Hub Perdue’s First Managing Job


October rings in the close of each baseball season, as the National League and American League champions move on to the best-of-seven World Series. Once a champion is determined, players tuck away their cleats, gloves, and bats for winter, unless opportunity allows them to continue in barn-storming exhibitions to pick up some winter cash. Otherwise, stadiums are locked down until the wisp of spring sets in once again.

Minor league teams finish their seasons much sooner than the big-league clubs, and it was no different in 1913 when the Atlanta Crackers won the regular season Southern Association championship by ½ game over the Mobile Sea Gulls. Bill Schwartz’s Nashville Vols were 19 ½ games behind in the standings with a 62-76 record, good enough for seventh place.

Having completed its season, Atlanta secured the pennant on September 7, as Mobile lost to last-place New Orleans, thereby giving the Georgia club the flag. Most eyes soon focused on the major’s culmination series, taken by Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics as they vanquished Mugsy McGraw’s New York Giants in five games. One would believe that was all the baseball to be played for the year, as football was gaining traction. Games were already being played at Sulphur Dell by high school teams and Fisk University.

Even with no minor league playoffs in those days, Nashville was still in the baseball business. Its own regular season finished, Sulphur Dell hosted a game on the same day as the Crackers pennant clinch. It featured an all-star team from the not-to-distant Kitty (Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee) League, mostly players on the Clarksville and Hopkinsville teams. Only a few hundred fans viewed the contest won by Nashville, 4-1.[1]

Once Mack’s Athletics had captured the World Series crown on October 11, it was time for one final game in Nashville. Sportswriter Jack Nye made the announcement in the October 13 edition of the local newspaper.

“With the closing of the world’s series the obituary of the baseball season is usually written throughout the country but Nashville fans will have one more opportunity to witness an exhibition game before the old winter league sets in.

“Arrangements have been made for a game at the Athletic park next Sunday afternoon between an all-amateur and an all-professional team, chosen from the baseball talent of this city…”.[2]

Named to pitch for the pros were Roy Walker, a pitcher from the New Orleans club, Detroit’s Charlie Harding, who was 12-6 for the Tigers’ Winston-Salem club, and Nashville native Bill McTigue. Native Nashville pro Bob Fisher, who had spent the past season as the Brooklyn Superbas shortstop, would play third base and join Nashville’s John Lindsay (shortstop) and Bill Schwartz (second base) in the infield, while Johnson City’s Tige Garrett would hold down first base.

Earl Peck, catcher for the Henderson Hens, was to man chores behind the plate. The remainder of the pro roster would include outfielders Johnny Priest, who had been a member of the Yankees a few years prior, Knoxville’s James Burke and another Nashville-born slugger, Tiny Graham. Graham had batter .370 during the season for Morristown in the Appalachian League.

Hub Perdue, from nearby Sumner County and nicknamed the “Gallatin Squash” by sportswriter Grantland Rice during his local tenure a few years ago, was to be the featured star for the amateurs even though Perdue had been a professional since 1906. Perdue had played for Nashville 1907-1910 (he was 16-10 on the Vols’ 1908 championship club) and had been a member of the National League’s Boston Braves for the past three years. It was rumored that he had been signed by the Giants’ McGraw to play on a barn-storming tour around the world during the winter.[3]

The balance of the amateur staff would be made up by Payne, catcher; Tally, first base; Lynch, second base; Sawyers, shortstop; Harley, third base; O. Schmidt, left field; Sutherland, center field; Conley, right field; and Gower, substitute.

Two days before the game was to take place on Sunday, October 19, the Friday edition of the Nashville Tennessean and Daily American announced lineup changes. Two professionals with ties to Nashville, Wilson Collins, pitcher for the Boston Braves, and Clarence “Pop Boy” Smith, of the Chicago White Sox, were set to join players previously set to play.

“Collins will play centerfield for the professionals, while Smith has agreed to assist Hub Perdue in pitching for the amateurs. It will be Collins’ first professional appearance in Nashville, and his presence in the line-up is sure to prove a big drawing card, especially among the Vanderbilt students. Smith married a Nashville girl some months ago, and is at present visiting in the city. He declared that he would be glad to take part in the contest, and says his arm is as strong as during the middle of the American league season.[4]

Also added to the pross roster as substitute was Munsey Pigue, who had previously played third base for Clarksville and Cairo, and who had made Nashville his residence.

The day before the game, Perdue was touting his ability to perform, quoted about his willingness to pitch to the best of his ability. “Tell ‘em I’ll show ‘em some pitching tomorrow afternoon,” said Hurling Hub Perdue last night. “I am going to pitch my old arm off to win that game.”[5]

Perdue was a promoter, that’s for certain, but whether due to a small turnout of only 200 fans or in truth suffering from a sore arm, he did not pitch in the game. And the pros took it on the chin, too.

“Hub Perdue was there, but did not pitch on account of a sore arm. However, the son of Sumner took his place on the coaching lines, and was one of the big attractions of the afternoon’s entertainment.”[6]

Held hitless by pitcher “Crip” Springfield through eight innings, the pros could not collect a run until the bottom of the ninth when they had two hits to force across the tying run, sending the game into the tenth inning. Springfield, who had a lame leg, won the game when the amateurs scored a run in the bottom of the tenth and the pros could not respond.

It was Springfield’s triple in the eighth that drove in the amateurs’ first run, but it was his brilliant mastery of the pros that had the sportswriters buzzing.

