High Lights of Easter Monday in North Carolina
On April 3, 1899 North Carolina A.&M. (N.C.State) hosted Mebane Military School in the first of 58 consecutive Easter Monday baseball games. Mebane defeated A.&M. 5-4 in 11 innings. Newspaper report noted 700 fans attended the game, "christening the new A.&M. Diamond, with a large number of ladies present".
Easter Monday has been a traditional holiday for centuries. Many churches in Eastern Europe still celebrate the end of Lent (40 days of fasting and penitence) with large family, neighborhood and church socials.
From 1899 Easter Monday developed into the greatest social event in North Carolina. The 3 girl colleges in Raleigh (Peace, St.Mary's, and Baptist Female University (BFU), now Meredith) helped make it an outstanding Easter Parade leading all the females in the area to wearing Easter hats, dresses and corsages to the ballgame. The N.C. Legislatures began adjourning to attend the game in their special carriages and/or automobiles.
On April 8, 1901 Wake Forest (then located in Wake County) brought many students to Raleigh to see Wake Forest defeat A.&M. 12-6. The newspaper report stated, "extremely large crowd present, in it being many ladies and among these, the students from the various female schools in Raleigh, an Easter Parade".
In 1906 two significant events added to the social luster of the Easter Monday baseball game. Trinity (Duke) defeated A.&M. and the social pages reported two automobile parties from Durham drove the dusty roads to the game played at the Raleigh Fairgrounds. One thousand five hundred fans attended. Among those riding those dusty roads were Mr. A.B. Duke and Mr. George Lyon, driving two cars with guests from New York City, Yale University, Durham and Henderson, N.C.
That night, April 16, 1906, the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha at A.&M. hosted the first of over 50 consecutive Easter Monday Dances - the "Pika Ball". In future years, N.C. governors attended the dance and the social papers in the local paper reported names of girls attending with their dates.
By 1907 the Seaboard Railroad was running newspaper ads about special excursion round trip trains from Henderson, Franklinton, Louisburg, Wake Forest, Norlina and Oxford to Raleigh.
On April 5, 1915 over 10 inches of snow was scrapped from the field and the game played because of special trains bringing in hundreds of fans, including nearly the entire Wake Forest student body shouting "On to Raleigh".
Rain delayed many games. On March 28, 1921 after only one-third of an inning the game was called because of rain. One week later on Monday, April 3, the game ended in a 3 to 3 twelve inning tie, called because of darkness. On April 4 Wake Forest won 1-0 after 11 innings. The game covered 9 days and 23? innings. The news report on the original rainout stated, "The downpour became so furious that no tradition, even one which had survived snow and sundry other rains could defy it".
In 1923 the Pika Ball had over 4,000 in attendance. The Pika Ball spawned a post Easter Mardi Gras with Raleigh social clubs, the Capitol Club, Sphinx Club, Black Cat Club, Nine O'Clock Cotillion Club and the Circle Club all having socials and/or dances following Easter Monday.
Over 6,000 fans attended the April 21, 1924 game with N.C. State beating Wake Forest 4-1.
As a result of pressure from all state government employees the N.C. General Assembly, on April 19,1935 (Good Friday), passed a law that made the following Easter Monday, April 22, a legal N.C. Holiday for all banks, businesses, etc. Now everyone could go to the fabled Easter Monday baseball game.
N.C. State hosted 58 Easter Monday games, 1899-1956. The crowds began to dwindle during the later 1940s with college boys and girls going to beaches, etc. By 1956 Wake Forest moved to Winston Salem.
The legal Easter Monday holiday continued through April 20, 1987.
On March 31, 1988, several days before Easter Monday (April 4, 1988), Lew Powell, staff writer for the Charlotte Observer wrote, "the holiday that baseball birthed, banks have buried".
He was referring to the North Carolina banks putting pressure on the North Carolina Legislature to change the state holiday from Easter Monday to Good Friday, thereby joining the rest of the banks in the U.S. and not losing but one day's business. It was on August 14, 1987 that the legislature changed the state holiday to Good Friday, effective in 1988.
The Easter Monday baseball game had ceased back in 1957. Thad Eure, Secretary of State said, "The game was one of the biggest athletic events in the state. It was like college football and basketball are today. The railroads even ran excursion trains to Raleigh".
NOTE: Unless specified all news reports quoted and unquoted are from the Raleigh News and Observer.
The Independent Carolina Baseball League
and Scott Verner
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