Category Archives: Opinion

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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P. T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman”, in Nashville

Many recall the Shrine Circus at Sulphur Dell; how it entertained with clown parades and performers in the three rings laid out in the ball field. The finale was usually the Human Cannonball, and spectators oohed and aahed with the explosion of the cannon shot as his body hurtled through the air to a net, erected to catch him before he landed on his head in the ballpark outfield and keep him from bouncing over the right field fence into the ice house across the street in case of a miscalculated trajectory.

A reminder of those special nights comes in the form of a 2017 movie, The Greatest Showman, based on the life of P. T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. It has garnered a 3.5/4 review from film critic Sheila O’Malley[1] and is widely accepted as a success.

P. T. Barnum with Tom Thumb

Barnum proclaimed himself, “…a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me…”[2] This king of the circus loved money so much, that he is often credited with having said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” which meant he was happy to separate anyone from the money in one’s pockets. His fame includes bringing a dwarf, General Tom Thumb, and the “Swedish Nightingale”, Jenny Lind, to his circus. His entourage toured Europe, and many cities and towns in the United States in the middle of the 19th Century.

Nearly 40 years before it was known as Sulphur Dell, the low-lying area north of Nashville’s downtown was called Sulphur Spring Bottom. It had a natural salt lick and sulphur spring, and many years before the city was founded, the area teemed with wildlife, especially buffalo and deer who came to lick the mineral salt.

In the 1860s the area was the city’s recreational grounds. It was there that baseball found its home, evacuated it 100 years later, and then reclaimed it in 2015 when the Nashville Sounds opened their new ballpark.

But in 1872, wild animals returned in the form of one of Barnum’s excursions named his “World’s Fair.”[3]

The exposition set up tents on Tuesday, November 12 for two days of performances after traveling from nearby Columbia where Nashville’s Republican Banner said “A very large number of people attended Barnum’s show at Columbia yesterday. It is said that his mammoth tents were well filled.[4]

With a warning that “The ‘Digger Indian’ in Barnum’s circus leaped down from his stand, while on exhibition at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, the other day, and gave a negro who had insulted him a sound drubbing”[5], the same newspaper gave a glowing recommendation by reporting “Barnum’s big show is now a topic of much discussion. It is likely to be better attended than anything of the kind that has appeared for years.”[6]

The newspaper also gave another warning on November 10.

“Reliable information has been received at Police headquarters to the effect that a large troupe of thieves, burglars, pickpockets, ebony legs and every conceivable kind of dishonest men are following Barnum’s circus around and as this will exhibit at Nashville Tuesday and Wednesday next, we are requested to warn our citizens in time that they may be on the look out [sic] for the visits of such characters as above alluded to.”[7]

Everyone expected thrills for adults from Barnum’s entourage, but it was the imagination of the young that brought great expectation.

The opening was a wonderful success, and certainly made an impression on the minds of youth.

“Barnum’s big show is agitating the hearts of juveniles.”[8]

The Nashville Union and American also lavished praise on Barnum’s creation “a brilliant and elaborate exposition that attracted universal attention and admiration” and “Great is Barnum”.[9]

But there was one Republic Banner report was did not initially seem positive in the substance of the exhibits.

“The stuffed whale, and that more stupendous stuff, the Cardiff Giants, were hardly worth transportation. Those “cannibals,” sentenced to death, from which fate the generous Barnum is to rescue them by the sacrifice of the pitiful $15,000 bond he is under to return them to the irate King of the Feejees; that “beautiful” Caucassian [sic], captured from some New York harem-scarem; the “sleeping beauty” (in wax) and other absurdities, were as cheap “curiosities” (as the interpreter of the ring phrazes [sic] it) as the little wooden automatons on Barnum’s portrait gallery.”[10]

In closing, the newspaper had to acknowledge the popularity of the big show and the mastery of Barnum’s ability to promote his business.

“And yet it drew like a house on fire. It drew because it was well advertised, and good people who protest that their business, which is genuine, does not draw, while Barnum’s, which is not so legitimate, does, should consult P. T., and see “what he knows about advertising.”

Soon reviews out of Columbia did not hold the same manner of respect for Barnum; not for his exhibits, but for the crooks who followed the circus from town to town.

On the same day as the report of the Columbia newspaper, support for Nashville’s police force was made public. Perhaps Nashville’s finest had heeded the warning from the city Barnum had visited only days earlier.

Sadly Barnum’s New York museum and menagerie burned on the morning of December 24. Two elephants and a camel were the only animals to survive. Barnum was still on tour in New Orleans; his losses were estimated at over $100,000.[11]

P. T. Barnum, who was known primarily as a circus man, was an author, a newspaper publisher, politician, businessman, and certainly, a showman. He did not establish his circus until 1871, a year before it appeared in Nashville.[12]

Barnum died in 1891 at the age of 80. Perhaps in his only visit to Nashville, nearly 150 years ago he once constructed his circus on the grounds we now hallow as Nashville’s historical baseball home.

Note: My wife Sheila and I saw “The Greatest Showman” on January 3, 2018. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and though not a professional film critic, I give the movie the best review I can: it’s a home run, hit far over the fence and out of the park.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Sheila O’Mally, “The Greatest Showman”, RogerEbert.com, https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-greatest-showman-2017, accessed January 3, 2017.

[2] Kunhardt, Philip B., Jr.; Kunhardt, Philip B., III; Kunhardt, Peter W. (1995). P.T. Barnum: America’s Greatest Showman. Alfred A. Knopf., 6.

[3] “Barnum’s Mammoth Show, Nashville Republican Banner, November 13, 1872, 4.

[4] “Sidewalk Notes.,” Nashville Republican Banner, November 9, 1872, 4.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Burglars, Thieves and Pickpockets,” Nashville Union and American, November 19, 1872, 4.

[8] “Sidewalk Notes.,” Nashville Republican Banner, November 13, 1872, 4.

[9] “Barnum’s Show.,” Nashville Union and American, November 14, 1872, 4.

[10] “What He Knows About Advertising.,” Nashville Republican Banner, November 14, 1872, 4.

[11] “New York. Barnum’s Menagerie Burned Again,” Nashville Union and American, December 25, 1872, 1

[12] Sarah Maslin Nir and Nate Schweber. “After 146 Years, Ringling Brothers Circus Takes Its Final Bow,” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/21/nyregion/ringling-brothers-circus-takes-final-bow.html, accessed January 4, 2018.

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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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Manly Baseball Coquet or Womanly Croquet?

Happy New Year! As an opening post for 2018, I offer for your consideration a statement of the worth of Nashville baseball, albeit in an unusual context.

With no certainty to the Nashville Union and American’s intent, a letter published on May 12, 1870 admonishes the editors for not publicizing the “womanly” game of croquet. Was the missive in response to the report of a base ball game between the “Lucks” and “Washingtons” six days earlier (won by the former by a score of 28-8) which ends the description with “Verily, the base ball fever rageth”?

Or, is the unnamed writer actually a newspaper editor, satirically extolling the importance of croquet in jest, perhaps in reaction to unpublished feedback from a female writer, or maybe his own wife at home?

Here is the entertaining newspaper entry in its entirety.  Should you choose to accept the task of deciding if this is an actual letter from a concerned reader, or a parody from a sports writer, take your time. You have the entire year to come to ponder your decision and come to a conclusion before letting me know what you think. Make it a great year!

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

 

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