1921 Negro League Team Names: Giants, Pirates, EE-lites

My friend and fellow SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) member Mark Aubrey, who resides in Seymour, Tennessee and plies various research opportunities on Knoxville baseball, presented me with a question today regarding the name of a negro league team in 1921, the Knoxville Pirates. He has often seen the team referred to as “Giants”; “Pirates” was a new reference to him.

The reference came from a clipping in the Nashville Tennessean published on August 11, 1921:

Negro League baseball earned its place in the south in 1920, when the Negro Southern League was formed. Nashville’s entry in the Negro Southern League was named the White Sox, changed to Elite (pronounced EE-lite) Giants by team owner, Tom Wilson, the next season. Many details are sketchy concerning final standings, but it is generally accepted that Nashville played .500 ball for the entire season, finishing with a record of 40 wins and 40 losses.[1]

Knoxville was also a member in the inaugural season of the NSL, finishing first in league standings according to one report which gave the east Tennessee team a record of 55 wins and 21 losses. Bill Plott, another fellow SABR member and author of The Negro Southern League, writes that without explanation, wins were forfeited by Knoxville.

“Fred Caulfield, the New Orleans manager, told the (Alabama) Journal that Knoxville was going to have to forfeit games.”[2]

The Alabama Journal printed final standings with Knoxville at 34-30 on the season.

Returning to Mark’s original question, I became curious about the team name for Knoxville, especially from this February 19 newspaper clipping:

To add to the mystery, another clipping explained that while Knoxville baseball was dead (apparently referring to “white” ball) while giving hope that a Negro team was to be formed. Booker Washington Field was the home to black baseball in Knoxville.

Today’s research offered the conclusion that “Pirates” was simply an error by the newspaper. In fact, Plott’s book does not mention the team name; Knoxville “Giants” is correct. It took a little time to return the results, but Nashville Tennessean accounts of games played between August 12 through August 15 use “Giants” and “Pirates” interchangeably. The same is done for “Sulphur Dell” and the prior name of Nashville’s ball park, “Athletic Park”. Both are one in the same.

In total, Nashville took four out of the five games played: 4-2, 11-0, 8-0, and 4-2 before losing in the second game of a double header on August 15, 4-3. Of special interest, and a piece of history that has eluded me, is Nashville’s 18-game winning streak that was halted in the loss to Knoxville. That will be a research project on the near horizon.

Thank you, Mark, for allowing me to participate in the Knoxville mystery; it pointed to new questions seeking answers. In researching baseball, that is usually the case.

Sources

Nashville Tennessean

Newspapers.com

Sabr.org

Notes

Plott, William J., (2015) The Negro Southern League. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company.

[1] William J Plott, The Negro Southern League, A Baseball History, 1920-1951, (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2015), 21.

[2] Ibid. 22.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Research, Uncategorized

Play Tennessee’s Vintage Game!

One of many joys a person has in his or her lifetime is friendships born in camaraderie. Often such joys are found with family, traveling to a far-away destination, or playing games. The great game of baseball permits us to watch, study, participate and enjoy what we call our “national pastime” with all the pleasures, and failings, that come with it. That’s where teamwork reigns.

Establishing roots in early-19th century America, mighty men of baseball slugged and slung a magnificent orb, while fans encouraged their favorite teams and players to win. Those same qualities, those same enjoyments, those same fans were there in the origins. The ball may have been a little softer, thrown with an underhand motion, and fielders were allowed to catch a fly ball on first bounce for an out. Men observing a game wore top hats and ladies wore hoop skirts, where a fiddler scratched out a rousing tune between innings, and players ran hard to gather in a grounder or to score. That was vintage baseball.

It still is.

Tennessee Vintage Base Ball was formed in 2013 to play baseball as most would understand it, but with 1864 rules that are modified slightly to keep players safe and fans interested without the detail of rules. It is separated from the modern game by more than dividing baseball into two words. Fair play is always in mind for everyone, and so is relishing  the past. But this style of game is not fleeting. It brings much of the best out of each and every player, and gentlemenly (and lady!) qualities prevail.

Have you seen a game? Do you want to know more, or have you thought you might like to participate? Do you want to have the time of your life? Watch this video; you will see and hear how life’s blessings are interwoven in baseball:

There many ways to become involved. I joined up as an umpire two years ago, and I can attest that I have had the time of my life. Camaraderie and friendship are worthy joys that come along with participation. If you would like to experience those in a special way, or just want to know more, just follow this link: www.tennesseevintagebaseball.com/register

We want to welcome you with a hearty “Huzzah!”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Real Champions, Fake Products

Getting away from my usual research and blog posts that relate to Nashville baseball and Sulphur Dell, I am compelled to unleash my feelings about the unmitigated gall that some vendors have in bypassing MLB licensing.

