Tag Archives: Blinkey Horn

Lottery Lineups

Whether a yarn to fool a sportswriter hungry for the next story in the Billy Martin saga, or a truth about an unconventional way to choose a batting order, in April of 1977 New York Daily News sports writer Dick Young wrote about how Martin had made his lineup selection a few weeks earlier.

Young said he believed it. “Now, the more Yankees I talk to the more I’m convinced it really happened – either that or we have the greatest conspiracy since Watergate.”[1]

“Billy leaves the bench around the fifth inning,” (Reggie) Jackson said. “It’s the day we’re losing to Toronto, our fifth in a row.”

Clubhouse man Pete Sheehy corroborates Jackson’s story.

“He comes in the clubhouse during the game. I don’t know what he has in mind but I write the names down like he tells me, on these yellow slips, and put them in the hat.”

“Billy comes back on the bench and tells me to pick out the names: it’s gonna be tomorrow’s lineup,” Jackson said.

Reggie pulls them one-by-one. Randolph, Munson, Jackson, Nettles, Rivers, DH, White, White, Chambliss. Two Whites?

“That’s right,” Jackson said. “I said to Billy, there’s a mistake. He said set the second White aside and we’ll see. After Chambliss’ name, I said, hey, you forgot Dent. So we decided to put Bucky ninth.”

The next day, the lottery lineup won. Then won again, and again. Six consecutive games, until Martin subbed Marty Perez for Nettles at third, and Baltimore won 6-2.

Fifty years earlier, in 1915, Mobile Seagulls manager Charley “Boss” Schmidt used the same trick to determine his batting order against Nashville. This one was no yarn.

On August 19, the Vols visited Mobile to begin a three-game set. Nashville was in fourth place, chasing front-runner New Orleans, seven games behind the Pelicans in the standings. Mobile was in sixth place with a 52-64 record, but had won only five while losing 11 during the month and had no hope of finishing in the top-half of the standings. Nashville had won three previous games in the gulf city and six at Sulphur Dell, leading the season series nine games to seven.

With 12 hits against nine (Leonard Dobard had three) Mobile out-hit the Vols in the first game of the series, but it took Rube Kissinger’s strike out of pinch hitter Carter Hogg with the bases loaded in the ninth to seal the win for the Nashville, 4-1. Mobile had now lost 10 games with the Vols on the year, four in a row going back to their last visit to Sulphur Dell.

Schmidt was ready to try anything. And he did; he allowed the players to draw lots to determine batting positions. The lineup for the game of August 20 was this: Dobard (shortstop), Northen (right field), Neiderkorn (catcher), Perry (third base), Holmquist (pitcher), Burke (left field), Calhoun (first base), Miller (centerfield), and Flick (second base).

Even though pitcher Jeff Holmquist allowed only nine hits, and batted in the fifth spot in the lineup with four of Mobile’s 12 hits, the Vols won again, 7-5. Schmidt’s grand experiment ended when he inserted himself back in the lineup as catcher, and the Gulls won over Nashville and their ace Tom Rogers, 6-0.

In reporting Mobile’s second loss in the August 21 edition of the Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, sports writer Blinkey Horn gives credit to his newspaper for Boss Schmidt’s idea to juggle his lineup accordingly. Horn suggests that when the Seagulls visited Nashville a few weeks ago, the Mobile chief may have read an article in the paper about Alex Pearson, manager of Uniontown (Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League, Class D), who summoned his lineup by drawing numbers from a hat in 1907.[2]

The account had appeared in Nashville’s newspaper on August 8, and was attributed to Frank G. Menke, sports writer for Hearst newspapers through the International News Services (INS).

“Some of the big league clubs who are in a hitting slump might imitate the experiment made with wonderful results a few years ago by a minor league manager.

“Alexander Pearson is the manager under discussion. He was handling the Uniontown, (Pa.), club and the team was doing everything but winning ball games. Pearson shifted his batting order a half dozen times in the hope that the change would lift the team out of a batting slump. But to no avail.

