During Hall of Famer Ernie Banks’ recent visit to Nashville, he recalled playing at Sulphur Dell for the Kansas City Monarchs. Banks was on the Negro League team during the 1950 and 1953 seasons (he served in the military during 1951-1952).
“Do you remember the date?” I asked him.
“I believe it would have been 1953, but I can’t tell you what month. I do remember hitting a fly ball up on the hill in right field,” he responded.
Knowing that it would not have been entirely unusual for there to be an announcement about a Negro League game in one of Nashville’s mainstream newspapers, previous research told me that it would be unusual for the game to have been reported in the sports section.
Nor would there be a chance of a box score or any other information to have been printed.
“I’d like to find a box score or some other reference to the game”, I said. “Any thing you could remember about playing here would be helpful.”
I did not want Banks to think he was being interrogated, but experience told me that it might be helpful if he could remember which team was the Monarchs’ opponent for the game.
“Do you remember what team you were playing?” I asked.
Banks thought for a moment, looking straight at me as if he was really wanting to remember any clue he had about the game.
“I believe we were playing the Indianapolis Clowns,” he said. “If you find anything, let me know.”
Hoping I could find some reference to Ernie Banks playing with the Monarchs in Nashville, another research quest was added to my list. Perhaps some reference to a Monarchs game at Sulphur Dell could be found.
I found it. At least, I believe I did. After searching various resources I found a reference to the Kansas City Monarchs playing the Indianapolis Clowns in Nashville. It is only a small write-up and line score of a Negro League game played on August 7 – Banks is not mentioned – but nevertheless there it was. It is from the Kansas City Times, August 8, 1953:
Often it only takes a tidbit of information (and a little bit of diligence, too) to find that hidden gem. To me, it is about connecting our present to our past, and any tip, hint, or clue whets my appetite for helping to make that connection.
Since Ernie Banks recalled that the Monarchs played the Clowns, it made the difference. I hope to contact him and with the information in the article and perhaps it will produce new memories about his visit to Nashville’s Sulphur Dell.
© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.