Category Archives: Current

Play Tennessee’s Vintage Game!

One of many joys a person has in his or her lifetime is friendships born in camaraderie. Often such joys are found with family, traveling to a far-away destination, or playing games. The great game of baseball permits us to watch, study, participate and enjoy what we call our “national pastime” with all the pleasures, and failings, that come with it. That’s where teamwork reigns.

Establishing roots in early-19th century America, mighty men of baseball slugged and slung a magnificent orb, while fans encouraged their favorite teams and players to win. Those same qualities, those same enjoyments, those same fans were there in the origins. The ball may have been a little softer, thrown with an underhand motion, and fielders were allowed to catch a fly ball on first bounce for an out. Men observing a game wore top hats and ladies wore hoop skirts, where a fiddler scratched out a rousing tune between innings, and players ran hard to gather in a grounder or to score. That was vintage baseball.

It still is.

Tennessee Vintage Base Ball was formed in 2013 to play baseball as most would understand it, but with 1864 rules that are modified slightly to keep players safe and fans interested without the detail of rules. It is separated from the modern game by more than dividing baseball into two words. Fair play is always in mind for everyone, and so is relishing  the past. But this style of game is not fleeting. It brings much of the best out of each and every player, and gentlemenly (and lady!) qualities prevail.

Have you seen a game? Do you want to know more, or have you thought you might like to participate? Do you want to have the time of your life? Watch this video; you will see and hear how life’s blessings are interwoven in baseball:

There many ways to become involved. I joined up as an umpire two years ago, and I can attest that I have had the time of my life. Camaraderie and friendship are worthy joys that come along with participation. If you would like to experience those in a special way, or just want to know more, just follow this link: www.tennesseevintagebaseball.com/register

We want to welcome you with a hearty “Huzzah!”

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Real Champions, Fake Products

Getting away from my usual research and blog posts that relate to Nashville baseball and Sulphur Dell, I am compelled to unleash my feelings about the unmitigated gall that some vendors have in bypassing MLB licensing.

First, let me say that I am a New York Yankees fan and have been since the age of 10. But I could not help myself in rooting for the Red Sox during the 2018 World Series because of two Tennessee greats on the Boston roster: Mookie Betts and David Price. The content of their character is what sets them apart from many ballplayers today; no roster is void of the other kind of character, but Betts and Price are very special men, and I am proud of both of them.

I spent 43 years in the sporting goods business, and from day one was taught how the sports licensing business works. Already this morning I am seeing a bunch of “Boston World Champions” fake merchandise, and it’s not right.

Any entity such as MLB, NFL, NBA, and Collegiate Licensing spends a lot of money, time, and effort to provide fans with the best quality merchandise, not cheap t-shirts, caps, and jerseys from sleazy vendors. These guys that think they are clever by outwitting the licensees, retailers, and sports clubs themselves verify their dishonorable practices.

“Boston World Champions” on any item that is advertised as soon as the game is over, yet carries no MLB-licensed hang tags nor is advertised by MLB itself, calls out that it is unlicensed by its own admission. The proper phrase is “Boston Red Sox, World Series Champions”, which is a licensed trademark of the Red Sox and MLB. See how the phrase is mis-used?

To those who commit this fraud: honor the license. Wouldn’t you want your trademarks honored?

My recommendation to fans: only buy OFFICIAL merchandise licensed by the sport…

​© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Could Happen

It is hard to argue that the longer baseball games are played, the more oddities occur. A couple of minor league twists during the past few days mark the characteristics that keep us watching our beloved game. The first was a win by a team that did not have a single hit, but still won, and the second had two players on the same team to hit for the cycle.

We knew it was going to happen, didn’t we? On Monday, August 6, 2018, the Clearwater Threshers (Florida State High Class-A), a farm club of the Philadelphia Phillies, had no walks and no hits. And won.[1]

Through seven innings, Tampa Tarpons pitcher Deivi Garcia struck out 12 Clearwater batters, and giving up no hits. Since the game was the second of the night (minor league double headers are seven innings), the eighth inning became an extra inning since the score was tied, 0-0.

The new 2018 rule in place for minor league teams, calling for a runner to be placed at second base automatically to begin extra innings, allowed for an eventful throwing error and fielder’s choice that gave the Threshers a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth, a lead they held to win. On no hits.

Last night in Indianapolis, second baseman Kevin Newman and catcher Jacob Stallings each had a single, double, triple, and home run in the Indians win over the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. According to sports writer Ryan Young, the feat has been duplicated before in the minor leagues, but never in the majors.[2]

Could an earlier prediction have been made for such as these?