“Crip Springfield, of the Rock City league, is the name of the hero of the post-season game, which drew the bugs out in spite of the chilly weather and he came near having a no-run, no-hit game to his credit.”[7]

Perdue would play two more seasons in the majors, with Boston (1914) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1914-1915).  He would not return to the majors, but he remained in the minors for another seven seasons. Fighting through lingering arm troubles and wrenching his back slipping on a wet mound, even a spiking incident could not keep him from finishing his minor league career with 168 wins against 129 losses. He even returned to Nashville for a short time in 1920.[8]

In 1921 he was given another chance to manage a team, eight years after his first foray of leading a squad of amateurs. Named manager of the Nashville Vols, the season did not go well, as Perdue’s club finished in sixth place, a distant 41 ½ games behind pennant-winning Memphis. It was his second opportunity to manage, and his last.

Did his previous bid to lead a club in 1913 foretell his managing misfortune?

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Sabr.org

Wright, Marshall D. (2002). The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

[1] Jack Nye, “Kitty League All Stars Beaten,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, September 8, 1913, 10.

[2] Nye, “One More Baseball Game Here Before Old Winter League Begins,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 13, 1913, 10.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Two More Major League Stars To Play,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 17, 1913, 10.

[5] “Will  Pitch My Arm Off, Says Perdue,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 19, 1913, 34.

[6] “Professionals Held To Two Hits,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 20, 1913, 10.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John Simpson, “Hub Perdue,” SABR Bio-Project, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/584e9b10, accessed October 10, 2017.

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Pure Base Ball: Tennessee’s Vintage Game

The 2017 Tennessee Association of Vintage Baseball season recently concluded. Twelve teams from the four corners of middle and east Tennessee competed brilliantly during the regular season, then gathered at Franklin’s Carnton Plantation to compete for the season’s championship playoffs.

The Mountain City Club of Chattanooga suffered no losses in capturing the league’s pennant, but the Stewarts Creek Scouts won out in the two-day tournament to take the cherished prize, the Sulphur Dell Cup.

Playing according to the rules of 1864[1], the “bound rule” is in effect, calling for a batter (striker) to be called out when a fielder catches a ball on the first hop. Of course, catching the ball on the fly also terminates the striker, but no gloves are worn. “No Spittin’, No Swearin’, No Gloves!” is often the expressed slogan.

The organization was established in 2012 “to entertain and educate our communities by recreating the civility of 19th century base ball.”[2] Two teams began the inaugural season, but soon the “Gentleman’s Game” was transformed with the addition of female players to become a “Lady and Gentleman’s Game”, and additional clubs were soon added.

But don’t believe these ballists are putting on a show. These folks play to win; even though civility stands tall, players do their best to compete. There are plenty of wrenched knees, jammed fingers, and bruises to prove it.

And I can attest to it, too.

A spectator of this league for five years, this season I was proud to have been accepted as an umpire, an arbiter. Disputed plays on the field are first settled by the players involved, and if no mutual conclusion can be reached, the captains of the two clubs are called on for a decision. If they cannot agree, the umpire renders a decision based on what he saw, and often what spectators, or “cranks”, may have seen.

In all my years of baseball, whether as a player, and observer, a fan, or a curious bystander, this was by far my most enjoyable. Sure, I rendered some unpopular decisions. I tell the captains before each game that if indecision goes from the players, to them, and then to me, someone is not going to be happy with my judgment.

But these ladies and gentlemen are just that: ladies and gentlemen, and it is refreshing, it is invigorating, and it is exhilarating. I cannot express it much beyond that; to be around strangers who have become friends in the common good of base ball places us all in a better time and place. No wonder they play it – they love it so much.

A two-day event this past weekend at The Hermitage’s Harvest Festival included six games that included two visiting ball clubs, the Bluegrass Barons from Kentucky and the Indianapolis Blues. The Stewarts Creek Scouts joined the Rag-tags and the Hog & Hominy Nine, made up of players chosen from the local league’s teams, and challenged these visiting clubs to worthy matches.

I expected good manners and courteous play, and both were exemplified in common spirit. The Blues and Barons were quality opponents, but I was truly touched by the visiting players as much as the hosting teams, how they held fast to the very soul of competitive play. It is truly a common bond among all.

It is this awareness of the purity of The Game that calls them out to compete, yet to hold on to their values.

Before each game I try to remind them how much base ball gives them by reciting a blessing: “May the way you play this glorious game, be the life you also choose to claim”.

From what I have learned about them, I believe they already knew that.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Rules and Regulations Adopted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BASE-BALL PLAYERS Held in New York December 9, 1863. Amended February 7, 2016 by the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball for the 2016 season of play. From the leagues’ website. See footnote below.

[2] http://tennesseevintagebaseball.com/about-us/, retrieved October 3, 2017.

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Can You Help Tell Nashville’s Baseball Story?

For over two years, Joshua Maxwell and I have collaborated on a film project to tell Nashville’s baseball history (you can read my previous post here). We continue to work on production of our documentary, and we are seeking your help.

We are interested in acquiring any film footage, photographs, mementos, or memorabilia that you might be willing to share.

Anything Nashville baseball-related is of interest: Nashville Vols and Sulphur Dell; Negro League history, including the Nashville Elite Giants, Black Vols, and Stars, and Tom Wilson Park; City League, Tri-State, Larry Gilbert, and other amateur Leagues; high school and colleges; and of course, professional players born or living in the area. It is a daunting task, we know, but there are gems out there that would greatly add to our project. Hidden treasures are often found in attics, trunks, and photograph albums; but we especially need rare film footage!

