When it was decided to build bleachers for fans of a different skin color at Sulphur Dell, the structure was convenient for neither easy access nor games sight lines.
The “negro” bleachers at Nashville’s baseball home for 100 years, did not face the field. Situated in foul territory along the third base line, fans sitting on the old plank boards would have to turn their head towards the action to follow the plays that occurred during a game.
Since the ballpark was “turned around” before the 1927 season so that the setting sun would be at the batter’s back, fans facing the sun for most of the afternoon games would have to squint to follow the action on the field.
Former Negro League players and native Nashvillians Sidney Bunch and Clinton “Butch” McCord, both deceased, along with former Birmingham Black Baron Jim Zapp, who now resides in Texas, lovingly passed the experiences that they had of the grand old game to others. Interspersed with memories of old prejudices that were overcome just by playing the game were grand stories of ballparks, teams, and teammates.
The action did not always happen on the field. Memories from the negro bleachers at the old ballpark can allow us a new perspective on a vibrant, supporting, and loving community’s participation in baseball that was often overlooked, or worse yet, ignored.
I often wonder who was squinting in the sun the most.
© 2013 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.