Nashville’s Hot Hand Crushes Little Rock

Nashville’s hitting corps showed its hot hand in a game at Little Rock on June 23, 1934 by scoring 11 runs in the first two innings in a runaway win over the Travelers, 13-3. With 19 hits in the game, every Vols player had at least one and scored a run off three opposing pitchers, while Nashville’s Frank Gabler allowed seven hits and two earned runs in winning his fourth game.

Second baseman Al Cuccinello’s drop of a fly ball gave the Travs one of their runs – not that the hometown fans cared that much. Less than 300 attended the game.

It was the Vols’ sixth win in nine games on their current road trip, having won 18 games on the road while losing 10. With the win, Nashville remained in first place in Southern Association standings with a 43-20 record, 7 ½ games ahead of second-place New Orleans.

Six Vols regulars were now hitting over .300 on the season: Hank Lieber (.433), Phil Weintraub (.408), Lance Richbourg (.332), Joe Martin (.317), Dutch Prather (.304), and Bill Rodda (.303). Submarine pitcher Byron Speece leads in the pitching department with a 13-1 record.

Sources

Baseball-reference.comNashville TennesseanNewspapers.comSabr.org​Wright, Marshall D. (2002) “The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961″. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc.© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Schmees Goes, Gilbert Stays

In a Sunday double header against New Orleans at Sulphur Dell on June 22, 1958, Buddy Gilbert and George Schmees lead Nashville to its fifth and sixth consecutive wins, 9-3 and 8-6.

Schmees has four hits in eight at-bats including two home runs (one was a grand slam in the first game) and drives in eight runs. Gilbert also hit two home runs, his 18th and 19th of the season, driving in seven runs with four hits in five plate appearances. Over the last week, he has 19 hits in 32 times at the plate with seven homers, 21 RBI, increasing his batting average to .302. He has a hit in each of the past 13 games.

Immediately after the game Schmees is told he has been sold to Salt Lake City of the Pacific Coast League, ending his 2 1/2 -year tenure with the ball club.

Sources

Nashville Tennessean

Newspapers.com

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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It Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over: Nashville’s Amazin’ Rally

One of the more remarkable feats to take place at Sulphur Dell occurred on May 8, 1959, when the Nashville Vols made a comeback like no other.

With 2,672 fans on hand, the game versus the Memphis Chicks had already supplied several highlights, including Crawford Davidson’s first inning single that continued his 10-game hitting streak, and quick double plays by both clubs. The fourth inning provided extra “oohs” and “ahs” from the crowd, starting when Vols shortstop Phil Shartzer nabbed a swinging bunt that second baseman Carlos Castillo booted. Shartzer’s throw barely beat Memphis pitcher Jack Brown to first base. In the bottom of the fourth, Chicks center fielder Elio Toboso deprived Shartzer of an extra base hit by hauling in a long stroke near the wall.

Brown was throwing well, giving up only six hits through eight innings. Even having only two strikeouts, he was never in serious trouble. Buddy Gilbert’s double was the only threat and was quickly vanquished.

But the best was saved for last. With the Chicks leading 7-0 into the bottom of the ninth and Brown tiring, the Vols scored eight runs to win 8-7. Here’s how the sequence played out:

  • Buddy Gilbert singles, Phil Shartzer hits a double, and Haven Schmidt homers; the score is now 7-3.
  • Carlos Castillo and Tommy Dotterer each single, causing a pitching change by the Chicks manager as starter Brown is relieved by Bill Pleis.
  • Marv Blaylock singles to drive in Castillo and the score is 7-4.
  • Crawford Davidson singles; another pitching change is made for Memphis as reliever Bill Slack comes on.
  • Altus “Chico” Alvarez hits a single to drive in Dotterer.
  • Catcher Eddie Irons raps a triple, driving in three runs: Blaylock, Davidson, and Alvarez. Nashville gets the win, 8-7

Nashville Tennessean sports writer F. M. Williams thought Irons’ bash was going to be caught by Memphis’ Toboso.

“Irons’ blow was a viciously slammed line drive that took off almost exactly in the direction of center fielder Elio Toboso, and looked for seconds as if it would be caught for the first out.

“Then it did things. First it sliced to the left, and at the same time it began to rise. Toboso didn’t touch it as the ball caromed to the center field fence. Three runners came around with Ultus Alvarez bringing up the rear with the winning tally.”[1]

In his twelfth appearance of the season, Vols pitcher Howard Rodermoyer came on in relief of Bill Beck in the eighth inning. He gave up the Chicks’ last run in the ninth but gained his second win against two losses. Slack took the loss for the Chicks.

Nashville manager Dick Sisler had seen comebacks before, but none such as this one.