Besides interviews already conducted, we have heard from someone who was the contractor in tearing down Sulphur Dell in 1969, a player on the 1955 Nabrico (Nashville Bridge Company) City League team (who owns a baseball signed by players on the league’s all-star team), an umpire with great stories of local baseball, and a part-time assistant at WKDA who worked with Nashville Vols announcer Larry Gilbert.

These are the stories we need to hear. But there is so much more.

Full credit will be given to anyone who provides information produced in our documentary, and we will be extremely grateful. Please contact me at 262downright@gmail.com if you have anything you feel may be of interest or are willing to allow us to use in the documentary.

If you feel  you can help, have questions, or need more information, you may also give me a call at 615-483-0380. Thanks!

Note: We are grateful to local sports writer Mike Organ who included our call for assistance in his Sunday, September 17, 2017 column of The Tennessean ( read Mike’s column here).

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Lottery Lineups

Whether a yarn to fool a sportswriter hungry for the next story in the Billy Martin saga, or a truth about an unconventional way to choose a batting order, in April of 1977 New York Daily News sports writer Dick Young wrote about how Martin had made his lineup selection a few weeks earlier.

Young said he believed it. “Now, the more Yankees I talk to the more I’m convinced it really happened – either that or we have the greatest conspiracy since Watergate.”[1]

“Billy leaves the bench around the fifth inning,” (Reggie) Jackson said. “It’s the day we’re losing to Toronto, our fifth in a row.”

Clubhouse man Pete Sheehy corroborates Jackson’s story.

“He comes in the clubhouse during the game. I don’t know what he has in mind but I write the names down like he tells me, on these yellow slips, and put them in the hat.”

“Billy comes back on the bench and tells me to pick out the names: it’s gonna be tomorrow’s lineup,” Jackson said.

Reggie pulls them one-by-one. Randolph, Munson, Jackson, Nettles, Rivers, DH, White, White, Chambliss. Two Whites?

“That’s right,” Jackson said. “I said to Billy, there’s a mistake. He said set the second White aside and we’ll see. After Chambliss’ name, I said, hey, you forgot Dent. So we decided to put Bucky ninth.”

The next day, the lottery lineup won. Then won again, and again. Six consecutive games, until Martin subbed Marty Perez for Nettles at third, and Baltimore won 6-2.

Fifty years earlier, in 1915, Mobile Seagulls manager Charley “Boss” Schmidt used the same trick to determine his batting order against Nashville. This one was no yarn.

On August 19, the Vols visited Mobile to begin a three-game set. Nashville was in fourth place, chasing front-runner New Orleans, seven games behind the Pelicans in the standings. Mobile was in sixth place with a 52-64 record, but had won only five while losing 11 during the month and had no hope of finishing in the top-half of the standings. Nashville had won three previous games in the gulf city and six at Sulphur Dell, leading the season series nine games to seven.

With 12 hits against nine (Leonard Dobard had three) Mobile out-hit the Vols in the first game of the series, but it took Rube Kissinger’s strike out of pinch hitter Carter Hogg with the bases loaded in the ninth to seal the win for the Nashville, 4-1. Mobile had now lost 10 games with the Vols on the year, four in a row going back to their last visit to Sulphur Dell.

Schmidt was ready to try anything. And he did; he allowed the players to draw lots to determine batting positions. The lineup for the game of August 20 was this: Dobard (shortstop), Northen (right field), Neiderkorn (catcher), Perry (third base), Holmquist (pitcher), Burke (left field), Calhoun (first base), Miller (centerfield), and Flick (second base).

Even though pitcher Jeff Holmquist allowed only nine hits, and batted in the fifth spot in the lineup with four of Mobile’s 12 hits, the Vols won again, 7-5. Schmidt’s grand experiment ended when he inserted himself back in the lineup as catcher, and the Gulls won over Nashville and their ace Tom Rogers, 6-0.

In reporting Mobile’s second loss in the August 21 edition of the Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, sports writer Blinkey Horn gives credit to his newspaper for Boss Schmidt’s idea to juggle his lineup accordingly. Horn suggests that when the Seagulls visited Nashville a few weeks ago, the Mobile chief may have read an article in the paper about Alex Pearson, manager of Uniontown (Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League, Class D), who summoned his lineup by drawing numbers from a hat in 1907.[2]

The account had appeared in Nashville’s newspaper on August 8, and was attributed to Frank G. Menke, sports writer for Hearst newspapers through the International News Services (INS).

“Some of the big league clubs who are in a hitting slump might imitate the experiment made with wonderful results a few years ago by a minor league manager.

“Alexander Pearson is the manager under discussion. He was handling the Uniontown, (Pa.), club and the team was doing everything but winning ball games. Pearson shifted his batting order a half dozen times in the hope that the change would lift the team out of a batting slump. But to no avail.

“Whereupon, Pearson put the names of all his players on a slip of paper and deposited them in a hat. Then he withdrew them for batting position, the first name withdrawn to be the lead-off batsman, the second name to bat second and so on. The club, with its juggled lineup, won the game that day and followed it with seventeen more victories, all in a row.”[3]

With several lineup changes during the season, Billy Martin’s Yankees won the 1977 American League pennant and World Series. Boss Schmidt’s 1915 Sea Gulls finished seventh in the Southern Association. Pearson’s 1907 Uniontown Coal Barons finished second in the POML with a 64-43 record, and without those 17 consecutive wins, would have finished much worse.

