Future posts may be found here: www.sulphurdell.com/blog-262-down-right.
Thank you, Skip
Future posts may be found here: www.sulphurdell.com/blog-262-down-right.
Thank you, Skip
A similar transaction nearly took place four years earlier. On January 14, 1955, an agreement was signed by Murray, along with business partner Larry Gilbert, to sell to a syndicate represented by Fred C. Rule, president of F. C. Rule Construction, and headed up by J. D. Jackson. Reportedly, the plan of the syndicate was to demolish the grandstand and sell the property for business purposes. A new location was to be sought to build a new ballpark, and even though the syndicate had no plans to move the franchise, it was reported that Knoxville, Tampa, and Jacksonville were anxious to obtain the franchise.
“We want a modern baseball plant,” Rule stated yesterday. “We want one that will seat something like 10,000. We believe a new park would be the best think we could do for baseball.”
On January 22, 1955, co-owners Murray and Larry Gilbert confirmed that they faced the loss of their franchise. The last year for the club to show a profit was 1950; in 1948, the best year for Nashville attendance with 269,843, was the last year Gilbert was manager. At the end of that season, another syndicate tried to buy, and he refused. Now Gilbert is desperate to sell his half-interest in the club and retire full-time to his native town of New Orleans.
All this after Nashville Vols outfielder Bob Lennon won the Southern Association triple crown with 64 home runs, hit for a .354 average, and knocked in 161 runs. But only 89,470 fans attended the games at Sulphur Dell that season, a decrease of 50,000.
This is Part 2 of the ongoing story. Read more about the events that led to the sale of the Nashville ball club in 1959 in the next installment.
Note: This Nashville baseball history was presented on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the 15th annual Southern Association Conference at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.
 Raymond Johnson, “One Man’s Opinion – Baseball Business Brisk Despite City’s Winter Weather,” Nashville Tennessean, January 25, 1955, 16.
October rings in the close of each baseball season, as the National League and American League champions move on to the best-of-seven World Series. Once a champion is determined, players tuck away their cleats, gloves, and bats for winter, unless opportunity allows them to continue in barn-storming exhibitions to pick up some winter cash. Otherwise, stadiums are locked down until the wisp of spring sets in once again.
Minor league teams finish their seasons much sooner than the big-league clubs, and it was no different in 1913 when the Atlanta Crackers won the regular season Southern Association championship by ½ game over the Mobile Sea Gulls. Bill Schwartz’s Nashville Vols were 19 ½ games behind in the standings with a 62-76 record, good enough for seventh place.
Having completed its season, Atlanta secured the pennant on September 7, as Mobile lost to last-place New Orleans, thereby giving the Georgia club the flag. Most eyes soon focused on the major’s culmination series, taken by Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics as they vanquished Mugsy McGraw’s New York Giants in five games. One would believe that was all the baseball to be played for the year, as football was gaining traction. Games were already being played at Sulphur Dell by high school teams and Fisk University.
Even with no minor league playoffs in those days, Nashville was still in the baseball business. Its own regular season finished, Sulphur Dell hosted a game on the same day as the Crackers pennant clinch. It featured an all-star team from the not-to-distant Kitty (Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee) League, mostly players on the Clarksville and Hopkinsville teams. Only a few hundred fans viewed the contest won by Nashville, 4-1.
Once Mack’s Athletics had captured the World Series crown on October 11, it was time for one final game in Nashville. Sportswriter Jack Nye made the announcement in the October 13 edition of the local newspaper.
“With the closing of the world’s series the obituary of the baseball season is usually written throughout the country but Nashville fans will have one more opportunity to witness an exhibition game before the old winter league sets in.
“Arrangements have been made for a game at the Athletic park next Sunday afternoon between an all-amateur and an all-professional team, chosen from the baseball talent of this city…”.
