Tag Archives: A. B. Chandler

Nashville’s Larry Gilbert: Baseball Honors A Legend

Metro Archives Photo

On Sunday afternoon, July 27, 1941, Larry Gilbert was honored as Sporting News “1940 Minor League Manager of the Year” before his team’s double header against Chattanooga at Sulphur Dell in Nashville.

It was the second ceremony of the year honoring Gilbert, the first having been held May 7, recognizing him for his 25 years in the Southern Association[1]. He was given various gifts, including a gold lifetime pass by league president Trammell Scott, a silver set from Vols team owner Ted Murray and treasurer Jack Flanagan, and his players presented him with a silver service.[2]

Gilbert began his career in local sandlots of his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, but found his way to the majors as a member of the famous “Miracle Braves” of 1914, which had a 26-40 record in July but managed to win the National League pennant by winning 68 of its next 87 games[3]. Gilbert was a seldom-used outfielder and appeared in 72 games, hitting .268. His only appearance in the World Series was as a pinch hitter,  drawing a walk from  Philadelphia Athletics ace Bill James.

As a 23-year-old the next season, Larry was used very little and batted a paltry .151. His career would resume in Toronto (International League – Class AA) and Kansas City (American Association – Class AA) before he joined New Orleans (Southern Association – Class A). He would remain there for nine years, becoming manager of the club in 1923, leading the club to the league pennant that season, and remained there through 1938 (he moved to the front office in 1932, but returned to the dugout in 1933).

When Nashville owner Fay Murray was looking for a manager after the 1938 season, he convinced Larry to become part-owner, general manager, and manager of the Vols. He remained as field leader through 1948, moving to the front office until 1955, when he sold his shares in the club.

Larry Gilbert’s rise to fame as the best manager in the minor leagues culminated in 1940, when his Nashville ball club led the Southern Association from opening day until the end of the season. His team won 101 games with a combined batting average of .311, pitcher Boots Poffenberger won 26 games, and reliever Ace Adams struck out 122 rival batters.

In the league playoffs, the Vols eliminated Chattanooga, three games to none, and won the playoff championship against Atlanta by winning four games to two for the Crackers, sending Nashville to the Dixie Playoffs to face Texas League champion. They polished off the Houston Buffaloes in five games, ending a remarkable season. That club was selected as the 47th best minor league of all time in 2001 in celebration of Minor League baseball’s 100th anniversary[4].

His two-year record at Nashville was 186-115, and included a Southern Association regular-season pennant, two playoff championships, and one Dixie Series title. He had previously led New Orleans to four pennants, two playoff championships, and two Dixie Series crowns.

On September 8, 1948, in his final game as manager, Gilbert was honored once again, this time for 25 years as a manager in the Southern Association, beginning with his first entering the league in 1923.  6,509 Nashville fans, Baseball Commissioner A. B. Chandler, George M. Trautman, president of the National Association, and Southern Association president Charlie Hurth, were there to bestow recognition to Larry Gilbert, the most successful manager in the history of the Southern Association.

With eight league championships, including six consecutive titles with Nashville between 1939-1944, his final record as manager for the Vols and New Orleans was 2,128 – 1,627. It was an impressive record for an equally impressive manager.

From the honors bestowed upon him, it was easy to tell that Baseball loved Larry Gilbert.

To view Gilbert’s entire managerial record, click here: http://www.southernassociationbaseball.com/managers/larrygilbert.php

Sources 

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record 

Retrosheet.org

Sabr.org

Southernassociationbaseball.com

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Raymond Johnson. “Fourth Celebration Due,” One Man’s Opinion column, Nashville Tennessean, July 28, 1941, 8.

[2] Sporting News, May 15, 1941, 12.

[3] “1914 The Miracle Braves”, http://www.thisgreatgame.com/1914-baseball-history.html, accessed July 27, 2017.

[4] Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, “Top 100 Teams: 47. 1940 Nashville Vols,” http://www.milb.com/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=47, July 27, 2017

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, History

Larry Gilbert and New Championships for Nashville

Nashville was the winner of four Southern Association pennants in the first 16 years of the league’s existence: in 1901, 1902, 1908, and 1916. It would be a long drought, over two decades long, before another championship occurred.

It took the arrival of Larry Gilbert in the fall of 1938 as field manager, general manager, and one-half ownership for Nashville to renew the success of earlier years.

On November 8, 1938, owner Fay Murray announced that Larry Gilbert, veteran manager of the New Orleans Pelicans, was the new Nashville Vols manager succeeding Charlie Dressen, who resigned after signing to become a coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers. During negotiations in Montgomery, Alabama on November 4 Gilbert had been promised that if he would leave his hometown of New Orleans, full reign of daily operations of the Nashville club would belong to him.

Murray and Jimmy Hamilton had purchased the club in 1931 and according The Sporting News November 17, 1938 edition, it was Hamilton’s share that was purchased by Murray to make possible the deal offered to Gilbert:

Gilbert1

Hamilton, who had managed the club between 1923 and 1928 (with no higher than a third-place finish once in 1925) did not seem too upset about the change in ownership:

Gilbert2

On November 9, Gilbert began his first day on the job in putting his team together for the 1939 season:

Gilbert3

Two of Larry’s sons would play for him in Nashville: Charlie and Tookie. A third son, Larry, Jr., passed away in 1941. Gilbert would remain as field manager through 1948, moving to the front office full-time.

On September 8, 1948, in his final game as manager, Gilbert was honored for 25 years as a manager in the Southern Association.  6,509 fans gathered at Sulphur Dell as Gilbert was awarded a Chrysler New Yorker, a television set, and 12-place silver setting.  Friends and dignitaries attending the event included Commissioner A. B. Chandler, George M. Trautman, president of the National Association, and Southern Association president Charlie Hurth, calling testament to Gilbert’s reputation among his baseball brethren.

Gilbert maintained ownership in the Nashville Vols until 1955 when he sold his shares and moved back to New Orleans. He passed away February 17, 1965 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in his home town.

During the Gilbert tutelage Nashville would rack up league titles in 1940, 1943, 1948, 1949, and 1953. Dixie Playoff titles, a best-four-of-seven championship series between the Southern Association and Texas League champions, were won in 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1949.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

1 Comment

Filed under Biography, History, Research, Vintage