It is probably best to leave lottery picks to yarns and the lottery, and not to baseball lineups.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Sabr.org

Sumner, Benjamin Barrett (2000). Minor League Baseball Standings: All North American Leagues, Through 1999. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

Wright, Marshall D. (2002). The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

[1] Dick Young. “Lottery Lineup Wave of the Future?,” Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York), April 27, 1977: 34.

[2] Blinkey Horn. “Sporting Views,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, August 21, 1915: 8.

[3] Frank G. Menke. “Try This, Bill Schwartz,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, August 8, 1915: 23.

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No Vote, No Ultimatum, No Protest: Setting Nashville and the Southern Association Free

In August of 1960, Nashville’s return to the Southern Association for another season looked dim when Cincinnati withdrew the six-year affiliation it had with the Vols. In fact, the entire league had no assurance it would return for another year. It recovered by adding the Macon Peaches to fill the void that was left when Memphis exited.

The return of the Southern Association for 1962 looked even more bleak. Attendance went from 780,316 in 1960 to 647,831 in 1961, a decline of 17%. Television and air conditioning are often blamed for the lower turnout, but there may have been a deeper, more profound reason.

Gabe Paul, general manager of the Reds, explained the decision to drop Nashville from the farm system in no uncertain terms. Bottom line: No negro players equals no proper development of potential players equals the agreement ends.

For an entire year, no stance was taken by Nashville nor any other ball club in the league. There would be no integrating of the Southern. There was no vote taken either way, no ultimatum passed down from league or team leaders, no public protests by fans that would discourage continued segregation.

What saved the Vols franchise for one last season in the Southern Association? Enter the Minnesota Twins. Formerly the Washington Senators and relocated to the Twin Cities, the major league club was so profitable in their new home that stockholders received a $2-a-share dividend[1]. Not exactly keen on Nashville or its ballpark, Sulphur Dell, farm director Sherry Robertson had not given up hopes that Montreal, not the Vols, would be the new affiliate for the Twins.

“We would go into the Southern Association only as a last resort,” he told the Minneapolis Star. “In the first place, the Southern is a double A league and we need a triple A farm. Nashville’s park isn’t good place to develop players.

“And then, and this is important: The Southern bars Negroes, and we have several. That is one of Nashville’s biggest problems in getting an agreement. If a club can’t send its Negro players there, it doesn’t want the tieup[sic].[2]

He was right, sort of. Although there was no edict to “ban” or “bar” black players, there certainly was no edict to the opposite. And this is 15 years after Jackie Robinson had signed to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Twins management offered a deal on January 23, 1961 to partner with the Nashville ballclub and stock the team with players. Not only did the arrangement save the Vols, it saved the Southern Association. The agreement included points which league president Hal Totten hoped would be a part of future major league affiliations in the Southern.

To provide a training site, and give it an identity as a member of the parent organization.

To absorb the training expenses of all players, except those invited to camp by Nashville

To house, feed, and instruct those players owned by the minor league club at a cost of slightly more than $4 a day

To pay all above $500 a month in salaries of optioned players

To pay all above $650 a month in salaries of players assigned outright to the minor league club

To pay part of the field manager’s salary, provided the major league club appoint him from their organization

According to the previous agreement with Cincinnati, Nashville had been paying up to $750 a month for optioned players’ salaries, and all salaries of players on outright assignment.[3]

The 1961 season was salvaged, but by August Nashville wallowed in the bottom half of the Southern Association standings. The club featured a makeshift roster, as the team featured only five players who had seen, or would see, action in the big leagues: Buddy Gilbert, Gene Host, Rod Kanehl, Joe McCabe, and John Romonsky.

On the night of August 11, Twins Executive Vice-President Joe Haynes and Robertson visited Sulphur Dell (for the first time) to take stock of Nashville’s players. The major league club was looking for those worthy to call up to the fold, as the Twins were going nowhere but seventh place in the 10-team American League.

It turned out to be a special night for Vols left fielder Joe Christian, who had been sailing along with a .329 batting average and had eight home runs. He added another home run and two singles for four RBI, and now had 220 total bases for the year. Ev Joyner added a home run and single, driving in four runs, and Gilbert hit two doubles, a single, and a sacrifice fly, good enough for five RBI.

None of the three were the property of the Twins.

The Vols won the game over the Birmingham Barons, 16-7, and even though they were out-hit 22-12, Nashville pulled off five double plays to seal the win, the Vols’ fifth straight. There were 721 paid admissions in the stands.

The attendance nor final score were the most important news of the night. Comments by the Twins’ Robertson were.

He told Nashville Tennessean sports writer F. M. Williams the future of the minor leagues looks good, except for two leagues. When Williams asked which ones were in trouble, Robertson identified the Southern and Western Carolina leagues.

“You people have got to play Negroes to remain in business,” he added.

Williams asked if the unofficial ban were to be lifted, would the outlook change. Robertson’s answer?

“Definitely.”

“Robertson said it is too early to discuss continuation of the working agreement with Nashville. But he intimated the Twins do not have enough ball players to staff a Double A club in the coming years.”[4]

What he was saying was the Twins did not have enough white players to send down to Double A.