Named to pitch for the pros were Roy Walker, a pitcher from the New Orleans club, Detroit’s Charlie Harding, who was 12-6 for the Tigers’ Winston-Salem club, and Nashville native Bill McTigue. Native Nashville pro Bob Fisher, who had spent the past season as the Brooklyn Superbas shortstop, would play third base and join Nashville’s John Lindsay (shortstop) and Bill Schwartz (second base) in the infield, while Johnson City’s Tige Garrett would hold down first base.
Earl Peck, catcher for the Henderson Hens, was to man chores behind the plate. The remainder of the pro roster would include outfielders Johnny Priest, who had been a member of the Yankees a few years prior, Knoxville’s James Burke and another Nashville-born slugger, Tiny Graham. Graham had batter .370 during the season for Morristown in the Appalachian League.
Hub Perdue, from nearby Sumner County and nicknamed the “Gallatin Squash” by sportswriter Grantland Rice during his local tenure a few years ago, was to be the featured star for the amateurs even though Perdue had been a professional since 1906. Perdue had played for Nashville 1907-1910 (he was 16-10 on the Vols’ 1908 championship club) and had been a member of the National League’s Boston Braves for the past three years. It was rumored that he had been signed by the Giants’ McGraw to play on a barn-storming tour around the world during the winter.
The balance of the amateur staff would be made up by Payne, catcher; Tally, first base; Lynch, second base; Sawyers, shortstop; Harley, third base; O. Schmidt, left field; Sutherland, center field; Conley, right field; and Gower, substitute.
Two days before the game was to take place on Sunday, October 19, the Friday edition of the Nashville Tennessean and Daily American announced lineup changes. Two professionals with ties to Nashville, Wilson Collins, pitcher for the Boston Braves, and Clarence “Pop Boy” Smith, of the Chicago White Sox, were set to join players previously set to play.
“Collins will play centerfield for the professionals, while Smith has agreed to assist Hub Perdue in pitching for the amateurs. It will be Collins’ first professional appearance in Nashville, and his presence in the line-up is sure to prove a big drawing card, especially among the Vanderbilt students. Smith married a Nashville girl some months ago, and is at present visiting in the city. He declared that he would be glad to take part in the contest, and says his arm is as strong as during the middle of the American league season.
Also added to the pross roster as substitute was Munsey Pigue, who had previously played third base for Clarksville and Cairo, and who had made Nashville his residence.
The day before the game, Perdue was touting his ability to perform, quoted about his willingness to pitch to the best of his ability. “Tell ‘em I’ll show ‘em some pitching tomorrow afternoon,” said Hurling Hub Perdue last night. “I am going to pitch my old arm off to win that game.”
Perdue was a promoter, that’s for certain, but whether due to a small turnout of only 200 fans or in truth suffering from a sore arm, he did not pitch in the game. And the pros took it on the chin, too.
“Hub Perdue was there, but did not pitch on account of a sore arm. However, the son of Sumner took his place on the coaching lines, and was one of the big attractions of the afternoon’s entertainment.”
Held hitless by pitcher “Crip” Springfield through eight innings, the pros could not collect a run until the bottom of the ninth when they had two hits to force across the tying run, sending the game into the tenth inning. Springfield, who had a lame leg, won the game when the amateurs scored a run in the bottom of the tenth and the pros could not respond.
It was Springfield’s triple in the eighth that drove in the amateurs’ first run, but it was his brilliant mastery of the pros that had the sportswriters buzzing.
“Crip Springfield, of the Rock City league, is the name of the hero of the post-season game, which drew the bugs out in spite of the chilly weather and he came near having a no-run, no-hit game to his credit.”
Perdue would play two more seasons in the majors, with Boston (1914) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1914-1915). He would not return to the majors, but he remained in the minors for another seven seasons. Fighting through lingering arm troubles and wrenching his back slipping on a wet mound, even a spiking incident could not keep him from finishing his minor league career with 168 wins against 129 losses. He even returned to Nashville for a short time in 1920.
In 1921 he was given another chance to manage a team, eight years after his first foray of leading a squad of amateurs. Named manager of the Nashville Vols, the season did not go well, as Perdue’s club finished in sixth place, a distant 41 ½ games behind pennant-winning Memphis. It was his second opportunity to manage, and his last.