“Whereupon, Pearson put the names of all his players on a slip of paper and deposited them in a hat. Then he withdrew them for batting position, the first name withdrawn to be the lead-off batsman, the second name to bat second and so on. The club, with its juggled lineup, won the game that day and followed it with seventeen more victories, all in a row.”[3]

With several lineup changes during the season, Billy Martin’s Yankees won the 1977 American League pennant and World Series. Boss Schmidt’s 1915 Sea Gulls finished seventh in the Southern Association. Pearson’s 1907 Uniontown Coal Barons finished second in the POML with a 64-43 record, and without those 17 consecutive wins, would have finished much worse.

It is probably best to leave lottery picks to yarns and the lottery, and not to baseball lineups.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Sabr.org

Sumner, Benjamin Barrett (2000). Minor League Baseball Standings: All North American Leagues, Through 1999. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

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

[1] Dick Young. “Lottery Lineup Wave of the Future?,” Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York), April 27, 1977: 34.

[2] Blinkey Horn. “Sporting Views,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, August 21, 1915: 8.

[3] Frank G. Menke. “Try This, Bill Schwartz,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, August 8, 1915: 23.

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Suffrage and Shropshire’s Baby

As voting rights for women gained steam in 1915, Nashville Vols club owner and president Clyde Shropshire supported the movement as he best knew how: he determined that the game between his ball club versus the Birmingham Barons on July 23 would be Suffrage Day at Sulphur Dell.

Sports writer Blinkey Horn made an announcement in a column “Vols and Barons Will Play on July 23 for Cause of Suffrage”:

Nashville Tennessean and Daily American 06-19-1915 Suffrage Game Vols Barons Sulphur Dell 07-23-1915

Shropshire’s generosity was to include $25 from his own funds for special prizes to players. The first player of either team to hit a home run would be awarded $10, and $5 each to the player with the first triple, run scored, and stolen base. He also announced that the movement would receive a portion of gate receipts.

Nashville Tennessean and Daily American 07-18-1915 Suffrage Game Vols Barons Sulphur Dell 07-23-1915

Mrs. George Dallas, vice-president of the Nashville Equal Suffrage League, headed up the day’s event. She had a special booth constructed outside the entrance to the ballpark for patrons to purchase tickets to the game. Grandstand box seats were decorated in suffrage colors, yellow and white, and ladies sold all sorts of concessions, “cigars, peanuts, lemonade, popcorn, and the various substances obtainable at a baseball game.” Ladies roamed the stadium to hand out flyers, explaining the reasons why the voting franchise should be extended to the fair sex. Nashville won over Birmingham 6-3, but there was no mention of the proceeds.

Perhaps as a gesture to Shropshire’s endorsements, his daughter was selected mascot of the game.

Nashville Tennessean and Daily American 07-24-1915 Suffrage Game Vols Barons Sulphur Dell 07-23-1915

The next season another game was planned in support of suffrage, once again with the full support of Shropshire. Designated as “Suffrage Day at Sulphur Dell” on August 21, 1916, yellow banners decorated the ballpark to commemorate “Votes for Women” and Nashville won over the New Orleans Pelicans 6-1. Ladies from the Equal Suffrage League sold tickets, soda pop, peanuts, and other concessions. Yellow sashes and streamers were part of the repeat celebration.

An addition to the event was the awarding of a cake to the ugliest and prettiest ball player, and one for the most popular fan. The cakes were on display in Nashville store windows in the days leading up to the game. The fund-raising endeavor was once more noted as successful.

nashville Tennessean and Daily American 08-22-1916 Nashville New OrleansSulphur Dell Suffrage Womens Voting Rights 08-21-1916

Repeated in 1917, the game was won by Nashville over New Orleans 5-3 but with no mention of the suffrage movement except for an article the previous week.