Finally, the 50-man board of directors of Vols, Inc., representing 4,876 stockholders, heard him loud and clear, and acted on the controversial measure.

Meeting at Nashville’s Noel Hotel on September 2, the board voted unanimously to use Negro players in 1962, although a few grumbled about the matter.[5] But even those few were not going to jeopardize Nashville’s chance to go fail, possibly risking their investments in Vols, Inc. stock.

In the meantime, Robertson was certain some arrangement could be made to save Nashville.

“We can’t afford to let the Southern League die. We don’t have enough ball players to furnish a team in Nashville, but we will work something out, I am sure, at the meeting of farm directors tomorrow morning.”[6]

Robertson offered up a new idea to include Nashville as a part of the Twins organization. It involved a dual working agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates. When the Pirates reneged and Columbus showed interest in placing a team in the league to replace Macon, Minnesota suddenly joined up with the Georgia club. Macon was a victim of big operating losses in 1961.

Birmingham decided to pull its club over the use of Negroes; the Detroit Tigers, the Barons major league affiliate, had little choice but to associate with Nashville should the team and league stay in business in 1962. It did not happen, and one player did not get a chance to integrate Nashville or the Southern Association.

A few months after the end of the 1961 season, minor league clubs met in Tampa for their annual winter meetings, and Nashville general manager Bill Harbour stood by the his board’s decision to include Negro players. John Dee Griffin, a catcher who appeared in 76 games and had a .183 batting average for Fox Cities in the Three-Eye League (Class – B), was drafted by the Vols.[7]

When the Vols went defunct for the 1962, Griffin ended up with Elmira (Eastern League – Class A). He had a 10-year career, all in the minor leagues, reaching as high as Class AAA ball with Rochester, Oklahoma City, and Arkansas (Little Rock) from 1963-1965, even playing in the Southern League with Chattanooga in 1965 and Macon in 1966. He finished his professional career in 1967 with Amarillo (Texas League, Class – AA) and Salem, Virginia (Class – A).

The Southern Association met its end, never to be resurrected again. After one season with no professional baseball, Nashville returned in 1963 as a member of the South Atlantic “SALLY” League (Class – AA), which was integrated. It was that year that Eddie Crawford and Henry Mitchell, both Negroes, were on the Vols roster; the first two and only of their race to perform for the team.

Hall of Fame baseball executive Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson to his Dodger’s contract, once said, “Ethnic prejudice has no place in sports, and baseball must recognize that truth if it is to maintain stature as a national game.”[8]

The teams in the Southern Association, Nashville included, missed an opportunity to boost the inevitable integration of minor league baseball in their cities until it was too late. The truth, as we now know, set them all free.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Sabr.org

Southernassociationbaseball.com

Wright, Marshall D. (2002). The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

Notes

[1] Raymond Johnson. “One Man’s Opinion,” Nashville Tennessean, January 20, 1961, 28.

[2] “Nashville Seeking Tieup With Twins,” Minneapolis Star, January 19, 1961, 36.

[3] F. M. Williams. “Twins Tieup Rescues Nashvols,” Nashville Tennessean, January 24, 1961, 11.

[4] Williams. “Southern Outlook Bleak – Robertson,” Nashville Tennessean, August 12, 1961, 15.

[5] Williams. “Vol Directors Vote To End Ban On Negro Players in Sulphur Dell,” Nashville Tennessean, September 3, 1961, 27.

[6] Williams. “Dual Agreement Expected for Nashvols,” Nashville Tennessean, November 29, 1961, 18.

[7] “Vols Draft Negro Player,” Nashville Tennessean, November 28, 1961, 18.

[8] “Branch Rickey Quotes,” Baseball-Almanac.com, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/quotes/quobr.shtml, accessed August 14, 2017.

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Nashville Attendance and the Ebb, Flow of Minor League Baseball

On September 8, 1963, only 971 fans attended a double header between Nashville and Lynchburg at Sulphur Dell. It would be the final professional games played at the historic ballpark.

The end had been foretold by attendance numbers for several years. The Vols’ best year at the turnstiles had been in 1948, when 269,893 watched Nashville play, but the numbers never came close again until the death of the club. In 1954, the last of a three-year affiliation with the New York Giants, the total was 89,470. That was the year when Nashville slugger Bob Lennon hammered 64 home runs, but even that achievement was not enough to drive fans to the ballpark.

Nashville was not alone.

Fan support dwindled across the entire country during the decline of minor league baseball in the 1950s. By 1960, there were 22 minor leagues; in 1950 there had been 58.[1]

In his book, Leveling the Playing Field, Paul C. Weiler puts it in perspective.

“In the late 1940s there were more than 450 minor league teams drawing more than 40 million fans to their game – a team average of 90,000 a season. Then television arrive in American homes, drastically reducing the demand for minor league baseball. By the late 1950s attendance had plummeted to around 15 million, where it remained for the next 20 years.”[2]

The issue was such a concern to Nashville Vols co-owner Larry Gilbert that he sold his 50% ownership to his partner, Ted Murray. Soon in debt with the ball club, Murray looked for buyers, too, and in 1958 area civic leaders banded together to form Vols, Inc., a publicly-held company with intent to purchase the Vols from Murray.

Try as they may, in subsequent years fans did not show up, leading to the demise of the franchise after that fateful double header in 1963. The club drew 52,812 for their final year.

