In 1940 the Nashville Vols won their first game of the season and at the end of the season had never left first place. The team breezed through the Southern Association playoffs and won the Dixie Playoffs, too. The unusual part of the season was the starting lineup was intact for the season and the three regular outfielders batted for no less than a .336 average.
1947 began differently, so Nashville manager Larry Gilbert did something he had no hesitation in doing: he cleaned house. Not the whole team, actually; but the infield starters had played so poorly with 50 errors in the first 26 games that he decided to bring in new players. To boot, the team was languishing in seventh place.
George Byam at first base was acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans, Hank Schenz at second base was brought in from the Chicago Cubs, and shortstop Hal Quick was re-acquired from Jersey City. Third basemand Cy Block changed his mind after previously declining to report after being purchased by the Chicago Cubs and assigned to Nashville.
By May 21st the savvy manager had turned the infield over completely. Did it work?
It played a part in sparking the team to a complete turn-around. By June 11th the Vols infield had overtaken the league-leading Chattanooga Lookouts infield in double plays. Outfielder Hal Jeffcoat led the league in hits with 218 and Cy Block led the league in doubles with 50. The team finished in third behind pennant-winner Mobile.
Nashville’s record ended 80-73, 14 games behind the Bears and in the playoffs the Vols breezed past New Orleans but was beaten by Mobile in the finals. The team drew a near-franchise record 251,366 fans.
It would be Larry Gilbert’s next-to-the-last year as manager before retiring to the front office. His many years in baseball gave him the experience of knowing his players and what it took to win. His 1947 accomplishment was no surprise.
The 1948 season, Gilbert’s last as a manager, brought another regular season championship to Nashville.
© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.