First, let me say that I am a New York Yankees fan and have been since the age of 10. But I could not help myself in rooting for the Red Sox during the 2018 World Series because of two Tennessee greats on the Boston roster: Mookie Betts and David Price. The content of their character is what sets them apart from many ballplayers today; no roster is void of the other kind of character, but Betts and Price are very special men, and I am proud of both of them.

I spent 43 years in the sporting goods business, and from day one was taught how the sports licensing business works. Already this morning I am seeing a bunch of “Boston World Champions” fake merchandise, and it’s not right.

Any entity such as MLB, NFL, NBA, and Collegiate Licensing spends a lot of money, time, and effort to provide fans with the best quality merchandise, not cheap t-shirts, caps, and jerseys from sleazy vendors. These guys that think they are clever by outwitting the licensees, retailers, and sports clubs themselves verify their dishonorable practices.

“Boston World Champions” on any item that is advertised as soon as the game is over, yet carries no MLB-licensed hang tags nor is advertised by MLB itself, calls out that it is unlicensed by its own admission. The proper phrase is “Boston Red Sox, World Series Champions”, which is a licensed trademark of the Red Sox and MLB. See how the phrase is mis-used?

To those who commit this fraud: honor the license. Wouldn’t you want your trademarks honored?

My recommendation to fans: only buy OFFICIAL merchandise licensed by the sport…

​© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current, Opinion

262 Down Right Blog Post Moved to Sulphur Dell Website

Future posts may be found here: www.sulphurdell.com/blog-262-down-right.

Thank you, Skip

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Saving Baseball Time?


An Act “to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States” was enacted by resolution of both Houses of Congress on March 19, 1918.[1] The law set standard set summer Daylight Saving Time to begin on March 31, 1918. *

With the announcement by Congress, Nashville Vols president Clyde Shropshire decided to change the starting time for games at Sulphur Dell during the early part of the season to 4:30, and after that to 5 o’clock.  By the added hour of daylight, he felt an opportunity would be presented to a large percentage of fans who had been denied that privilege through attachment to their work.

He thought the new plan would be a boon to his ball club since more fans would attend games as they would visit Sulphur Dell from work without missing the first hour of games. Sports writer Blinkey Horn had his own take on Shropshire’s edict.

“But the Vols should be able to collect a considerable supply of turnstile lubricant from that percentage of citizens freed sixty minutes of daylight sooner from the work.”[2]

The Southern Association season was scheduled to open on April 18, but Nashville was set to play in Birmingham for one game, then travel to Sulphur Dell the next day for the Vols first home game, also against the Barons.

Nashville took the game in Birmingham 7-0, but when the start time was announced for Opening Day in Nashville, it was set for 3:30 P.M.

Did Shropshire change his mind about the connection of time to money? Or did he have the same inkling that the newspaper did about how much savings there really would be?

* Observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919, Daylight Saving Time proved unpopular and was repealed, becoming a local option. It was instituted during World War II from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945 by President Franklin Roosevelt, called “War Time”.

Sources 

Energy.gov

Newspapers.com

Sabr.org

[1] Douma, Michael, curator. “Daylight Saving Time.” (2008). http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving (accessed March 21, 2018).

[2]Vols To Start Games This Year An Hour Later,” Nashville Tennessean and American, March 21, 1918, 8.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Research

Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Conclusion

For the 1959 season, the team finished second by ½ game to Birmingham in the first half of the split season, and fifth in the second half. The combined record of 84-64 would have been good enough for third place had the season not been split into halves, and would have finished 5 ½ games out of first place.

Attendance increased by 37,000 to just over 129,000. With Sisler’s strong on-field leadership, and McCarthy’s front office skills, it should have been a perfect combination. But when Sisler was named manager of the Seattle Rainers (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA) and Bill McCarthy, concessions manager Bill Lambie, Jr., and trainer Chuck Swope all resigned[27], it was not because they had not performed well.

Sisler and McCarthy had grown to dislike each other.

“Sisler precipitated the explosion when he informed President Greer in Chicago that he would not consider returning as manager unless McCarthy was removed as general manager. Dick’s friends say McCarthy’s failure to provide players needed caused the rift. His detractors say Sisler wanted both jobs. The final result was elimination of both.”[28]

But the Vols, Inc. board of directors had one more ace up their sleeve. In a surprise move for everyone in organized baseball, on October 27, 1959, New York Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner was named field manager and general manager of the Nashville Vols for the 1960 season.