Even before World War II, when attendance waned after a sensational 1940 season. Nashville led the league from opening day, won the Southern Association regular season and playoffs pennants, then won the Dixie Series against the Houston Buffaloes. Attendance stood at 138,602 even though war was looming.

During the war years, attendance remained respectable:

1941      97,282

1942      96,934

1943      76,570

1944      146,945

In 1945, turnout was 83,014; an honorable figure as soldiers were returning home.

Sports writer Raymond Johnson, in his “One Man’s Opinion” column in the Nashville Tennessean, often addressed the issue. He could see the decline coming, and in 1952 gave his view of the matter for that season’s crowds.

“Unless the fans turn out in larger numbers when Those Vols return home Friday than they have been averaging this season, Nashville will finish last in league attendance for the first time since 1931…That was the last time Nashville finished in the cellar and the season when Those Vols set their all-time losing record of 102 games.”[3]

Baseball devotees stepped up somewhat; attendance figures ended at 113,193 for 1952.

But Johnson compared the waning appearance of fans to 1931, when totals were only 67,338. The club won only 51 games that season. He understood that fans liked to see winning baseball.

“That was the first season for night baseball in Nashville…But even the uniqueness of nocturnal ball failed to lure the fans out to see a ball club that was as interesting to watch as two black cats fighting on a moonless night.”[4]

Night baseball did not bring out fans. Neither did Bob Lennon’s remarkable home run season. Even Nashville’s unbelievable 1940 season did not relate to more fans in the seats. The 1948 season record attendance mark at Sulphur Dell occurred in Larry Gilbert’s final season as manager, then only fell to 238,034 in a Rollie Hemsley-led Vols repeat championship performance.

From then on, the challenge was a changing America: inventive television productions, expanding highways, and automobiles being produced instead of tanks.

The revival of baseball began in the late 1970s. Larry Schmittou was instrumental in bringing professional baseball back to Nashville after a 15-year drought, and was part of that revitalization.

Weiler tells how significant the interest was across the country.

“Then came the resurgence in interest in minor league (as well as major league) baseball among baby boom families who did not feel like staying home every night to watch television. By the late 1990s total minor league attendance had reached 35 million, an average of about 200,000 a season for each of the nearly 175 teams.”[5]

2016 regular season attendance for 160 teams in 14 minor leagues (including only teams affiliated with major league baseball) was just over 37 million.[6] That averages to just over 3,000 fans per game. Nashville Sounds attendance at First Tennessee Park was 504,060 in 2016[7].

Raymond Johnson, Larry Gilbert, Ted Murray, and the 4,876 stock holders of Vols, Inc. would have been happy with those numbers.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Sabr.org

Notes

[1] Ian Kahanowitz. “A Brief History of The Minor League’s Reluctance to Integrate (Part 3),” 27outsbaseball.com, http://www.27outsbaseball.com/uncategorized/a-brief-history-of-the-minor-leagues-reluctance-to-integrate-part-3/, accessed August 10, 2017.

[2] Weiler, Paul C. (2009) Leveling the Playing Field. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[3] Raymond Johnson. “Vols Last in Attendance First Time in 21 Years,” One Man’s Opinion column, Nashville Tennessean, August 26, 1952, 15.

[4] Johnson.

[5] Weiber.

[6] Graham Knight. “Minor League Baseball Attendance in 2016,” Baseballpilgrimages.com, http://www.baseballpilgrimages.com/attendance/minor-leagues-2016.html, accessed August 10, 2017.

[7] “Pacific Coast League: Attendance,” milb.com, http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?y=2016&t=l_att&lid=112&sid=l112, accessed August 10, 2017.

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Consecutive One-Hitters and Four Strikeouts in an Inning: Nashville’s Bernie Boland

In 2012, Nashville’s R. A. Dickey of the New York Mets finished the year with a 20-6 record, started 33 games and completed five of them, pitched in 232 innings, had 230 strikeouts, and faced 927 batters. In each of these categories, Dickey was tops, and he was named National League Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in the league.

He joined another elite group, too. Only 10 pitchers in Major League history have held the opposition to only one hit in consecutive games. R. A. was the last to accomplish the deed, when he held Tampa Bay and Baltimore to one hit in consecutive starts during his fantastic season.

Here’s the complete rundown of pitchers who have accomplished the feat[1]:

Hugh Daily, Chicago Browns, Union Association, July 7 & July 10, 1884

Toad Ramsey, Louisville Colonels, American Association, July 29 & July 31, 1886

Charlie Buffinton, Philadelphia Phillies, National League, August 6 & August 9, 1887

Rube Marquard, New York Giants, National League, August 28 & September 1, 1911

Lon Warneke, Chicago Cubs, National League, April 16 & April 22, 1934

Mort Cooper, St. Louis Cardinals, National League, May 31 & June 4, 1943

Whitey Ford, New York Yankees, September 2 & September 7, 1955

Sam McDowell, Cleveland Indians, American League, April 25 & May 1, 1966

Dave Stieb, Toronto Blue Jays, American League, September 24 & September 30, 1988

R. A. Dickey, New York Mets, National League, June 13 & June 18, 2012

Almost a century before Dickey did it, in 1914, another pitcher with a Nashville connection did the same thing as a member of the Vols in the Southern Association. Pitcher Bernie Boland pitched consecutive game one-hitters, joining the knuckleballing Dickey, who is currently a member of the Atlanta Braves, in making history.