Did his previous bid to lead a club in 1913 foretell his managing misfortune?
© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.
Wright, Marshall D. (2002). The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.
 Jack Nye, “Kitty League All Stars Beaten,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, September 8, 1913, 10.
 Nye, “One More Baseball Game Here Before Old Winter League Begins,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 13, 1913, 10.
 “Two More Major League Stars To Play,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 17, 1913, 10.
 “Will Pitch My Arm Off, Says Perdue,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 19, 1913, 34.
 “Professionals Held To Two Hits,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 20, 1913, 10.
I just thought I’d write to let you know this is it. I can’t fight for you anymore. Even though you came along just when I needed you, I’ve turned away when you needed me so many times before, and this is the last time. You have been there for me, always, but I just don’t know what to do to keep our love alive. Nothing seems to work.
You have been as faithful as anyone could ask, but you’ve seen better days and I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you down and toss you out. You see, I’ve done this before, so I know how it works, and that will make it so much easier this time.
Memories are hard to let go, and I have many good ones of you. I guess I wish others cared as much as I do. We’ve talked a lot about what to do with you for some time, how great you have been, but how overlooked you were. You needed much more love over the years, but inaction and neglect were the best things we could give you. I wish it wasn’t that way.
You sure looked good early on. You were pretty and I thought you’d just go on forever.
Maybe all I can do is to tell you how much I love you, even though there is more that you could have done. I know you want to do more, to be more. I am afraid you are not going to get that chance.
I’m not the only one who loves you, though. I mean, weren’t you made for youngsters and oldsters alike? Isn’t there a lot of good DNA still left in your dirt, and along your walls and in your seats? It’s there. We just don’t care anymore.
You might be like that guitar a country singer sets down at the end of his last performance. His instrument becomes a hole in his heart. Just looking at it will bring back faded memories, since it does no good just sitting there.
No matter. You just won’t survive this. I’m especially sad for your kids who may not have a place to play our pastime. We don’t think about that, do we?
Goodbye Greer. I’ll never forget you.
Special thanks to Davy Cothron the use of his image of Greer Stadium
© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.
Eugene Earl Host was once one of the highest-rated mound prospects in the Detroit organization. Born on January 1, 1933 in Leeper, Pennsylvania, the 5′ 11″, 190-pound hard-throwing left hander was signed as a 19-year-old free agent in 1952 by the Detroit Tigers.
Sent to Kingston of the Coastal Plains League in his first professional season, he was 26-7 with a 1.81 ERA and named to the league All Star team.
He spent the 1953 season with Montgomery in the South Atlantic League (A) where he was 10-13 with a 3.51 ERA and in 1954 bounced between three teams: Little Rock (Southern Association – AA), Wilkes-Barre (Eastern League – A), and Durham (Carolina League – B). His combined record was 7-7.
In 1955 he spent the entire season with Little Rock where he was 10-13 once again. In May he hit Chattanooga’s Lyle Luttrell with a pitch, breaking his jaw.
In 1956 he finished 13-15 with Charleston (American Association – AAA) before being called up to the Tigers where his contract with the major league club called for a salary of $4,200.
He pitched in one game for Detroit at Briggs Stadium on September 16, 1956 against Boston. Wearing number 19, he started the game and allowed four runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Two of those hits were home runs by Billy Klaus (in the 5th inning with one on and one out) and Jackie Jensen (also in the 5th inning, a solo shot with two out).
After a single by Jimmy Piersall and a walk to Norm Zauchin, manager Bucky Harris called on future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning to replace Host on the mound. Bunning won in relief, allowing one hit the rest of the way as the Tigers won 8-4.
On December Host was traded by the Tigers with Wayne Belardi, Ned Garver, Virgil Trucks and $20,000 to the Kansas City Athletics for Jack Crimian, Jim Finigan, Bill Harrington and Eddie Robinson.