It was reported that Turner’s salary will be $17,500, and he would assume all duties previously performed by Sisler and McCarthy. Turner hired Bill Giles, Jr., the 25-year-old son of National League president Bill Giles to be his assistant, and Lem (Whitey) Larkin as operations supervisor.[29] Turner was expected to sell tickets, too, both by his presence and his efforts.

With a lineup that included Jim Maloney, Jack Baldschun, and Jim Bailey on the pitching staff, and Johnny Edwards behind the plate and future New York Met Rod Kanehl holding down the defense, the club won 71 and lost 82, and finished in sixth place.

When Gabe Paul, Cincinnati Reds vice-president and general manager, announced on August 29 that the Reds six-year working agreement would not be renewed with Nashville effective December 15, it was a blow to the local team.

The reason given by Paul is because the Southern Association “does not allow the use of Negro players”. It was enough for Jim Turner, especially when the club failed to draw 100,000, falling short by 279.

Vols, Inc. continued through 1961 with Joe Sadler and Cleo Miller as president, but when it was announced that through 21 home dates Nashville had drawn 19,228 fans for an average of 915 per game, and first-year general manager Bill Harbour estimated the team would have to approximate last year’s attendance of 99,721 to break even, the writing was on the wall. Nashville drew just over 500 fans a game.

On January 24, 1962 the Southern Association suspended operations due to a lack of enough major league working agreements. Nashville was without a team in 1962.

Returning to organized baseball in 1963 as member of the South Atlantic League, after a one-year absence, the season began with a loss to Macon, 15-4. The opening day home game drew 7,987 Vols fans; that one game’s attendance would turn out to be 15% of the entire season’s draw.

But as the year ended facing a deficit of almost $22,000 on final season attendance figures of 52,812 fans, the directors of Vols, Inc. surrendered their South Atlantic League franchise without a dissenting vote. Board chairman Jack Norman assigned a committee to investigate the feasibility of retaining Sulphur Dell, which would mean a continuation of the corporation which owns the ballpark.

Sulphur Dell sat silent in 1964, but in 1965 Country Music star Faron Young led a group that purchased the ballpark and converted it into a race track. Sulphur Dell Speedways lasted only a few months, and Young’s syndicate turned the keys of the property back to Vols, Inc. and paid a rental fee.

With no prospects for a minor league franchise and with the neglected ballpark left with no upkeep, Vols, Inc. leased the property to the City of Nashville and it was used as a tow-in lot. The ballpark was razed in 1969 when Gregg Industries purchased the property for $255,000 from Vols, Inc. The intent was to construct a merchandise mart. When the mart was never built, the land stood idle for nearly fifty years until First Tennessee Park was built beginning in 2014.

On April 4, 1969, the Nashville Tennessean reported that Herschel Greer, now vice-president of the ownership group, said every Vols, Inc. stockholder would be paid 100-cents on the dollar, if they could provide a copy of their stock certificate.

As of March 1972, $50,000 was still on deposit in First American National Bank, most of it belonging to stockholders who had passed away, moved away, or had forgotten about their stock. Even if all of them claimed their ownership stake, there would still be $12,000 on hand for the corporation that still existed at that time even though it was out of business.In 13 years, some of the 4,876 investors received their money back – not a terrible investment that offered challenges at nearly every turn. But the challenge of the original issue of stock was a completely successful feat.

Epilogue: The grand experiment that was Vols, Inc., was a master plan for the future; but it was not the first.

“In 1956, the St. Louis Cardinals were preparing to relocate the Red Wings, their financially ailing Triple A farm club. Morrie Silver, a local businessman, sold shares in the club to fans at $10 each. The grassroots campaign raised $300,000 — enough to buy the team from the Cardinals and keep it in Rochester.”[30]

The Wisconsin Timer Rattlers (Midwest League – Class A), and Syracuse Chiefs and Toledo Mud Hens (International League – Class AAA) have similar ownership operations.[31]

Note: This Nashville baseball history was presented on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the 15th annual Southern Association Conference at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Special thanks to Davidson County/Metro Archives and Tennessee State Library & Archives

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

newspapers.com

Nipper, Skip (2007) “Baseball in Nashville”. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing

sabr.org

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

[27] F. M. Williams. “Giles, Larkin Added to Vols’ Front Office,” Nashville Tennessean, November 6, 1959, 50.