Born Bernard Anthony Boland in Rochester, New York on January 21, 1892 to Patrick and Catherine Boland, Bernie honed his pitching skills in the sandlots of his hometown. Playing in a semi-pro league in Rochester in 1911, by mid-July his reputation as a fire-balling right hander was well-known. The 19-year-old had pitched 34 scoreless innings for the Orange Blossoms[2] when he faced the Lyons Cubs on July 23. The Cubs spoiled Bernie’s scoreless streak, but he struck out 12, gave up eight hits, and banged out two singles of his own[3] as his club won, 10-4.

By September, he won every game he had pitched in.[4]

Boland joined the Akron Giants (Central League, Class-B) for the 1912 season. He was a dependable starter for manager Lee Fohl, and won 10 games while losing 14 on the year. He returned to the club in 1913 and his reputation began to shine, culminating in his domination of a baseball immortal as the league began to collapse in July.

Although he began to suffer from a sore arm in early June,[5] Bernie had recovered quickly, holding Youngstown to four hits in a 12-0 whitewashing of the Steelmen.[6] On July 2, he pitched a four-hitter against Steubenville. One of the hits was by the second batter Bernie faced, Ernest Calbert, who socked a fly ball over the head of Akron centerfielder Arch Osborne. Calbert circled the bases to score. It was the lone run, as the Giants won 5-1.[7]

But three thousand fans packed the Akron ballpark on July 15 when the American League’s Cleveland Naps came to town for an exhibition game. Boland was selected to start the game, and he although he gave up 11 hits, the Naps won, 4-3. Cleveland great Joe Jackson faced Boland four times, hitting a triple in the sixth inning. Bernie struck him out twice.

“In the first inning Joe Jackson walked to the plate. The fans all had a feeling of sympathy for Bernie Boland, the youngster, who was facing the American League’s premier slugger. But Jackson failed to connect, and when he missed the third strike he hurled his bat almost to the Akron bench. Joe was an easy out again in the fourth, got the longest hit of the day in the sixth, a triple to deep center, and fanned again in the eighth.”[8]

When the Central League disbanded a few weeks later, Boland’s contract was purchased by Nashville (Southern Association, Class – AA). He decided to hold out, but when the Vols agreed to his terms, he joined the club.[9]

In his first start for the Vols on August 5 in Birmingham, Bernie lasted into the seventh. He gave up 11 hits and six runs and was removed from the game with an injured hand.[10] Nashville lost the game at Rickwood Field, 9-4. On August 10 at Sulphur Dell against Atlanta, he once again left the game, this time in the fifth inning, as he had torn the cuticle on his index finger from his curve ball. Nashville was ahead 3-1 at the time, and ended up losing 5-4 in extra innings.[11]

In six games during the year, Bernie won 2 games and lost 3, appearing in 31 innings. Only 5’8” and 168 pounds, the diminutive curve baller was expected to contribute at a greater level in 1914. Due to his speed and fielding ability, manager Bill Schwartz even considered making him an outfielder.[12]

Boland was named starter against Boston in an April 1 exhibition game at Vanderbilt’s Dudley Field (Sulphur Dell was deemed too wet to play on). After retiring lead-off batter Harry Hooper, Clyde Engel singled and future Hall of Famer Tris Speaker slapped a home run into the trees beyond right field.

Hooper returned the favor to Bernie, snagging Bolahd’s long drive in right field in the second inning. The game ended in favor of the American League team, 8-2. Boland had pitched five innings, allowing 4 runs and seven hits.[13]

Once the regular season began, Boland was joined by Heinie Berger, Floyd Kroh, Forrest More, and Erwin Renfer in the starting rotation. Tom Rogers, who would become the ace of the ball club and toss a perfect game in 1916, was in his first year with Nashville.

On July 28, Boland and pitcher Roy Walker, who was born in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, pitched against each other in an intense duel in the Pelican’s ballpark. Nashville lost to New Orleans, 3-2 in 10 innings, as Walker struck out 11 and Bernie had 10 of his own. But Bernie accomplished a rare feat by striking out four batters in the eighth inning.

“In the eighth Tim Hendrix led off for the Pelicans and Boland fanned him. Charlie Starr (formerly with the Bisons) likewise swung and missed three successive times but was not out until Catcher Smith had thrown to first, as Smith dropped the ball after the third strike. Then Walter Barbare, the fleet Pelican shortstop, came to bat and he struck out. But Walter, for some reason, chose to swing on a wide on his third attempt and both he and Catcher Smith missed it. Result: Walter got to first in safety. Shortly afterward, too, he stole second and then third. Otto Burns was at bat and a hit would have won the game. Otto tried hard to deliver, but failed, and after three tries was out. Hence Boland’s four strike outs in one inning[14].

At the time Boland achieved his rarity, only four major league pitchers had done it:[15]

Ed Crane, New York Gothams, National League, October 4, 1888

Hooks Wiltse, New York Giants, National League, May 15, 1906

Orval Overall, Chicago Cubs, National League, October 14, 1908

Walter Johnson, Washington Senators, American League, April 15, 1911

On August 8 at Sulphur Dell against Memphis, Boland gave up a walk and only one hit as his team beat the Chicks 3-0. Through eight innings Bernie kept the opposing hitters in check, but opposing catcher George “Admiral” Schlei slapped a hit between first and second for a clean hit, spoiling a no-hit bid. It was the only hit allowed by Boland in the game, which was played in one hour and 30 minutes.

