100 years of Asheville Tourists: McCormick Field named after ‘The Fly Man’ of Asheville


The Asheville Tourists are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, and I’ll be running occasional posts on historical tidbits pulled from the city’s baseball history. The Asheville Tourists begin a new homestand tonight. 

Ever wondered who McCormick Field in Asheville was named after? How about a man obsessed with batting flies – and we’re not talking about smacking baseballs.

A June 1923 Asheville Citizen article announced that the new baseball field for the Asheville Tourists team would be named For Louis McCormick, Asheville’s bacteriologist who died while in service. More from the story:

Dr. McCormick gained nation wide distinction when he originated the “Swat That Fly” idea, Asheville being the first municipality to adopt the slogan.

In 1905, alarmed by the millions of flies attracted by the city’s 18 livery stables, McCormick began a Swat That Fly campaign in which the city’s children covered the entire town, offering to kill all the flies in each house for a dime. Within a reasonable time, the city’s housefly population dwindled tremendously. McCormick became known as The Fly Man and delegations from other cities, including San Francisco, visited Asheville to see how the city handled its campaign against the fly. McCormick died in 1923.

What was the date of McCormick Field’s first official game? From an Asheville Tourist collection of history tidbits:

McCormick’s first official game was an exhibition on April 3, 1924 between the Detroit Tigers and the Asheville team called the Skylanders. Asheville won 18 to 14 against the team that field a Hall of Fame outfield of Harry Heilman in left, Ty Cobb in center and Heinie Manush in right. Before the end of that season, the name of the team was switched back to the Tourists.

In June 1924, the new ballpark was open to the public. Here’s a description of the new field, from an Asheville Citizen article:

This is the best and most complete athletic field in the South, and the only one this side of Washington that has an electrically equipped score board. This score board is far superior to the one in Washington. There are fully equipped dressing rooms and shower baths for both teams, and private rooms for the officials. There is a ladies’ rest room with maid and attendant. The plumbing used at this field is the most sanitary, being of the class used in the best hotels in the country.

In addition to being equipped for baseball and football, a cinder track for races, barnyard golf, and a rifle range for the practice of both pistol and rifle shooting are provided. In short, it is the home of athletics in Asheville.

On Wednesday in Baltimore, the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played a game to an empty stadium. No fans were allowed in due to the recent unrest in the city. The game was one of the shortest in professional baseball history, clocking in at about two hours. The Asheville Tourists also played one of the shortest games in the history of professional baseball. Here’s the recounting, from an Asheville Tourists program:

The other incident was the shortest professional baseball game in history, a 31-minute game between Asheville and Winston-Salem on Aug. 31, 1916, the last day of the North Carolina State League season. The length of the game eclipsed the previous record of 32 minutes by Atlanta and Mobile in a southern Association game in 1913.

That was a season of hardship for the Tourists. The great flood of July 16, 1916, washed away their home field at Riverside Park and the Tourists, for whom Connie Mack’s son Earle was catcher, had to move uptown to Oates Park. An apocryphal story went around that to maintain their schedule, the Tourists shouldered their equipment and walked 12 miles to Ridgecrest to catch a train downstate to play road games, but the truth was that they just didn’t play until railroad tracks were reconnected along the Swannanoa River to Asheville.

By the last day of the season, both Winston-Salem and Asheville were out of the running for the NCSL championship, won by the Charlotte Hornets, and the Twins’ manager, Charlie Clancy, asked Asheville skipper Jack Corbett, if they could play the game quickly so his team could catch a 3:15 train. Otherwise they would have to spend the night in Asheville.

Scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., the game started at 1:38 p.m. and was a sham all the way – but it counted in the standings and in league stats. The teams hurried off the field. The first batter rushed to bat before his team cleared the field, and once the WS center fielder fielded a clean single by a Winston hitter and threw his teammate out at second.

The umpire arrived in the fourth inning, and the president of the Asheville club showed up five or ten minutes before the end of the game, which came at 1:59 p.m., one minute before it was scheduled to begin. WS won 2-1 and caught its truing and everybody was happy except for the Asheville team president who was so mad he demanded his money back. He always purchased a ticket. Fifteen-year-old Thomas Wolfe was asheville’s batboy that day.

Image link for Asheville Tourists/McCormick Field logo.

1 Comment

Randy May 1, 2015 - 6:30 am

Thank you so much for that delicious bit of knowledge!! I always wondered if the name had to do with a certain spice company…Please do this for other parts of the city!

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