Nashville Tennessean and American 08-12-1917 Suffrage Game Nashville Sulphur Dell

Clyde Shropshire was a notable attorney in Nashville, held prominent positions on the board of several businesses, and was elected to the Tennessee State House of Representatives on November 3, 1914 as a Democrat. A staunch supporter of suffrage, prohibition, and tax equalization, he served as Speaker of the House 1917-1919.

nashville Tennessean and American 01-02-1917 Clyde Shropshire Nashville Speaker of the House

Sources

Nashville Tennessean

Nashville Tennessean and American

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record

Sabr.org

The Sporting News

Tennesseeencyclopedia.net

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Vol Dutch Prather’s 23 Home Runs Leads the League

Born on July 7, 1906 in Branch, Arkansas, Murl Argus “Dutch” Prather was a first baseman for Nashville in 1933 and a portion of the 1934 season. Purchased by the Vols in 1932 after hitting 19 homers and batting .303 for St. Joseph of the Class A Western League, he was sent to Hazleton, Pennsylvania the next year and led the Class C New York-Penn League with 104 RBI on 17 home runs and a .301 average.

He made the Nashville club in 1933, but his adeptness in covering the first base bag, not his hitting, was the basis for his call up to the Southern Association. Blinkey Horn, Nashville Tennessean sports writer, opined about the six-foot tall, 200-lb. first sacker.

“Dutch Prather with a great pair of hands is excellent on ground balls and thrown balls. (K)nows where to toss the leather and is unexcelled on the infield in defense ability.”[1]

Murl Dutch Prather

Dutch Prather

Hitting three home runs in the first nine games, his .362 average helped solidify his position on the Vols club. By May 8 he was stuck on three homers and his batting average had dropped to .281, but on May 18 Dutch had knocked two more over the fence. He hit his ninth home run of the season against Atlanta on May 22, helping the Vols win 5-2.

By mid-June he had improved to 13 round-trippers and a batting average of .311.

On August 1 against the Birmingham Barons and playing at Sulphur Dell, he socked his 20th home run of the season off lefty Abe White. Suffering a two-week slump at the plate in the weeks ahead, on August 17 Dutch hit a dribbler to start a rally in Nashville’s 7-0 win over New Orleans and at that point seemed to have regained his touch at the plate.

On September 8, Dutch hit his 23rd and final home run, a golf-shot over the right field fence off Knoxville Smokies pitcher Guy Green. Prather finished the season with a .279 batting average on 145 hits.

His 23 home runs lead the Southern Association, giving Nashville six consecutive seasons of leading the league in that category:

1928 Dick Wade 24
1929 Jim Poole 33
1930 Jim Poole 50
1931 Moose Clabaugh 23
1932 Stanley Keyes 35
1933 Dutch Prather 23

New York Giants manager Bill Terry was so impressed with Prather’s work during the 1933 season, he told local sports writer Horn that he would take Dutch to spring training the next year.

“I intend to take two Nashville players – (Clydell) Castleman and Prather – to spring camp with me. If Prather looks good enough to keep, I will send Joe Malay to Nashville…”[2]

But Horn was not so certain. In his From Bunker to Bleacher column on January 15, Horn expected Prather to be back in the Vols fold once the season began.

“For he has a batting fault – he is always off stride when he hits. Yet he is never off stride when fielding a ball at first base.”[3]

To make the World Series Champion Giants, Prather would have to do two things: impress manager Bill Terry and knock the regular first baseman out of a job: Terry himself, who had hit .322.

In spring training Terry ultimately chose George Grantham as his understudy, and Prather joined Nashville’s spring training headquarters in Dothan, Alabama on Marcy 25[4] in time to watch newcomer Charley Baron hold down first base in a 5-1 Vols loss to the Minneapolis Millers.

The next day he was in charge of the Vols Yannigans (author’s note: scrubs, often rookies or younger players) in an inter-squad game where he made his presence known to not only Nashville manager Chuck Dressen, but his heir-apparent Charley Baron. Although the regulars won 6-5 and Baron had a home run, Prather made a sensational grab of one of Baron’s liners and hit a score-tying three run home run in the seventh inning. Both Baron and Prather were 2-4 and errorless at first.[5]

Dressen must have been happy to have had Dutch back in the lineup, as Baron was sent to Jacksonville, Texas, the Giants’ Class C club in the West Dixie League (Baron would return to Nashville for five games in 1938 as a Brooklyn Dodgers farmhand).