Host signed with Kansas City at a salary of $5,100 and appeared in 11 games for the Athletics in 1957, mostly in relief. His uniform number was 28. He started two games, at Comiskey Park on April 20 against the Chicago White Sox (his first game for Kansas City, no decision) and at Cleveland Stadium on May 10 against the Indians (his first loss of the season).
His second loss came on June 9 at home at Municipal Stadium. In relief of Tom Morgan with no one out and two on in the fifth inning Host retired the side with no outs. In the eighth he gave up a solo home run to Ted Lepcio. In the ninth inning Jimmy Piersall and Ted Williams hit home runs and Lepcio singled home Jackie Jensen. Boston won 8-4 as Kansas City’s offense gave no support to Host.
On June 14 at Kansas City versus the New York Yankees, Host came on in relief of Mickey McDermott. Facing Mickey Mantle with two out and Bobby Richardson on second, Mantle promptly homered. Finishing the game, Host allowed seven hits, three runs (all earned), and struck out one: Mantle in the ninth.
Host’s final game in the majors was on June 23 at Fenway Park in Boston where he allowed three runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Traded to Buffalo for Glenn Cox a few weeks later, Host pitched in three games for the Bisons before being obtained by the Denver Bears of the American Association in late July. Under the tutelage of manager Ralph Houk, Denver won their league title. Playing versus Buffalo in the Junior Series championships Host was removed from the 20-player limit but he shared in the players’ share of the winnings.
In September he was sent to Little Rock to end the season. He was 1-4 in five appearances for the Travelers before being assigned back to Buffalo for 1958.
Host never appeared for the Bisons, however, as he was purchased by Indianapolis (American Association – AAA) in April before the season began. Having made his home in Little Rock, he left the club for a week to return to Arkansas without explanation, then rejoined the team on April 24. In May the Indians sent him to San Antonio (Texas League – AA) who returned him to Buffalo in June.
Buffalo assigned him to Winona (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League – Class B) but he refused to report and was placed on baseball’s suspended list.
Out of baseball in 1959, he returned the next season as a member of the Monterrey Sultans (Mexican League – AA) pitching staff. In the opening game he was the loser in a slugfest in Mexico City in front of 25,000 fans who saw the Reds win 13-8. His record with the Sultans was 2-5 as his ERA ballooned to 5.86.
Host was a member of the Nashville Vols in 1961, signed by the club in March. He appeared in 11 games, winning two and losing five. His first win came against Chattanooga on Monday, April 10 in the second game of the season as Nashville trounced the Lookouts 8-6. By May 3 Birmingham handed him his fourth consecutive defeat, but on May 7 he pitched brilliantly in a four-hit, 2-0 shutout as Nashville’s Gene Davis popped a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
It was Host’s final win of his career. The May 31, 1961 edition of The Sporting News announced his release by Nashville.
Once his baseball career was over he became a bus driver for Continental Trailways, and in 1964 began working as a machinist at the Ford Motor Co. glass plant in Nashville. Host passed away August 20, 1998 at the age of 65 and was cremated.
© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.
On July 29, 1945, Mobile catcher Harry Chozen lays down an unsuccessful sacrifice bunt, ending his consecutive-game hitting streak at 49. It was the 11th inning of a 13-inning affair in Mobile, and Chozen finishes the game 0-for-5.
The unlikely batting hero caught for the Cincinnati Reds on September 21, 1937 against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Wayne LeMaster. After flying out to right, popping up to the first baseman in foul territory, and grounding out to first, Chozen hit a single in the bottom of the ninth inning for his only hit and only appearance in the major leagues. The Reds lost 10-1.
He played the next four years in the Eastern League for Albany and Williamsport, then in the Virginia League with Newport News before moving to Knoxville and Mobile in the Southern Association after World War II.
In surpassing Nashville’s Johnny Bates’ 45-game streak set in 1925, Chozen admitted that a broken bat was used for every hit of the streak.