[28] F. M. Williams, “Front Office Key To Nashvols Future,” Nashville Tennessean, October 2, 1960, 67.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Bruce Felton, “MINDING YOUR BUSINESS; Buy Me Some Peanuts, And Shares in the Team,” The New York Times, July 7, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/07/business/minding-your-business-buy-me-some-peanuts-and-shares-in-the-team.html, accessed March 7, 2018.

[31] Leo Roth, “Stock repurchases keep the ‘Rochester’ in Red Wings,” Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, NY), May 19, 2017, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/sports/2017/05/19/rochester-red-wings-shareholders-new-york-abandoned-property/101766040/, accessed March 10, 2018.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Research

Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 7

So how did this “grand experiment” in team ownership turn out?

“Already more box seats have been sold for the opening game than there were people in the stands last April when Chattanooga bounced Those Vols to usher in the campaign…Only 1706 were present…Nashville’s largest crowd all last season was only 3232, which was on Sunday, July 27…The club’s smallest was 508 on Thursday night, Aug. 21.”[1]

Even with fans clamoring for tickets, and sales within $500.00 of last year’s early booking record of $32,425.00 of a year ago[22], McCarthy locked the office doors early on April 4 to get ready for an open house to the public the next day to show off improvements made to Sulphur Dell.

Sports writer Raymond Johnson shared some of his own excitement for the new season.

“…The green infield was as beautiful as any seen in Florida…There’ll be music between innings from an organ which was installed yesterday in the room built especially for it…Soft drinks will be a dime…Parking at the club’s two lots on the west side of Fifth avenue [sic] will be only 25 cents…The seats sparkled they were so clean…The men running the club this year plan to make the fans more comfortable…The campaign to “Swell the Dell” on opening day is in high gear…But for it to succeed, it will be necessary for some of the old timers to retrace their paths to Sulphur Dell…What do you say, fells! Let’s do it.”[23]

The first test for the fervor of Nashville baseball occurred on April 7 when manager Al Lopez and his Chicago White Sox paid a visit to Sulphur Dell to play the Vols. A start time of 3:30 P.M. was chosen so even school kids could attend. The major league club drubbed the home team 20-10 in front of 2,062 fans.

McCarthy closed the Vols baseball office early once again. On Thursday, April 9, advance ticket sales had bumped up to $37,798.40, and was optimistic there were more tickets to be sold.

“I expect the total to reach almost $40,000,” reported McCarthy.[24] Nearly every one of the 1,430 box seats had already been sold.

Former major leaguer and Nashville native Clydell Castleman, chairman of the opening day festivities, gave one more glowing testament to the support from area businesses, saying he had received “100 per cent support from the city’s industries.”

“I am especially indebted to many people, such as F. M. Acker at Du Pont; Bob Hoffman, Ford Glass company [sic]; Johnny DaVal, General Shoe; John Mihalic, Avco; George Hastings, Aladdin Lamp; Ben McDermott, Ferro corporation [sic]; Rufus Fort Jr., National Life; Allen Steele, Life and Casualty; and Postmaster Lewis Moore,” Castleman said.[25]

Gates opened at 5:45 P.M. with fans entering the ballpark with organist Fred Shoemake and the 101st Airborne Infantry Band welcoming them to Sulphur Dell. The Mobile Bears won a nail-biter over Nashville by a 13-12 score, with 4,916 fans showing up to cheer for the Vols even with the threat of rain.

“So for the 4876 Nashville optimists who helped save the city’s baseball franchise by purchasing stock last November and December, there came gleaming through the rain-dripping clouds yesterday cheerful knowledge that never before has there been so much interest in the game here,” wrote F. M. Williams.[26]

Would the excitement last throughout the season, and beyond?

This is Part 7 of the ongoing story. Read more about the events that led to the sale of the Nashville ball club in 1959 in the final installment.

Note: This Nashville baseball history was presented on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the 15th annual Southern Association Conference at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

newspapers.com

[21] Raymond Johnson, “Fans Get 1st Chance to See Their Dell; New Spirit Evident,” One Man’s Opinion Column, Nashville Tennessean, April 5, 1959, 23.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] F. M. Williams, “Vols’ Roster Within One of SA 19-Player Limit,” Nashville Tennessean, April 10, 1959, 39.

[25] Ibid.

[26] F. M. Williams, “Saturday Showcase: Busy Phone, Little Boys Soaring Interest Signs,” Nashville Tennessean, April 11, 1959, 11.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Research