“I never saw anything like it,” grinned the amazed Dick Sisler after he ha showered. “Don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like it, either.

“Not a man retired, not a walk or an error. No sir, I just don’t think anything like that has ever happened before.

“It does prove that old saying though, that a baseball game is never over until the final out.”[2]

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Nashville Banner

Nashville Tennessean

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Sabr.org

The Sporting News

Notes

[1] F. M. Williams. “Amazing Vols Rally Beats Chicks 8-7,” Nashville Tennessean, May 10, 1959, 9.

[2] Williams.

​© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Ed Doherty, 1963 Nashville GM

Ed Doherty, former president of the American Association for seven seasons who served as general manager of the Washington Senators for the previous two years, was hired by the board of directors of Vols, Inc. on January 12, 1963, with full responsibility to run the Nashville Vols. He would answer to no one, as former general managers had to report to the board of the directors of the ownership group.[1]

Nashville had been without professional baseball in 1962 but became a member of the South Atlantic (SALLY) League for 1963. Without baseball for an entire season, hopes were high for fans to flock back to Sulphur Dell in a renewed passion for the Nashville team. Doherty was willing, and determined, to make the organization a successful one.

From previous baseball experiences he knew there were two things he had to do besides acquire players: sell tickets and sell advertising. Doherty spoke at civic organizations and to just about anyone else who would listen. During the winter, spring, and summer he made 78 speeches to various groups.[2] He had a special slogan he would recite during his campaigns:

“Let’s air-condition Sulphur Dell,” he would say. “Let’s put a fan in every seat.”[3]

But his failure to secure an AM radio station to broadcast Nashville Vols games during the season resonated loudly. The only station to agree to carry Vols broadcasts was WNFO-FM, with Hickman Duncan and Jimmy Denton doing the play-by-play.[4] The station was the first in the station in the South to apply for permission to operate in FM stereo format.[5]

According to Nashville Tennessean sports writer Raymond Johnson, Doherty even offered broadcast rights for free, which probably irritated his friends at the FM station.

“I never felt so remorseful about FM stations as I did today after talking with Hickman Duncan,” Doherty said. “I didn’t mean to hurt them when I said I would give it to any AM station. The FM stations are reaching approximately 80,000. They say there are 45,000 sets in and around Nashville. Their network reaches some 35,000. The network goes to Franklin, Pulaski, Shelbyville, Manchester and McMinnville with Lebanon and Dickson added for Sunday games. McMinnville, Lebanon and Dickson outlets are AM stations.”[6]

To prove to fans who were not coming to the ballpark that the Vols were a club worth watching, he took a cue from the major league clubs and turned to television. In only the seventh home game of the season, on May 5, WLAC televised the first game of a double header from Sulphur Dell.

The game proved to be a good one, as Nashville right hander Ken Sanders held Asheville to seven hits as the Vols defeated the Tourists by a score of 4-2. Sanders walked only one, with a single and home run by second baseman Felix Santana accounting for both Asheville runs. Nashville totaled eight hits, including a double by Don Ross. Jim Orton drove in two runs with a single.[7]

In the second game, Asheville had 13 hits and returned the favor to Nashville by winning, 10-3. A crowd of 1,767 was on hand despite the television broadcast.

Hickman Duncan was replaced by Vanderbilt student Warren Corbett on May 10 during a reorganization change at the station. Corbett was to handle all sports announcing.[8] In his article for SABR’s (Society of American Baseball Research: sabr.org) Biography Project, Corbett recalls the final days of his broadcasting opportunity:

“The team attracted only a few dozen fans on some weekday evenings, many of them gamblers who sat behind the third-base dugout and bet a few dollars on foul balls. The radio sponsor canceled in June, ending the broadcasts that had been carried only on a low-powered FM station.”[9]

For the year attendance stood at 52,812, and at season’s end Doherty reported the franchise had lost $32,958.59 for the year.[10] On September 16, after conveying the dismal figures to the directors of Vols, Inc., a vote was taken without dissent to surrender the club’s South Atlantic League franchise.

“I tried every way under the sun to get people to come to the park. Interest just wasn’t there,” he told the directors.[11] Raymond Johnson’s words from nine months prior proved prophetic:

“With Doherty’s background as a club and league official, there is no reason he shouldn’t have been given a free hand…Because, if Ed cannot get the job done here, then Sulphur Dell will become only a memory.”[12]

Doherty left for home on September 25, and on January 5, 1964 joined MLB commissioner Ford Fricke’s office as liaison between the big-league clubs and college baseball programs. Doherty passed away in 1971.

