Carolina League (1973)
Died: Postseason 1973
Stadium: Fleming Stadium
Owner: Marshall Fox
The small city of Wilson, North Carolina fielded numerous minor league baseball teams between 1908 and 1973. Wilson’s local nine were typically known as the “Tobs” (short for “Tobacconists”) through various iterations and leagues, but when long-time minor league operator Marshall Fox arrived in town in early 1973, he chose the rather generic “Wilson Pennants” for his new Carolina League entry. Fox would stay only one season and the summer of 1973 would prove to be the last one for pro baseball in Wilson.
The Pennants were a co-op club, meaning they had no formal affiliation with a Major League franchise. Co-op arrangements are largely unheard of today (they’ve been supplanted by fully “independent” baseball leagues), but they were relatively common in the 1970’s. Forced to scramble for the spare parts and left overs of other teams, co-op clubs typically sucked. And the Pennants were no exception, cycling through three field managers (including a one-game stint by team owner Marshall Fox) and finishing dead last in the six-team Carolina League at 52-88.
There were a few highlights. A 22-year old named Steve Hardin hurled a perfect game for the Pennants against the Winston-Salem Red Sox on April 18th, 1973. Hardin struck out 12 and only allowed one ball out of the infield. Hardin finished the 1973 season with a 4-10 record and never played another inning of pro baseball.
The Pennant who enjoyed the greatest success was pitcher Tom Johnson, who went on to appear in 129 games for the Minnesota Twins between 1974 and 1978. In 1977, Johnson won a remarkable 16 games out of the bullpen for Minnesota.
The Pennants quietly folded up shop after the 1973 season and pro ball never returned to Wilson. The collegiate Wilson Tobs of the amateur Coastal Plains League continue to play out of Fleming Stadium to this day.