Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 7

So how did this “grand experiment” in team ownership turn out?

“Already more box seats have been sold for the opening game than there were people in the stands last April when Chattanooga bounced Those Vols to usher in the campaign…Only 1706 were present…Nashville’s largest crowd all last season was only 3232, which was on Sunday, July 27…The club’s smallest was 508 on Thursday night, Aug. 21.”[1]

Even with fans clamoring for tickets, and sales within $500.00 of last year’s early booking record of $32,425.00 of a year ago[22], McCarthy locked the office doors early on April 4 to get ready for an open house to the public the next day to show off improvements made to Sulphur Dell.

Sports writer Raymond Johnson shared some of his own excitement for the new season.

“…The green infield was as beautiful as any seen in Florida…There’ll be music between innings from an organ which was installed yesterday in the room built especially for it…Soft drinks will be a dime…Parking at the club’s two lots on the west side of Fifth avenue [sic] will be only 25 cents…The seats sparkled they were so clean…The men running the club this year plan to make the fans more comfortable…The campaign to “Swell the Dell” on opening day is in high gear…But for it to succeed, it will be necessary for some of the old timers to retrace their paths to Sulphur Dell…What do you say, fells! Let’s do it.”[23]

The first test for the fervor of Nashville baseball occurred on April 7 when manager Al Lopez and his Chicago White Sox paid a visit to Sulphur Dell to play the Vols. A start time of 3:30 P.M. was chosen so even school kids could attend. The major league club drubbed the home team 20-10 in front of 2,062 fans.

McCarthy closed the Vols baseball office early once again. On Thursday, April 9, advance ticket sales had bumped up to $37,798.40, and was optimistic there were more tickets to be sold.

“I expect the total to reach almost $40,000,” reported McCarthy.[24] Nearly every one of the 1,430 box seats had already been sold.

Former major leaguer and Nashville native Clydell Castleman, chairman of the opening day festivities, gave one more glowing testament to the support from area businesses, saying he had received “100 per cent support from the city’s industries.”

“I am especially indebted to many people, such as F. M. Acker at Du Pont; Bob Hoffman, Ford Glass company [sic]; Johnny DaVal, General Shoe; John Mihalic, Avco; George Hastings, Aladdin Lamp; Ben McDermott, Ferro corporation [sic]; Rufus Fort Jr., National Life; Allen Steele, Life and Casualty; and Postmaster Lewis Moore,” Castleman said.[25]

Gates opened at 5:45 P.M. with fans entering the ballpark with organist Fred Shoemake and the 101st Airborne Infantry Band welcoming them to Sulphur Dell. The Mobile Bears won a nail-biter over Nashville by a 13-12 score, with 4,916 fans showing up to cheer for the Vols even with the threat of rain.

“So for the 4876 Nashville optimists who helped save the city’s baseball franchise by purchasing stock last November and December, there came gleaming through the rain-dripping clouds yesterday cheerful knowledge that never before has there been so much interest in the game here,” wrote F. M. Williams.[26]

Would the excitement last throughout the season, and beyond?

This is Part 7 of the ongoing story. Read more about the events that led to the sale of the Nashville ball club in 1959 in the final 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.

Sources

newspapers.com

[21] Raymond Johnson, “Fans Get 1st Chance to See Their Dell; New Spirit Evident,” One Man’s Opinion Column, Nashville Tennessean, April 5, 1959, 23.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] F. M. Williams, “Vols’ Roster Within One of SA 19-Player Limit,” Nashville Tennessean, April 10, 1959, 39.

[25] Ibid.

[26] F. M. Williams, “Saturday Showcase: Busy Phone, Little Boys Soaring Interest Signs,” Nashville Tennessean, April 11, 1959, 11.

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Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 6

At 1:30 p.m. on November 6, the founding committee was called to a meeting by Norman to tie up legal loose ends. First, to qualify the new corporation as a “restricted dealer” in its own stock (from the beginning Norman had pledged that no commission was to be paid to anyone for the sale of stock), to register securities of the corporation (the stock), and to designate one person at each of the banks, clubs or other places of  business where the stock subscriptions will be taken, as liable for all subscription forms. It was determined a prospectus should be issued.

“The men designated will become temporary officers in the corporation, probably carrying the title of vice president,” said Norman[14]

The next day sports writer F. M. Williams announced the new officers of Vols, Inc. Herschel Greer was named president, Eddy Arnold, secretary, and Joe C. Carr, treasurer. Ten vice-presidents were selected: Joe Sadler, John U. Williams, Harold L. Shyer, J. B. Coarsey, Dr. Cleo Miller, Vernon Williams, Al Link, Jr., Bill McCarthy and Dick Sisler.