Peculiar as those are, Nashville Banner sportswriter poised an interesting question in his book, I’ll Go Quietly (Nashville: McQuiddy Press, 1944). Under the title “Could Happen”, he wondered if in a team could make six hits in one inning, including three triples, and not score.

“Yes, it could happen, like this:” he writes.

“The first man up triples and is thrown out at the plate trying to stretch it into a homer. The second batsman does the same thing. The third hitter triples. That’s three triples, with two men out.

“The next batter singles to the third baseman; next man also singles to the third baseman, who on both plays, after making magnificent stops on balls labeled hits, decides to hold runner on third rather than make a play for the hitter. The next batter then singles and the ball hits a base runner, retiring the side.

“This could happen, but I doubt if it ever will, because base runners are taught to run on anything with two outs, and infielders are taught to play for the hitter when there are two out.”[3]

Mr. Russell, I’m not so sure your play has not happened at least once since 1944, but we know that just about anything else can. We keep going back to the ballpark to see just one more.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Notes

[1] Matt Monagan, “This Minor League team got no-hit and still won the game,” Cut4 by MLB.com, https://www.mlb.com/cut4/minor-league-team-gets-no-hit-and-still-wins-game/c-289197828, retrieved August 7, 2018.

[2] Ryan Young, “Two minor league teammates hit for the cycle in the same game,” Yahoo Sports, https://sports.yahoo.com/two-minor-league-players-hit-cycle-game-044657876.html, retrieved August 8, 2018.

[3] Fred Russell, I’ll Go Quietly, (Nashville: McQuiddy Press, 1944), 43.

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A Primer On Baseball Reading

My wife and I are planning our seven-day trip to Florida for rest and relaxation, and I have been sorting through my meager collection of books to decide which ones to take with me to read, reread, or finish. She is an avid reader at the rate of three or four a week, so I have much to do to catch up with her. Of course, I will never catch her, but I am bound and determined to make it through the ones I select.

This task reminded me that not long ago I was asked for book suggestions for someone who was interested in learning more about the history of baseball. I compiled the list from my own inventory, and only from books I have read. I am no expert on book reviews, but I know what I have enjoyed. This is my offer, all from my own collection, books I have read and enjoyed over the years:

Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game by John Thorn (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

 

 

 

 

​The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It by Lawrence S. Ritter (Macmillan, 1966)

 

 

 

 

Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn (Harper & Row, 1972)

 

 

 

 

A Complete History of the Negro Leagues: 1884 to 1955 by Mark Ribowsky (Carol Publishing Group, 1995)

 

 

 

 

Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer (Simon & Schuster, 2000)

 

 

 

 

Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman by Lee Lowenfish (University of Nebraska Press, 2007)

 

 

 

 

Willie’s Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, The Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend by John Klima (Wiley, 2009)

 

 

 

The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World by Joshua Prager (Vintage Books, 2006)

 

 

 

October 1964 by David Halberstam (Ballantine, 1994)

 

 

 

 

Ball Four by Jim Bouton (World, 1970)

 

 

 

 

One book that I would like to have included but cannot since I have not read it, is Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer (Simon & Schuster, 1974). It is one that seems to have eluded me, but if it makes delivery on time I will be carting it with me to the beach. I have purposely omitted Money Ball by Michael Lewis (W. W. Norton & Co., 2003), as that chapter of baseball history is ongoing; however, it is worth reading to learn the basis for statistical tools that have often overshadowed the game itself.

An additional note: these may be read in whatever order one wishes, but I have selected them in the order shown as a way of building up one’s knowledge of historical news, facts, and importance. Should one choose to deviate, be my guest. Baseball is the worthy subject no matter the order!

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Waiting for the New Season

As the cold winds blow outside from this winter’s blast, we tend to seek asylum between our blankets, in front of our fireplaces, or under layers of warm clothing with thought of spring’s early sunrises and warm glows. That helps to while away the time, but there is nothing like rejoicing in the Pastime that it brings.

Since baseball’s creation, revelers in the gentle sport have waited patiently for the new season to bring the cracking sound of bat on ball and thump of ball in mitt.

For years and years in towns and cities across the country during winter’s cruel and harsh term, there has been enthusiasm for new grass on dry fields and fetching of equipment from trunks and bags to expose them to warmth of sunlight.

On January 2, 1909, a piece was published by sports writer Billy W. Burke in the Nashville Tennessean under the column heading “Sportoscraps”, which brought assurance to baseball fans that spring was right around the corner.

It was a cue like the one most often credited to Rogers Hornsby, a Hall of Famer who reportedly once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Since staring out the window will only bring one a cold nose, dreams of America’s favorite sport will bring out good thoughts of energy, youth, and sunshine. Hold onto those happy clues, as it’s all just around the corner: major league pitchers and catchers report six weeks from today, and the home opener for our Nashville Sounds is only 99 days away from today.