He started his next game in Atlanta on August 12, and gave up four runs to the Crackers. But after only 1 ½ innings had been played, the game was cancelled due to rain. Since the game was a washout and had not gone the minimum of 4 ½ innings to be considered a complete game, none of the hits or runs counted.[16]

His second one-hitter came on August 13 in the second game of a double header in Atlanta. After Nashville scored ten runs in the first inning of game one, 11-1, Boland held the Crackers to a single hit in 11 innings, as Nashville pushes a run across in the top of the 11th to win, 1-0.

Nashville sports writer Jack Nye explained.

“In his last two games Boland has allowed but two hits and no runs. In his one-hit affair against Memphis he gave up but one base on balls, but yesterday his control was not quite so good, five Crackers working him for passes. In the pinches, however, he had enough stuff to pull him out, fanning eight opposing batsmen.

“As far as can be learned, these two consecutive one-hit games set a new Southern league record. Bernie has now pitched twenty-three innings without a run being score on him. Though four runs were made in the first inning of Wednesday’s game at Atlanta, this does not go in the records, as the game was call in the second inning on account of rain.”[17]

The 22-year-old Boland finished the season 17-14 as Nashville finished in fifth place with a 77-72 record. The Detroit Tigers had seen something they like in Bernie, and Nashville sold his services to the American League club on August 28 for $5,000.00.[18]

He made his major league debut on April 14, 1915, relieving starter Harry Coveleski against Cleveland at Detroit’s Navin Field. He had no decision, but allowed no hits in two innings as the Tigers fell, 5-1.

He worked his way into the starting lineup and finished the year 13-7 with a 3.11 ERA. The club won 100 games, but lost the American League pennant to the Boston Red Sox, who had won 101.

In Detroit, his teammates included Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, and Bobby Veach. Cobb set the season stolen base record of 96 in 1915 that was not broken until Maury Wills of the Los Angeles Dodgers stole 104 in 1962.

Boland stayed with the Tigers for six more years, and had his best season in 1917 when he was 16-11 and an ERA of 2.68. The next season, as World War I was raging in Europe, major league baseball played a short season, and when it ended he served in the Army until war was over.

In seven years he was 67-49 for Detroit, and finished his career as a member of the St. Louis Browns in 1921 when he was 1-4 in seven appearances. His final game was on June 17 against Washington at Griffith Stadium, when he started for one last time. After giving up nine hits and five runs in five innings, he was given his unconditional release by the Browns.

Bernie married Grace Belle Russelo on May 22, 1917 in Detroit, and together they had four children: Patrick, Mary Anne, John, and Rita. After baseball, he entered the construction business, opening Tiger Construction Company. He later became a construction foreman in Detroit’s Department of Public Works before retiring in 1957.[19] He died on September 12, 1973 in Detroit, and is buried in St. Hedwig Cemetery in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

As a member of the Nashville Vols, his claim on the baseball record books includes a couple of near-impossible feats: striking out four in an inning, and tossing two consecutive one-hitters. As rare as those feats are, his right to assert his mark on baseball will remain in the annals of Nashville baseball history.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Retrosheet.org

Sabr.org

Southernassociationbaseball.com

Wright, Marshall D. (2002). The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Notes

[1] “1-Hit Games Records,” baseball-almanac.com, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/1-hit_games_records.shtml, accessed August 8, 2017

[2] “Among The Semi-Professionals.,” Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), July 23, 1911, 25.

[3] “Orange Blossoms On Top,” Democrat and Chronicle, July 24, 1911, 15.

[4] “Game for the Orange Blossoms,” Democrat and Chronicle, September 20, 1911, 19.

[5] “Saturday’s Game,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 9, 1913, 9.

[6] “Even “Red” Ainsworth Was Unable to Check Slugging of the Giants,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 13, 1913, 16.

[7] “Slugging Giants Continue To Climb,” Akron Beacon Journal, July 3, 1913, 9.

[8] “When He Fanned.,” Akron Beacon Journal, July 16, 1913, 9.

[9] Jack Nye. “Weak Spots To Be Bolstered Up Soon,” Nashville Tennessean, July 31, 1913, 10.

[10] Nye. “Bill Prough Beats Vols And Makes It Nine Straight Wins,” Nashville Tennessean, August 6, 1913, 10.

[11] Nye. “Eleven-Inning Game Goes To Crackers,” Nashville Tennessean, August 11, 1913, 8.

[12] Nye. “New Players In Line-Up Tomorrow,” Nashville Tennessean, March 21, 1914, 10.

[13] Nye. “Speakers Hitting Helps Beat The Vols,” Nashville Tennessean, April 2, 1914, 10.

[14] “Struck Out Four In Single Inning,” Buffalo Commercial, July 30, 1014, 8.

[15] “Four Strikeouts in One Inning,” baseball-almanac.com, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/feats/feats19.shtml, accessed August 8, 2017

[16] Dick Jemison. “Rain Stopped Opening Game With Crackers Leading 4-3; Two Double-Headers Now,” Atlanta Constitution, August 13, 1914, 6.

[17] Nye. “Back In First Division; Pennant Hopes Revived,” Nashville Tennessean, August 14, 1914, 5.

[18] “Tigers Buy Boland, Nashville Pitcher; Reports Sept. 15,” Detroit Free Press, August 29, 1914, 10.

[19] Lee, Bill. (2003) The Baseball Necrology: The Post-Baseball Lives and Deaths of More Than 7 ,600 Major League Players and Others. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc.

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