Sadler, who with his brother Bill started Sadler Electric Company in 1925[15], was a city councilman and would reportedly own more Vols, Inc. shares than anyone.[16]

“These offices will serve until the entire stock issue of 50,000 shares, to be sold at $5 per share, are disposed of. Then stockholders will vote on a board of directors, which in turn will name permanent officers,” reported Williams.[17]

Local businessmen rallied loyal supporters to commit to purchase $5.00 shares to form Vols, Inc., and save the Nashville franchise from folding. A total of 4,876 investors purchased shares and became stockholders in the team. Included on the board of directors were country music star Eddy Arnold, John A. McPherson, and Herschel Greer.

The board of directors of Vols, Inc. included Dick Sisler, Bill McCarthy, Al Linx, John U. Wilson, Vernon Williams, Dr. Cleo Miller, Jimmy Miller, Nashville fire chief John Ragsdale, Bill Lambie Jr., J. R. Coarsey, Al Greer, Jack Norman, Joe Carr, Eddy Arnold, Joe Sadler, and Herschel Greer.

Greer, McCarthy, Eddy Arnold, Dick Sisler, and Bill Lambie visited every event, every company, every opportunity throughout middle Tennessee selling the stock.

“They, along with countless others who were interested in keeping baseball here, raised the $250,000 15 days before the Jan. 7 deadline.”[18]

By November 18, the sale of stock totaled $100,000.00. “One of the biggest problems we have now,” said Bill McCarthy, general manager of the baseball club,” is getting our representatives around to all the people who have said they want to buy some stock.”[19]

Some stockholders received their certificates on January 20, will the remainder to receive them in the mail the next day. Included was a notice of the first stockholders meeting to be held in the city council chambers at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, January 27.

“And, not missing a trick, there was included a ticket order blank, informing each stockholder that he can buy tickets at a cut-rate price before the start of the season,” wrote Nashville Tennessean sports writer Raymond Johnson.[20]

This is Part 6 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.

Sources

newspapers.com

[14] F. M. Williams, “Stock Sale to Save Vols Will Start Monday Morning,“ Nashville Tennessean, November 6, 1958, 33.

[15] Eaves, Yvonne and Eckert, Doug (2011). “Nashville’s Sylvan Park”. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing

[16] F. M. Williams, “All the Minor Leagues Should Follow Vols,” Nashville Tennessean, August 24, 1960, 16.

[17] F. M. Williams, “Greer To Head Vol Operation,” Nashville Tennessean, November 7, 1958, 48.

[18] Johnson.

[19] “Stock Drive Nears $100,000,” Nashville Tennessean, November 18, 1958, 19.

[20] Raymond Johnson, “Vols Change Hands Today,” Nashville Tennessean, January 20, 1959, 11

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Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 5

Meanwhile, the October 30 edition of the Nashville Tennessean reported that the board of governors of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce had unanimously given its stamp of approval to the new venture.

The resolution closed with “…we hereby give our hearty approval to the efforts of the civic leadership identified with the present movement to assure the continuation of professional baseball for Nashville.”[12]

Murray met with the committee on October 31 to sign documents that would allow for the organization to seek a charter with the Tennessee Secretary of State. It was necessary for the owner to appear before the committee and sign papers believed necessary by attorney Norman before the citizens could proceed with the stock selling plan.

Should the effort fail to raise the goal of $250,000, Murray would continue to own Sulphur Dell and the fixtures, and the league franchise. That it would spell doom for professional baseball in Nashville. Norman expressed that all shares of stock will be sold “within 30 days” but members of the committee thought it would take less time; some of them said less than ten.[12]

Headquarters for the stock sale was the baseball office at Sulphur Dell, with the office being staffed from 9 until 5 each day, Monday through Friday. Someone will be there from 9 until noon on Saturdays.

Six banks agreed to handle sale of the stock, Commerce Union, First American National, Nashville Bank and Trust, Third National, Citizens Savings and Trust, and Broadway National, as did six savings and loan associations, Fidelity Federal, First Federal, Home Federal, Security Federal, Southern Federal, Volunteer Federal, and five mortgage loan companies, First Mortgage, Guaranty Mortgage, Kimbrough-Phillips, Lovell and Malone, and Murphree Mortgage agreed to handle sale of stock.[13]

This is Part 5 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.

Sources

newspapers.com

[11] “C of C Praises Vols Purchase,” Nashville Tennessean, October 30, 1958, 45.

[12] Williams, 13.

[13] F. M. Williams, “Vol Owner Transfer Hinges on Stock Sale,” Nashville Tennessean, November 1, 1958, 11.

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Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 4

A 90-minute organizational meeting to form a new corporation was held on October 27, 1958, by eight men with an interest in securing the team from Ted Murray. Jack Norman headed the meeting, and included Joe Carr, Harold L. Shyer, Eddy Arnold, R. L. “Bob” Coarsey, Dr. Cleo Miller, Joe Sadler, and Herschel Greer. Vols general manager Bill McCarthy and manager Dick Sisler also attended.