Sulphur Dell never hosted professional baseball again, and was demolished in 1969.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Nashville Tennessean

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Sabr.org

The Sporting News

Notes

[1] Raymond Johnson. “One Man’s Opinion” column, Nashville Tennessean, January 13, 1963, 56.

[2] Johnson. “One Man’s Opinion” column, Nashville Tennessean, September 24, 1963, 14.

[3] F. M. Williams, “Ed Doherty Death Severs Tie,” Nashville Tennessean, July 9, 1971, 28

[4] Williams. “Legalize Spitter or Stop It – Turner,” Nashville Tennessean, February 10, 1063, 53.

[5] Albert Cason, New Stereo Station On Air Here Soon, “Nashville Tennessean, March 20, 1962, 20.

[6] Johnson. Nashville Tennessean, April 24, 1963, 18.

[7]  Williams. “Vols Split With Asheville,” Nashville Tennessean, May 6, 1963, 20.

[8] “Corbett Announcer For Vol Baseball,” Nashville Tennessean, May 11, 1963, 16.

[9] Warren Corbett. “Sulphur Dell (Nashville),” https://sabr.org/bioproj/park/dac74af0, retrieved May 5, 2018.

[10] Williams. “Vols Owe,” Nashville Tennessean, September 17, 1963, 16.

[11] The Sporting News, “Birmingham May Join Sally After Nashville Drops Out,” September 28, 1963, 29.

[12] Johnson. January 13, 1963, 56.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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262 Down Right Blog Post Moved to Sulphur Dell Website

Future posts may be found here: www.sulphurdell.com/blog-262-down-right.

Thank you, Skip

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Saving Baseball Time?


An Act “to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States” was enacted by resolution of both Houses of Congress on March 19, 1918.[1] The law set standard set summer Daylight Saving Time to begin on March 31, 1918. *

With the announcement by Congress, Nashville Vols president Clyde Shropshire decided to change the starting time for games at Sulphur Dell during the early part of the season to 4:30, and after that to 5 o’clock.  By the added hour of daylight, he felt an opportunity would be presented to a large percentage of fans who had been denied that privilege through attachment to their work.

He thought the new plan would be a boon to his ball club since more fans would attend games as they would visit Sulphur Dell from work without missing the first hour of games. Sports writer Blinkey Horn had his own take on Shropshire’s edict.

“But the Vols should be able to collect a considerable supply of turnstile lubricant from that percentage of citizens freed sixty minutes of daylight sooner from the work.”[2]

The Southern Association season was scheduled to open on April 18, but Nashville was set to play in Birmingham for one game, then travel to Sulphur Dell the next day for the Vols first home game, also against the Barons.

Nashville took the game in Birmingham 7-0, but when the start time was announced for Opening Day in Nashville, it was set for 3:30 P.M.

Did Shropshire change his mind about the connection of time to money? Or did he have the same inkling that the newspaper did about how much savings there really would be?

* Observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919, Daylight Saving Time proved unpopular and was repealed, becoming a local option. It was instituted during World War II from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945 by President Franklin Roosevelt, called “War Time”.

Sources 

Energy.gov

Newspapers.com

Sabr.org

[1] Douma, Michael, curator. “Daylight Saving Time.” (2008). http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving (accessed March 21, 2018).

[2]Vols To Start Games This Year An Hour Later,” Nashville Tennessean and American, March 21, 1918, 8.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Conclusion

For the 1959 season, the team finished second by ½ game to Birmingham in the first half of the split season, and fifth in the second half. The combined record of 84-64 would have been good enough for third place had the season not been split into halves, and would have finished 5 ½ games out of first place.

Attendance increased by 37,000 to just over 129,000. With Sisler’s strong on-field leadership, and McCarthy’s front office skills, it should have been a perfect combination. But when Sisler was named manager of the Seattle Rainers (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA) and Bill McCarthy, concessions manager Bill Lambie, Jr., and trainer Chuck Swope all resigned[27], it was not because they had not performed well.

Sisler and McCarthy had grown to dislike each other.

“Sisler precipitated the explosion when he informed President Greer in Chicago that he would not consider returning as manager unless McCarthy was removed as general manager. Dick’s friends say McCarthy’s failure to provide players needed caused the rift. His detractors say Sisler wanted both jobs. The final result was elimination of both.”[28]

But the Vols, Inc. board of directors had one more ace up their sleeve. In a surprise move for everyone in organized baseball, on October 27, 1959, New York Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner was named field manager and general manager of the Nashville Vols for the 1960 season.

It was reported that Turner’s salary will be $17,500, and he would assume all duties previously performed by Sisler and McCarthy. Turner hired Bill Giles, Jr., the 25-year-old son of National League president Bill Giles to be his assistant, and Lem (Whitey) Larkin as operations supervisor.[29] Turner was expected to sell tickets, too, both by his presence and his efforts.