Securing his spot on the team, Prather hit a single off pitcher Johnny Allen’s shin in the first of two exhibition games at Sulphur Dell against the New York Yankees. On April 7 Nashville won 5-4, and in a 6-5 win over the major league club the next day, Dutch slammed a three-run home run off Russell Van Atta to stake the Vols to a 5-0 lead in the first inning.

Babe Ruth, not to be outdone by the Vols slugger, hit a massive home run of his own in the seventh inning.[6]

On April 17 before an opening day crowd of 13,000 in Atlanta, Dutch hit a long home run using Charley Dressen’s bat in Nashville’s 6-4 victory[7]. Prather faced a home run drought until April 29 when he had two against the Chattanooga Lookouts, then followed with another one the next night in Birmingham.

Against Birmingham on May 2, Prather socked two homers and Lance Richbourg, still suffering from the effects of sciatic rheumatism, hits one; all three came in the same inning. Dutch increased his batting average to .333 with six home runs, 12 hits, and 19 RBI.

With a league-leading team average of .312 (Phil Weintraub’s .392 led the loop and Richbourg’s .331 was good enough for seventh place), the slumping Prather became expendable.

With only seven home runs and a 2.95 batting average, on July 14 he was sold to Dallas (Class A- Texas League) only a few hours after being hit by a pitch from Clarence Struss of Little Rock earlier that day[8].  His spring training nemesis Charley Baron, batting .344 for Jacksonville, was called up to take his place.

The injury broke a bone on the middle finger of Prather’s right hand, but the Dallas club was willing to take a chance on him as it was thought he would be out of action for three weeks. However, he played in only 20 games to end the season, batting a paltry .176 with 12 hits and no home runs.

Over the next 15 years he would bounce between Class D, C, B, A, A1, and AAA clubs with varying degrees of success. In 1936 for Omaha/Rock Island (Class A, Western League) he hit 22 home runs and was named Most Valuable Player in the Western League by The Sporting News.[9] He was the only player to play in every game for the Robin Hoods/Islanders.

He briefly served in the Army Air Corps in 1937 and was limited to 103 games with Sacramento (Class AA, Pacific Coast League). In 1939 he spent a portion of the season with the Quebec Provincial League team from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada.

In 1940 Pampa (Class D – West Texas-New Mexico League), Texas, he hit a personal best 27 round-trippers. When “The Story of Minor League Baseball” was published by the National Association in 1952, Prather’s feat of 167 RBI was mentioned.[10]

He managed Pampa the next season and also Tyler (Class C – East Texas League) in 1946. Two future Nashville Vols players, Jim Kirby and Poco Taitt, were members of his team in Tyler.

He led Pauls Valley in 1948, and the Seminole and Shawnee Clubs in 1951, all teams in the Class D, Sooner State League.

Dutch retired as an active player and became an umpire in the West Texas-New Mexico League in 1953. He umpired in the Evangeline League in 1955-1956, California League in 1957, and the Sooner State League in 1957.

Prather died on March 13th, 1967 in Ada, Oklahoma, and was buried in McGee Cemetery in Stratford, Oklahoma.[11]

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

nebaseballhistory.com

newspapers.com

southernassociationbaseball.com

Notes

[1] Nashville Tennessean, April 23, 1933

[2] Ibid., December 9, 1933

[3] Ibid., January 15, 1934

[4] Ibid., March 26, 1934

[5] Ibid., March 27, 1934

[6] Ibid., April 9, 1934

[7] Ibid., April 18, 1934

[8] Ibid., April 15, 1934

[9] The Sporting News, November 19, 1936

[10] Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia

[11] Prather’s FindaGrave.com

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