Sisler had just completed his second season as manager of the Vols. He led the ball club to a third-place finish in 1957 with an 83-69 record but had fallen to 76-78 and fifth place in 1958, a season which had Jay Hook (13-14, 3.70 ERA) and Jim O’Toole (20-8, 2.44 ERA) on the roster.

It was not a time to make leadership changes even though attendance had fallen by 60,000 from 152,000 to 92,000. McCarthy and Sisler were well-liked in the community and could be counted on to produce ticket sales.

To help ensure that Nashville was still a viable option for Cincinnati and their minor league system, it was McCarthy and Sisler who made a trip to Cincinnati for four-day meetings with Reds management, and on September 17, 1958 McCarthy declared, “No, there is no talk about the possibility Nashville not having a baseball team next season”.[9]

It was in that meeting for thoughts on how to buy out Murray that an idea was hatched to form a new company. If fifty thousand shares of stock could be sold at $5.00 each, $250,000.00 would be raised.

“There will be no stock speculation or fees paid to anyone to sell the stock,” said Norman. “There will be no fees for lawyers or anyone. The $200,000 will be paid to Murray for the real estate and the assets of the ball club and the $50,000 will be used for operating expenses.” .[10]

“Vols, Inc.” was suggested as the name of the new corporation.

This is Part 4 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.

Sources

newspapers.com

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

[9] F. M. Williams, “Vols’ Sisler, McCarthy Encouraged After Red Talks on 1959 Prospects,” Nashville Tennessean, September 18, 1958, 23.

[10] “Baseball Corporation to Sell Shares for $5,” Nashville Tennessean, October 29, 1958, 17.

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Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 3

In September Gilbert had announced that the Vols were ending their three-year working agreement with the New York Giants, and had signed a working agreement with the Cincinnati Reds beginning with the 1955 season.

“I told Ted last fall I wanted to get out,” Larry said via long distance phone yesterday. “Gertie (Mrs. Gilbert) has had a bad hip since early in the fall and now she has a broken ankle. She needs me to be with her. I haven’t been feeling too good, either.”[5]

That was only part of the reason.  On May 21, 1955 Gilbert sells out for $125,000.00 and Murray owns the Vols lock, stock, and barrel[6]. It ends a relationship from November of 1938, when his grandfather Fay Murray brought Gilbert to Nashville and named him manager, general manager, and vice president, giving him ½ share in the team.

Gilbert’s last day with the club is set for June 1, when he will move to his lakefront estate in New Orleans.[7] As part of the Reds affiliation, his son Charlie is not retained as assistant general manager. The younger Gilbert played for Nashville under his father in 1939, 1943, and 1948, and had joined him in management of the club after his playing career.

At the suggestion of Cincinnati GM Gabe Paul, Columbia Reds (South Atlantic League – Class A) general manager Bill McCarthy will take over the same position in Nashville.

According to sports writer F. M. Williams, Ted never cared for owning the Nashville club. “If memory serves me correctly, he was in Sulphur Dell only three times last year, yet he drew a salary of five figures, not out of the ball club but out of the concessions.”[8]

Now Ted finds himself in dire straits. But saving the ball club from dying was a priority for several like-minded civic leaders had the same idea.

This is Part 3 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.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

newspapers.com

[5] Johnson, “Owner Change,” Nashville Tennessean, January 23, 1955, 29.

[6] Murray Buys Gilbert’s Half,” Nashville Tennessean, May 22, 1955, 29.

[7] Johnson, May 22, 1955, 29.

[8] Ibid.

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Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 2

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.”[3]

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.

[3] Raymond Johnson, “One Man’s Opinion – Baseball Business Brisk Despite City’s Winter Weather,” Nashville Tennessean, January 25, 1955, 16.

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Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 1

At 11:30 A.M. on January 20, 1959, in local attorney Jack Norman’s law office, Ted Murray turned over the Nashville Vols and Sulphur Dell to a newly-formed, publicly-held corporation. Murray, son of Fay Murray who first purchased the ball club along with Jimmy Hamilton in 1931, was paid $200,000.00 in exchange for his debt-free assets, including Nashville’s Southern Association franchise.[1]

Ted had acquired his stock in the team when his father died suddenly on March 4, 1941. Now the younger Murray was forced to sell for financial reasons. “I simply don’t have the money to operate the club any longer,” he told Nashville Tennessean sports writer F. M. Williams.[2]

It was an historic day in the timeline for this storied franchise. But how, and why, did it come to this? What events led to the near demise of the club? Wasn’t the city considered one of the keys to Southern Association stability? Hadn’t Sulphur Dell become an iconic ballpark, given its name by beloved sports writer Grantland Rice yet despised by visiting right-hand hitting outfielders?

In the days ahead, read more about the events that lead up to the sale of the Nashville ball club.

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.

[1] Raymond Johnson, “Vols Change Hands Today,” Nashville Tennessean, January 20, 1959, 11.

[2] F. W. Williams, “Vol Owner Transfer Hinges on Stock Sale,” Nashville Tennessean, November 1, 1958, 13

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