With a lineup that included Jim Maloney, Jack Baldschun, and Jim Bailey on the pitching staff, and Johnny Edwards behind the plate and future New York Met Rod Kanehl holding down the defense, the club won 71 and lost 82, and finished in sixth place.

When Gabe Paul, Cincinnati Reds vice-president and general manager, announced on August 29 that the Reds six-year working agreement would not be renewed with Nashville effective December 15, it was a blow to the local team.

The reason given by Paul is because the Southern Association “does not allow the use of Negro players”. It was enough for Jim Turner, especially when the club failed to draw 100,000, falling short by 279.

Vols, Inc. continued through 1961 with Joe Sadler and Cleo Miller as president, but when it was announced that through 21 home dates Nashville had drawn 19,228 fans for an average of 915 per game, and first-year general manager Bill Harbour estimated the team would have to approximate last year’s attendance of 99,721 to break even, the writing was on the wall. Nashville drew just over 500 fans a game.

On January 24, 1962 the Southern Association suspended operations due to a lack of enough major league working agreements. Nashville was without a team in 1962.

Returning to organized baseball in 1963 as member of the South Atlantic League, after a one-year absence, the season began with a loss to Macon, 15-4. The opening day home game drew 7,987 Vols fans; that one game’s attendance would turn out to be 15% of the entire season’s draw.

But as the year ended facing a deficit of almost $22,000 on final season attendance figures of 52,812 fans, the directors of Vols, Inc. surrendered their South Atlantic League franchise without a dissenting vote. Board chairman Jack Norman assigned a committee to investigate the feasibility of retaining Sulphur Dell, which would mean a continuation of the corporation which owns the ballpark.

Sulphur Dell sat silent in 1964, but in 1965 Country Music star Faron Young led a group that purchased the ballpark and converted it into a race track. Sulphur Dell Speedways lasted only a few months, and Young’s syndicate turned the keys of the property back to Vols, Inc. and paid a rental fee.

With no prospects for a minor league franchise and with the neglected ballpark left with no upkeep, Vols, Inc. leased the property to the City of Nashville and it was used as a tow-in lot. The ballpark was razed in 1969 when Gregg Industries purchased the property for $255,000 from Vols, Inc. The intent was to construct a merchandise mart. When the mart was never built, the land stood idle for nearly fifty years until First Tennessee Park was built beginning in 2014.

On April 4, 1969, the Nashville Tennessean reported that Herschel Greer, now vice-president of the ownership group, said every Vols, Inc. stockholder would be paid 100-cents on the dollar, if they could provide a copy of their stock certificate.

As of March 1972, $50,000 was still on deposit in First American National Bank, most of it belonging to stockholders who had passed away, moved away, or had forgotten about their stock. Even if all of them claimed their ownership stake, there would still be $12,000 on hand for the corporation that still existed at that time even though it was out of business.In 13 years, some of the 4,876 investors received their money back – not a terrible investment that offered challenges at nearly every turn. But the challenge of the original issue of stock was a completely successful feat.

Epilogue: The grand experiment that was Vols, Inc., was a master plan for the future; but it was not the first.

“In 1956, the St. Louis Cardinals were preparing to relocate the Red Wings, their financially ailing Triple A farm club. Morrie Silver, a local businessman, sold shares in the club to fans at $10 each. The grassroots campaign raised $300,000 — enough to buy the team from the Cardinals and keep it in Rochester.”[30]

The Wisconsin Timer Rattlers (Midwest League – Class A), and Syracuse Chiefs and Toledo Mud Hens (International League – Class AAA) have similar ownership operations.[31]

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.

Special thanks to Davidson County/Metro Archives and Tennessee State Library & Archives

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

newspapers.com

Nipper, Skip (2007) “Baseball in Nashville”. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing

sabr.org

Wright, Marshall D. (2002) “The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961″. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc.

[27] F. M. Williams. “Giles, Larkin Added to Vols’ Front Office,” Nashville Tennessean, November 6, 1959, 50.

[28] F. M. Williams, “Front Office Key To Nashvols Future,” Nashville Tennessean, October 2, 1960, 67.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Bruce Felton, “MINDING YOUR BUSINESS; Buy Me Some Peanuts, And Shares in the Team,” The New York Times, July 7, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/07/business/minding-your-business-buy-me-some-peanuts-and-shares-in-the-team.html, accessed March 7, 2018.

[31] Leo Roth, “Stock repurchases keep the ‘Rochester’ in Red Wings,” Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, NY), May 19, 2017, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/sports/2017/05/19/rochester-red-wings-shareholders-new-york-abandoned-property/101766040/, accessed March 10, 2018.

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