In 1978, Vanderbilt University baseball coach Larry Schmittou led a group of Nashville investors to return professional baseball to Nashville after an absence of 24 years, and the Nashville Sounds Baseball Club of the AA Southern League was born.
Herschel Greer Stadium was built near Fort Negley Park south of downtown Nashville and the city led attendance totals for the Southern League in each of their seven seasons in the league.
The Sounds finished in ninth place in their inaugural year in 1978, but became one of the most successful minor league franchises as attendance fueled the franchise’s success. A Cincinnati Reds affiliate, the club drew 380,000 fans and led all of minor league baseball in attendance.
The team won Southern League titles in 1979 as a AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and in 1982 as the AA affiliate of the New York Yankees.
After moving to Class AAA in 1985 and becoming a member of the American Association, an all-time attendance mark was set when 605,122 fans attended games at Greer Stadium in 1990. In 1993 the famous guitar-shaped scoreboard was added.
Also added in 1993 was a second team. When the Southern League had no place for one of its clubs to play Larry Schmittou offered to host the team for the 1993 season. A Twins affiliate named the Nashville Xpress began its season and games were scheduled around Sounds road games. The Xpress returned for another season in 1994 before relocating to Wilmington, North Carolina for 1995.
Birmingham outfielder Michael Jordan made several appearances in Nashville in Southern League action against the Xpress.
In 1985 two former Sounds players won their respective league’s Most Valuable Player award. Willie McGee won in the National League as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and Don Mattingly won in the American League while playing for the New York Yankees.