboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington.
The packed wooden bleachers of Cone Park shown here were much like those of Railroaders Park, where Jim Thorpe spent his first semi-pro season as a pitcher and fearless base runner with the Rocky Mount Railroaders, earning about $60 a month. During his two years in the Carolina League for Rocky Mount and then the Fayetteville Red Birds, the Raleigh News-Observer frequently mentioned him, calling him the "iron man of the league." But despite its popularity, the league was disorganized. There were complaints of doctored balls and fixed games. At the end of Thorpe's first summer in 1909, three of the six teams claimed to have won the league.