“Cities may boom and fall, business may wax and wane, but as long as arms are strong and batting eyes are bright, baseball will be with us. The public-spirited citizens of Nashville do well to laud its commercial advantages, its low cost of living, its manufactures, its school and its colleges, its supremacy in all the tends to exalt and embellish modern, civilized life, for with all these things Nashville is abundantly blessed. But if these same citizens neglect to support its baseball team and keep the turn-style spinning, all this advertising and boosting will fall like sounding brass and tinkling symbals [sic] upon the ear of the baseball fan-and his name is legion.”
Press release from Mayor Megan Barry? Quote from Nashville Sounds co-owner Frank Ward? Passage from former mayor Karl Dean’s memoirs?
Not even close.
The paragraph above is an excerpt from a Tennessean article published in the sports section on February 24, 1916. Entitled “Baseball is Best Medium for Advertisement to City”, the comments by A. P. Foster, secretary of the Industrial Bureau, extol the virtue of Nashville’s professional baseball team and the impression it brings to the city.
Comparison is drawn to major league cities of the day: Detroit (with the famous Ty Cobb), Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. Each has its own successful baseball team, and those successes bring attention to the cities. The article continues Foster’s point:
“…nothing can do more than a winning baseball team to publish the name of Nashville abroad, and there is no other agency here that takes the name of Nashville into every daily paper in the entire country, every day for six solid months per annum.”
Of equal importance is to give fans a winning team. Foster confirms his impression of manager Roy Ellam and the ball club’s management. But that’s not all.
“It is impossible for a team to win, no matter how good its material, unless it is supported by the home fans. All loyal Nashville fans and others should consider it not only a pleasure and honor, but a duty to turn out in a body and attend the opening day of the baseball season in Nashville…
“…the officials of the Nashville Baseball Association have spared neither labor nor money to make the 1916 team a strong one, and they should be accorded the enthusiastic support and backing that they deserve.”
Foster’s praises, Ellam’s leadership, and the off- and on-field accomplishments of the Nashville Vols proved to work hand-in-hand.
The effort to stock the team for a pennant run paid off as the club finished atop the Southern Association standings with an 84-54 record. It was Nashville’s fourth championship in the 16-year history of the league. Attendance would increase by just over 8,000, from 103,399 in 1915 to 111,418. With war looming on the horizon, that figure would be a season high until 1923 when Nashville would draw 160,000.
The regular season championship flag would not be hoisted in Sulphur Dell again for another 24 years. Through those years fan support waxed and waned at the triumphs and failures of the ball club.
Perhaps no one had a better grasp of the commercial impact of baseball of the day than did A. P. Foster in 1916.
–Nashville Tennessean, February 24, 1916
© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.