Calling For a Ball Park?

Nashville clubs, desiring to take their game to the mythical four corners of earth to establish hierarchy in the great stadium of sport, issued challenges that were easily accepted. Hopeful for an outcome of superiority, rivals anxiously consented for an opportunity to “vanquish” the opponent.

This was 1870s “base ball”, and challenges came from every club instead of the regular scheduling of games, as who was to know who the best club was without the continual jousting between clubs for superiority:

     The Independent Chick Base Ball Club challenges any club in the city, whose members are 16 years of age, to a match game.

     The North Nashville Club has been challenged by a club, the name of which, owing to the crookedness of the chirography, no fellow can find out.

     The N. Jacobus boys vanquished the G. F. Akers by a score of 17-12, giving them three goose eggs.

     The North Nashville Base Ball Club have cleaned up and leveled their grounds for the battle soon to come off with the Lincks.

     The South Nashvilles are anxious for a chance at the H. Drexlers.[1]

meatball-sepia-fwA cleared lot or field was no longer the acceptable location for a game. “Home field advantage”, became an important draw, and that meant an adequate ball field included considerations for spectators. The safety of crowds, especially in drawing ladies to games, added to the reasoning; to draw a crowd, “cleaned up and leveled” grounds were necessary.

The North Nashville and W. T. Lincks teams were the premier clubs in 1876, and each one’s challenges were not taken lightly. Teams on either side were expected to bat and field with their best ability, but at some point appearance became an important ingredient to a team’s superior class. Whether a part of the arrogance, aristocracy, or patronizing of one club over another, soon all clubs joined in on the regalia:

     The long looked for match of base ball between the noted Lincks and the North Nashvilles will be played to-morrow on the grounds of the North Nashvilles, near Mr. Felix Cheatham’s residence. The game will be called promptly at 3:30, and a large crowd is expected to be on hand, as this game will be the event of the season. Seats will be provided for all, and everybody is cordially invited, the ladies especially. A strong and sufficient force of police will be on duty to preserve order. Both clubs will appear in their new and beautiful uniforms.[2]

Two days later an account of the game, won by the Lincks 12-6, suggested between 2,500 and 3,000 spectators were on hand; about 600 of them were ladies. Eloquent description of the contest allowed for one interjection for the decades to come:

     Never since base ball was introduced have we seen such admirable playing. What a pity we have not a Base Ball Park.[3]

Was this the first call for what would become Nashville’s Athletic Park, affectionately known as Sulphur Dell to future generations?

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Nashville Daily American, August 23, 1876, p. 4

[2] Ibid., August 27, 1876, p. 4

[3] Ibid., August 29, 1876, p. 4

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