“I broke my bat when I got my first hit of the streak on May 27 (in Memphis).” Chozen said. “I started to give it to my kid, but changed my mind and did a tack and tape job, and brother, it has paid dividends.”
He even hit a home run with it, in his first time up on July 22. It was his 46th game of his stretch, breaking Bates’ record.
Some controversy surrounded Chozen’s feat. On July 6, after having hit safely in 33 consecutive games, he was issued a base on balls in his first time at the plate. Catching in the fourth inning, he was hit in the head by Chicks player Pete Thomassie on his follow-through swing. Unconscious, Chozen was removed from the game.
As there was no official plate appearance, Chozen’s streak continued for another 16 games before it ended.
When his streak was halted, he connected for a hit in his next eight games before being collared by New Orleans Pelicans pitcher Trader Horn on August 8. On the year his 103 hits came in 292 appearances for a .353 average. He played in 88 games that season, but was made a free agent at the end of the year according to the terms of his contract.
He signed with Memphis for 1946 before assuming the manager’s reins at Greenville in the Class C Cotton States League for 1947. One of his starting pitchers was Bob Kelley, who would pitch for Nashville in 1950-1951 and 1956. Chozen also played in 97 games that season.
He played and managed for the next four seasons at Miami Beach (Florida International League-C), Pine Bluff (Cotton States League-C) for two seasons, and Lake Charles (Gulf Coast League-B) before finishing his playing career in 1952 at Greenville once again.
Chozen passed away on September 16, 1994 in Houston, Texas at the age of 78.
Nashville’s Johnny Bates had set the previous league record by hitting in 45 consecutive games during the 1925 season. His personal run began with two hits against Atlanta on July 30, ending with two hits on the last day of his streak against Milt Steengraffe of Little Rock on September 16.
In 26 of those games he had only one hit to keep his pace intact. His 72 hits gave him a .370 average and he scored 44 runs during the streak. Bates ended the season with a .349 batting average.
Bates had played in the Southern Association previously with Mobile and Chattanooga, and for Rocky Mount (Virginia League-B). He spent three seasons at shortstop with Nashville before moving to Mobile at the end of the 1927 season.
Not much else is known about Bates, as his baseball record and personal history are incomplete. It is believed that he was born on August 21, 1882 at Steubenville, Ohio; which, if true, would have him as a 43-year-old during his record-setting year.
But comparing his and Chozen’s records to Joe DiMaggio’s widely-known 56-game major league hitting streak places them in the top of the all-time list.
The Yankee Clipper’s personal best had been set in 1933 as a member of the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League (AAA) with 61 straight, and baseball’s record champion across both major and minor leagues was established by Joe Wilhoit in 1919 while playing for Wichita in the Class A Western League. The hitting streak records of all-time in the major and minor leagues:
Joe Wilhoit Western League 69 1919
Joe DiMaggio Pacific Coast League 61 1933
Joe DiMaggio New York Yankees (AL) 56 1941
Román Mejías Big State League 55 1954
Otto Pahlman Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League 50 1922
Jack Ness Pacific Coast League 49 1915
Harry Chozen Southern League 49 1945
Johnny Bates Southern League 46 1925
Willie Keeler Baltimore Orioles (NL) 45 1896-97*
Jamie McOwen California League 45 2009
Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds (NL) 44 1978
*Keeler had a hit on the last day of the 1896 season, then hit safely in the first 44 games of the 1897 season
Two special players, each with average careers, had one very special season of their lives, and their feats were never matched in the Southern Association.
© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.
Wechsler, Bob (2008). Day by Day in Jewish History. Jersey City, New Jersey: KATV Publishing House.
 Anniston Star, July 30, 1945.
 Wilkes-Barre Record, July 27, 1945.
 Baseball Records, Southern Association from 1901-1945 Inclusive.
 Russell, Fred; George Leonard (1950). Vol Feats: Records, History and Tales of the Nashville Club in the Southern Association 1901-1950. Nashville, Tennessee: Nashville Banner.
 SABR Baseball Biography Project, incomplete