Stay warm and certainly stay away from the window, but stay on course for a new spring and a new season. It will be unmasked soon; then let the revelry begin!

Note: I have suspicion that Billy W. Blanke is a pseudonym for Grantland Rice. A few of Blanke’s articles appear in the theater section of the Nashville Tennessean, a task which Rice also had. I have nothing that gives proof to my doubt, other than columns attributed to him are between 1908 and 1910. Rice left Nashville for an opportunity with the New York World in late 1910, a time when Blanke disappears from the local newspaper. I can find no “Billy W. Blanke” in other publications or geneolgy sites. In the least, Blanke must have been an apprentice to Rice; I am open to any proof that Billy was a real person, and will be happy to correct my questioning of his existence. 

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville Football, Hockey, now Soccer: Could Baseball be next?

Wednesday’s announcement of Nashville being awarded a Major League Soccer franchise brings new excitement to Music City’s sports scene. Everyone seems to have jumped on board, from Mayor Megan Barry, to the Metro Council, and soccer fans across the mid-state. Even the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators, and Nashville Sounds are okay with it, according to Tennessean sports writer Mike Organ who has written about their approval:  Titans, Sounds react to city landing MLS franchise[1]

The pro football and pro soccer seasons will not overlap very much, so there’s no surprise the Titans welcomed the new entry. The MLS stadium to be built at the Fairgrounds will only hold 27,000, and there is no fear that soccer would ever outdraw football.

Soccer is no match for the professional hockey experience in Nashville.

Nashville Sounds approval goes hand in hand with the announcement, as the ball club will be hosting a United States League soccer franchise that may fill the desire of fans before the MLS team begins play. The Nashville Soccer Club will play 18 home games at the Sounds home ballpark in a schedule that will run March through October.

There was a day when a new sports franchise would not have been welcomed the same way.

Larry Schmittou

Thirty-eight years ago, when Nashville was mentioned as a potential city in the fledgling World League of American Football, there was one team owner who was clearly against the idea: Nashville Sounds owner Larry Schmittou. The WLAF was an NFL-backed venture, envisioned as a developmental league for professional football; in fact, the league did commence play in 1991 with six teams in the United States, three in Europe, and one in Canada.

Nashville Sounds baseball was the only game in town. Schmittou’s disdain for any notion of Nashville becoming a team in the new league was clearly exhibited in a June 30, 1989 article by Tennessean sports writer Tom Wood: Schmittou hopes WLAF steers clear of city.[2]

At a recent Golden Bison event at Lipscomb University, Tom related a story about his 1989 happenstance meeting of Schmittou in the Greer Stadium elevator, how he and the team owner discussed the WLAF. Yesterday I asked Tom if he would refresh me with what he said at Lipscomb.

“I asked Larry just off-handedly what he thought about the WLAF coming to Nashville, and he forcefully said he would do everything in his power to prevent it from happening, that it was competition he didn’t need, etc.,” said Tom. “Recognizing it would be a great story, I asked him if he’d say that on the record and he said “yes”. I got out my tape recorder and we repeated the conversation. He could’ve declined but he clearly wanted the story out there. I don’t think he realized the negative reaction it would generate; I sure didn’t.”[3]

The Sounds president tied his dislike of any pro sport coming to the city on the hope he had for major league baseball to come to Nashville, but made it clear that his opinions were not personal, strictly business in the Tennessean article.

“I don’t have any control over it but I definitely think it would hurt the chances of major league baseball coming to this city.

“Baseball is the No. 1 priority to our investors and myself,” Schmittou said. “We have spent $10 million on our stadium over the last decade at no taxpayers’ expense. I don’t believe anybody else should get a break we’re not getting.

“Or how about in April when they’re playing a home game and we’re opening our season. My guess is we’ll be the ones to suffer.”

Clearly, Nashville in 1989 was a far different city than the one in the second decade of the 21st Century. It stands to reason that investors of a sports team nearly 40 years ago would protect their capital outlay and cost of running the team, but the economic climate today is bright for the future of soccer in a diverse Nashville.

Money will be being spent on a stadium location that will create additional havoc to a weak transportation system with no short-term solution, but with a fan base with dollars already being spent to attend music venues, honky tonks, and conventions.

“But there are only so many dollars to spend on all these sporting events,” Larry told me today, “and the first ones to be hurt by soccer are the Sounds. When I told Tom Wood what I did about the WLAF, it was more about setting the tone in defense of what we had going; but, we could not have kept it out. Especially if someone was going to put money behind it and if the city wanted it to happen.”[4]

I have said before that we won’t see MLB in Nashville anytime soon.[5] Larry agrees.

