Not necessarily known as a power hitter, Nashville’s Jimmy Wasdell had a special game at Sulphur Dell on May 27, 1936 that proved otherwise. Facing Little Rock’s big 6’4”, 210 lb. right-hander Joe Mulligan and reliever Charlie Burgess, Wasdell had three hits and drove in seven runs to lead the Vols to a 12-5 win over the Travelers.
Appearing in only his twelfth game in a Nashville uniform, 20-year-old Wasdell raised his batting average from .289 to .320, increased his RBI totals from eight to 15, and slammed his first home run of the season, a grand slam. He scored three runs and added two doubles to complete his evening’s feat.
Third baseman Jimmy Outlaw added two singles as submarine thrower Byron Speece won his 10th game of the season by holding Little Rock to one hit in the first six innings before allowing two additional hits in the last three frames. Tiring in the late innings, his teammates secured his victory by scoring 12 runs in the first two-thirds of the game when “Lord Byron” was at his best.
With the win, the Nashville club held second place with a 26-17 record, 7 ½ games behind front-runner and defending champion Atlanta.
Wasdell was holding down the first sack as the seventh Vols player to play the position on the young season. Raised in Cleveland and signed by the hometown club, Jimmy had been a pitcher in the local sandlots. Sent to Zanesville (Class C – Middle Atlantic League) as an outfielder he led the club in hitting (.357), doubles (54), and home runs (19).
Moved to Minneapolis (Class A – American Association) to begin the 1936 season, he was moved to the outfield when he could not beat out Millers first baseman Joe Hauser. On May 14 Wasdell was sent to Nashville to provide stability at first base and add an additional left-handed hitter in manager Lance Richbourg’s lineup.
Jimmy started but was hitless on May 15, then secured his first hit the next day against Memphis’ Sol Carter, scoring a run in the process. Over the course of nearly two weeks, Wasdell would average one hit per game until his breakout event.
But on June 26, a pitch thrown by Chattanooga Lookouts lefty Dick Lanahan caught Wasdell square on the chin, breaking his jaw. At the time Jimmy had been hitting at a .339 pace, and had socked 8 homers as the Vols chased the Atlanta Crackers in the standings.
Out for better than two weeks, upon his return he maintained his hitting and fielding but teammates thought he never recovered his power hitting after the injury.
Nashville ended the year seven games behind first-place Atlanta, who topped the loop with a 94-59 regular season record. The Vols garnered second-place at 86-65. Appearing in 88 games, Wasdell’s season average would stand at .336 on 107 hits, 22 doubles, and 12 home runs.
In the off-season, Wasdell would be traded to Chattanooga, a Washington Senators farm club, where he batted .319. Appearing in 32 games for the Senators near the end of the 1937 season, he jumped between the majors and minors over the course of the next 15 seasons and would play for Washington, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Cleveland before retiring in 1949.
On a special night in a game played at Sulphur Dell on May 27, 1936, Wasdell broke out of a slump and thumped Little Rock pitching to jumpstart his special season for Nashville.
© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.