The Twins to the (Short-lived) Rescue

In 1961 the Southern Association was on its last leg. The failure to integrate (except for a token appearance by Nat Peeples in two games for the Atlanta Crackers at Mobile in 1954 – but that’s another story) spelled doom for the 60-year-old league.  Major League clubs would not feed players down to a league which was not integrated.

Nashville was on its last leg as a team in the storied Southern Association, too.  In an attempt to keep the franchise going, a corporation had been formed in the fall of 1958 to acquire the floundering Nashville club to keep professional baseball alive. Vols, Inc. was formed and 4,876 shares were sold at $5.00 each to build the treasury and pay T. L. Murray for his ownership in the Nashville Vols and the ballpark, Sulphur Dell. Curiously, Murray bought shares in Vols, Inc., too.

New York Yankees pitching coach and Nashvillian Jim Turner was coaxed to become general manager and field manager of the Vols for the 1960 season to replace Dick Sisler.  Both managers were considered to be the saviors of local baseball, but neither was successful. Sisler left for Seattle after three years at the helm and Turner was brought in to become the next hero to save baseball in the city. When club attendance and field performance failed, Turner bailed and became the Cincinnati Reds pitching coach beginning in 1961.

The Nashville franchise was on the brink of extinction when Vols, Inc. directors agreed to a working agreement with the Minnesota Twins. Recently relocated to Minneapolis-St. Paul from Washington, the Twins organization agreed to provide the following for Nashville’s club:

  • Spring training in Fernandina Beach, Florida alongside the TwinsTwins
  • To pay spring training expenses for Nashville’s players, including housing, food, and instruction
  • To pay all above $500.00 a month in salaries of optioned players
  • To pay all above $650.00 a month in salaries of players assigned outright to the Vols
  • To pay part of the unnamed field manager’s salary, as long as the Twins assign him from within their organization

Doom was inevitable even before the season began, however. New Orleans was not a member of the league for the first time since the Southern Association was formed in 1901 and Macon had been brought in to replace the Pelicans. Attendance continued to decline across the league and at the end of the season the Southern Association folded.

The decline in attendance, the failure to integrate, and the hesitation of major league teams to participate more equitably in the paying of players and minor league expenses all contributed to the dissolution of the storied league at the end of the 1961 season.

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