“The effect of these improvements in the sulphur spring bottom, which has so long been a public eye-sore, can well be imagined. There is little doubt that the spring house grounds and base ball park will become the most popular summer resort in the city, if the plans and specifications…are carried out…”
These words were written in the Nashville newspaper. Not in 2013, not in 2007, not even in the last century. These words were published in the Nashville Daily American under the heading “The New Base-Ball Park, Important Improvements in the Sulphur Spring Bottom” on December 12, 1884.
On March the 25th of the next year the fence was up and the ground was leveled for the first scheduled March 30th exhibition game with Indianapolis. Nashville’s Opening Day in 1885 was held on May 4th.
From that time forward, Nashville’s Opening Day has been the keystone for each baseball season. It often received great community attention, as that special day has been heralded by newspaper and media prominence, parades, and the ceremonial tossing out of the first ball by mayors, governors, and even a Vice-President.
In between that great event and the last game of the season, families and fans have a slice of life that is more than a ballgame. We can take our worries to the ballgame and leave them there. Between pitches we can talk about God, our family, and our job.
At the ballgame, no one really cares who’s a Democrat or a Republican. Family time is enjoyed, and memories are created.
Baseball is a game of good times, and here’s hope that while all that fun is taking place that we’ll remember the foundation of today’s event, an unveiling of what might be.
But let’s get a few things straight: the right field wall at old Sulphur Dell, only 262 feet from home plate, will never again be possible as Organized Baseball would never allow it.
The contour of the ballpark is gone forever; everything is now played on a level playing field. There will be no stockyard nearby, no smells from the nearby city dump to mingle with the freshly-cooked hot dogs.
But what will be is a ballpark where memories cherished by fans can be remembered and new ones born at the spot that was Nashville’s former baseball home for over 100 years.
Maybe there will be room for organizations such as the Old Timers Baseball Association of Nashville to hold meetings or display our Hall of Fame. Or maybe a Nashville or Southern baseball history museum to allow folks a chance to see what things used to be like in the old days.
Remember, this will be where the professional Nashville Vols shared the park with the Nashville Elite Giants and other Negro League teams. Where youth league, high school, amateur all star games, and major league exhibitions took place.
And they can again.
It was where players set records and teams won pennants, and families and friends cheered and cried and laughed and booed. When it comes back, those memories will have a place to begin anew.
And the patiently-slumbering Sulphur Dell baseball ghosts will rise up from their ballpark graves to drink from the magical sulphur springs once more.
What a grand Opening Day it will be at the new ballpark!