Welcome back to another Crawdads Corner! This week we took a look at some little-known facts about the Crawdads, the ballpark, and some of the history of baseball in the area.
The Crawdads are one of four Minor League Baseball teams (there are 160) to not have a white jersey as part of their uniform set. The other three teams are the Erie Sea Wolves (PA), Clearwater Threshers (FL), and Batavia Muckdogs (NY). The Crawdads designated home jersey is red with black sleeves rather than the traditional white. The team also has an alternate blue jersey and wears gray or the blue on the road. When the Crawdads first started out, they had a white pinstripe jersey that resembled their affiliate at the time, the Chicago White Sox. Since 1993, the Crawdads have gone through multiple uniform updates which had a few versions of a pinstripe uniform before switching to a red jersey and solid white pants in 2009, when the team introduced new uniforms to go along with their new affiliate, the Texas Rangers.
LP Frans Stadium actually sits in both Catawba and Burke Counties. Homeplate is in Burke while right field is in Catawba making it possible to literally hit a ball into the next county. This unique fact did provide a couple hurdles during construction as the Crawdads had to apply for a special license to sell alcohol on both sides of the stadium as Burke was a dry county until just a few years ago.
Conrad the Crawdad made mascot history in 2018 by proposing to Candy the Crawdad. The two were married in an on-field ceremony during a game in June of that season in the first mascot wedding in Minor League history. The next year, another mascot engagement and wedding took place in Daytona, so perhaps Conrad and Candy inspired a trend.
The Crawdads are actually the second Minor League team to call Hickory home. The Hickory Rebels arrived in town in 1933 and played in a semipro or independent league until joining the now defunct Class D Tar Heel League in 1939, marking the first year of professional baseball in Hickory. The Rebels bounced around various professional leagues until 1953, taking a few years off for World War II or other reasons. The Rebels returned for one more season in 1960 before folding for good but they made it count, with pitcher Danny Hayling setting several records that still stand as all-time marks in the South Atlantic League. Hayling went 22-9 that year, which is a league record for most wins in a year and most decisions with 31. He also threw 24 complete games (another record) and posted a 2.00 ERA. He was elected to the inaugural South Atlantic League Hall of Fame class in 1994.
A few other local towns did field teams briefly in the Western Carolina League (1948-52) or the Western Carolinas League (1960-79) including the Granite Falls Graniteers, the Lenoir Red Sox, the Lincolnton Cardinals, the Marion Marauders, the Morganton Aggies, the Newton-Conover Twins, and four variations of a Statesville team. The Graniteers lasted just one season going 14-96, going through five managers on their way to the worst record in professional baseball history. The most successful of the group was the Newton-Conover team, which lasted for 12 seasons, although they still hold the South Atlantic League record for fewest hits in a season with 705 (although they only played 97 games in the 1963 season.
Ashley Salinas is the director of marketing, communications and merchandise for the Hickory Crawdads minor league baseball team.
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