“I’m not sure even our grandchildren will see it,” he said.[6]

One day, Nashville is going to be on Major League Baseball’s radar, if it isn’t already. Perhaps it’s a little closer all the time, and the soccer franchise announcement may have helped. We know Nashville’s vibrant opportunities were used in presentations before MLS powers.

But soon the Titans are going to ask for a new stadium to rival Atlanta, Santa Clara, and Los Angeles, just watch. When they do, it will be given it to them. They have been good for the growth of the city, and I doubt anyone wants to see them move someplace like Oakland when the Raiders move to Las Vegas.

The only saving grace for baseball would be for a new football stadium to be built on the East Bank site where the metal recycling business is, then conform Nissan Stadium into a ballpark. It’s been done before; remember the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta which became Turner Field?

I will hold out for us becoming MLB-worthy if-and-when someone, or some group with lots of money, makes a presentation to MLB for a baseball franchise here. If Major League Soccer can come to Nashville, why not Major League Baseball?

I just know my grandchildren would love it.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

 

[1] Mike Organ, “Titans, Predators, Sounds react to city landing MLS franchise,” Tennessean, December 20, 2017, http://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/nashvillesc/2017/12/20/titans-sounds-react-city-landing-mls-franchise/969717001/ retrieved December 20, 2017

[2] Tom Wood, “Schmittou hopes WLAF steers clear of Nashville,” Nashville Tennessean, June 30, 1989, 23.

[3] Facebook message with Tom Wood, December 20, 2017

[4] Telephone conversation with Larry Schmittou, December 21, 2017

[5]MLB in Nashville? Nope,” https://262downright.com/2017/07/12/mlb-in-nashville-nope/, retrieved December 20, 2017.

[6] Schmittou.

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Psst: It’s Not About the Lunch

My boyhood friend Ralph writes wonderful stories about life that I relate to and wish I could call my own, even if just nearly so. He is especially expressive about his projects during our monthly “Lunch of the Exiles”, four guys from high school who enjoy communing together on a regular basis. Buddies Eddie and Ken round out this lunch bunch, and sometimes Ricci and others, all having known one another through our elementary-junior high-high school connections.

We connect one to another in our own way. Because I admire Ralph’s writing style, his published works allow me a perspective to my youth, days of marriage and raising kids, and even growing into the age I am presently in. So in that way, I often connect to Him. His words are so much of a parallel to those experiences of adolescent and teenage experimentation we share.

But it’s not just him. We have great fun, our small group, in remembering those vintage days of a close-knit neighborhood when life seemed to have been much simpler. We each have new, not-so-simple tales to tell about marriage and divorce, kids and grandkids, good health and sometimes bad news about operations, procedures, and ill health.

And we share much more, too. After our recent September daytime seance my wife invited the boys and their wives to meet us for a surprise birthday supper at a local Mexican restaurant (complete with one free dessert and eight forks for sharing and a spoonful of whipped cream in the face of the sombreroed guest of honor).

Eddie (who previously bought my lunch as a gift) gave me a birthday card, Ralph gave me a copy of a book of baseball stories (“Nobody writes like this anymore…”), and to my great surprise Ken presented me with my very own eighth grade Advanced Math textbook, the real one, complete with underlined sentences, penciled calculations in the margins, and jokes, sayings, and pictures of subjects that were obviously impacting my lame, non- algebraic mind at the time.

Can you see that one of our connections is the written word? I do. Even a card, simple words of caring and love in it’s own way, is a book. Thanks Eddie, Ken, and Ralph.

But Ralph writes, and I read, and in his pages I sense my own past, present, and future, assisted by Eddie and Ken’s tales of boyhood, too. But more than basketball scores, teachers names, and cafeteria food fights, Ralph remembers how he felt about basketball and his dream of becoming a star in his own right, the impact teachers had on his future penmanship and the authoring of novels and short stories, how gorgeous certain girls were and the beauty he captured in his mind. His hidden whims, secrets, and more, are expressed beautifully in his published works.

As an aside to this love-fest of words, and since I usually write baseball stories, I am glad to say that this morning I finished the book that was Ralph’s gift, “Baseball: Four decades of Sports Illustrated’s finest writing on America’s favorite pastime” (1993, Time, Inc.).

Ralph is right, nobody writes like this anymore.

But as I encourage folks to read it, I also encourage others to experience Ralph’s works (www.ralphbland.com); he writes in a delightful style he can call his own.

And while you are at it, round up three great friends like mine and have lunch.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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