Tag Archives: Boston Braves

Catch and Release: Bill Schwartz’s Gamble on a Pike

Bill Schwartz was handed the reins of the Nashville club soon after current manager, Bill Bernhard, announced on September 23, 1910 that he would not manage the team any longer. Schwartz joined the Vols earlier that year and played first base for 62 games, hitting at a .288 clip. He came from Akron, where he played for five years, managing the Champs to an 80-41 record and an Ohio-Pennsylvania League (Class C) pennant.

The 6’2”, 185-pound Schwartz had played 24 games for his hometown Cleveland Naps in 1904, his only major-league experience, on a team which included a future Vols teammate, outfielder Harry Bay. Future Hall of Fame members Addie Joss, Elmer Flick, and Nap Lajoie were on that Cleveland ball club. Those great players, along with Naps manager Bill Armour (in 1908, Cleveland announced that it would have two farm clubs: Toledo, managed by Armour, and Nashville, managed by Bill Bernhard) must have been an influence on Bill and his future managerial skills.

After two fourth-, two fifth-, and one seventh-place finish, Bill had a final shot at improving his ball club. Aging Otto Williams had been a steady second-sacker, but at the age of 36 and a weak .246 average in his only season with Nashville, Schwartz saw an opportunity to bring in new blood at the position.

nashville-tennessean-and-american-march-2-1915-pike-schwartzIn 1915, Bill thought he had caught his big fish to fill the slot. On March 2, the Nashville Tennessean and American parodied a news story that about the signing of W. P. (Bill) Pike, and compared the potential of the new player to that of Boston Braves second baseman and 1914 National League most valuable player, Johnny Evers.

Bill Pike was a no-show as pre-season practice began. On March 14, he was still a “no-show”[1], but not necessarily an unusual circumstance as only 12 players had reported at the time. Pike joined first baseman Gene Paulette, shortstop Dolly Stark, third baseman Johnny Dodge, outfielders Bert King, Tommy McCabe, and Jack Farmer, and pitchers Floyd Kroh and Heinie Berger.

Bill Ware, who would also vie for the second base position, had not shown up in Nashville as well, but the first exhibition game was not scheduled for another week when Vanderbilt would be the opponent on Saturday, March 20. The pro club won over the collegiate Commodores 6-2 in chilly Sulphur Dell, and Pike was hitless in to turns at bat. Hoping that Pike would hold down the position at second base, Schwartz inserted Ware as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. After the strike out, he replaced Pike at second for the last two innings.nashville-tennessean-and-american-march-24-1915-pike-schwartz

When weather delayed the next game, the teams met at Dudley Field on Tuesday, March 23, and Pike was inserted as a pinch-hitter in the last inning as the Vols won, 11-4 in seven innings. Pike was hitless in two turns at bat. Ware played right field, and Howard Baker was at second.[2]

For whatever reason, by April 11, Pike was gone[3]. Bill Ware was not to be found, either. Second base was played by three players during season: Tom Sheehan, 67 games, George Kircher, 39 games, Howard Baker, 33 games, and Ben Diamond, 15 games.

Schwartz was not successful in Nashville, as his clubs never finished higher than fourth, and his Vols record in five campaigns was 350-360. In 1916 Schwartz became head coach of the Vanderbilt University baseball team, and retired with a Schwartz coaching record in 19 seasons.[4]

Ware disappears from baseball  history, and Pike is nowhere to be found. Did Schwartz’s big catch turn out to be a throwback?

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Nashville Tennessean and American, March 14, 1915, p. 36.

[2] Ibid., March 24, 1915, p. 12.

[3] Ibid., April 11, 1915, p. 36.

[4] Traughber, Bill. “Vandy’s Bill Schwartz remembered”, Commodore History Corner. http://www.vucommodores.com/sports/historycorner/spec-rel/042512aaa.html, accessed March 1, 2017.

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Hank Aaron’s Professional Debut Was in Sulphur Dell

Henry Aaron was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1982 after a career that included 25 All-Star appearances, at least a .300 batting mark in 14 seasons, hitting 30 home runs 15 times, and winning three Gold Glove Awards.

Aaron1Most notably renown for becoming baseball’s home run king on April 8, 1974 in passing Babe Ruth with his 715th, Aaron would still have more than 3,000 hits should his total of 755 home runs be removed from his hit total.

“Hammerin’ Hank” captured the National League MVP Award in 1957, won the league’s batting title in 1956 and 1959, and appeared in the World Series in 1957, 1958, and 1969.

Born on February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama, the 18-year-old, 5’11” 170-lb sensation began his march to baseball immortality as a member of the 1952 Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns. The team held spring training in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, then traveled to several cities to play exhibition games between Buffalo and Kansas City.

The Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox, and Philadelphia Stars were the other teams in the six-team league. The Clowns did not schedule games in Indianapolis, playing all games in other cities, but opening day was scheduled for May 11, 1952 as a double header against the Philadelphia Stars.

In Nashville, at Sulphur Dell. It would be Hank Aaron’s first regular-season game as a professional.

The Memphis World heralded the “newcomer Henry Aaron, the sensational 16 [sic]-year-old, will open at short…”

Memphis World 05-06-1952 Indianapolis Clowns Philadephia Stars Hank Aaron Rookie Sulphur Dell

But the Nashville Tennessean made no mention of Aaron in articles previous to and after the two games:

Tennessean 05-10-1952 Henry Aaron Sulphur Dell Indianapolis Clowns Philadelphia Stars 05-11-1952Tennessean 05-11-1952 Henry Aaron Sulphur Dell Indianapolis Clowns Philadelphia Stars 05-11-1952Tennessean 05-12-1952 Henry Aaron Sulphur Dell Indianapolis Clowns Philadelphia Stars 05-11-1952

With no report of his batting or field totals on that day in the historic ballpark, one can only guess that he began a string of games that included strategic hits and powerful blows that lent to his successful career.

Exactly one month later, on June 11, Aaron was leading the Negro American League with a .483 batting average on 15 hits, 51 total bases, five home runs, six doubles, 28 runs, and 24 RBI. On that day he was purchased by the Boston Braves for $10,000 and his major league career was off and running.

Sent to Eau Claire (Class C – Northern League), he ended his first season in organized baseball with a .336 average. In his first full year in the minors at Jacksonville (Class A – South Atlantic League) in 1953, Hank slammed 22 home runs and had 208 hits leading to a batting average of .362. He earned a trip to spring training where he caught on with the Braves who had left Boston for Milwaukee.

On April 4, 1954, Hank returned to Nashville and had two doubles, scored twice and had two RBI in an 18-14 exhibition win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. At Sulphur Dell one year later against Brooklyn, he hit a home run and a single, driving in two runs in the Dodgers 10-8 win.

In Brooklyn’s 12-2 win the next year on April 9, he had a double and an RBI. It would be four years before Aaron returned to Sulphur Dell, this time against Cincinnati before 6,763 in a 6-3 win over the Reds when he had a single and scored a run.

Aaron’s four appearances in Nashville as a member of the Braves were preceded by a particular date on the baseball calendar, May 11, 1952, when Hammerin’ Hank marked his official professional debut in the infield dirt at Sulphur Dell.

© Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Special thanks to fellow researcher, Mark Aubrey (oldknoxvillebaseball.blogspot.com)

References

Bryant, Howard. (2010). The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron. New York, New York. Pantheon Books.

Vascellaro, Charlie. (2005). Hank Aaron: A Biography. Greenwood. Westport, Connecticut.

Online Sources

http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/aaron.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com

http://www.baseballhall.org

http://www.crossroadstofreedom.org

http://www.georgiaencyclopeia.org

http://www.newspapers.com

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Nashville’s Jim Turner: Player, Coach, Manager, Fan

Born in August 6, 1903 in Antioch, Tennessee, James “Jim” Riley Turner began his journey in baseball in March of 1922. Trying out for the hometown Nashville Vols as a catcher in the presence of manager Larry Doyle, pitcher Red Lucas, outfielder Mike Burke, and third baseman Hap Morse, Turner was told “come back next year”. He spent the rest of the year playing semipro ball in the Nashville area.

Turner’s brother Bryant was usually the pitcher on their teams, and when Bryant failed to show up for a game for Nolensville, Jim pitched the game and struck out 18 Gladeville batters. He was a pitcher from that time on. One of the spectators told Little Rock manager Kid Elberfeld about Turner and on the team’s next visit to Nashville Little Rock signed him to a contract for $175 a month.

In March Little Rock sent Turner to Paris, Tennessee in the Kitty League where he played in 1923 and 1924. He won 14 games the first year and 16 games the next. Sent to Winston-Salem in 1925, for the next five seasons Turner had stops in Greensboro, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Selma, and back to Greensboro. During the winter of 1929-1930, Turner was sold to Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League where he played for three seasons. He spent four seasons in Indianapolis winning 18 games in 1936.

He had spent 14 years in the minor leagues before his break into major league ball when he was sold to the Boston Braves. As a 32-year-old rookie in 1937, Turner won 20 games, had a National League-best ERA of 2.38, led the league in shutouts with five and complete games with 24. The next season he was selected to the 1938 National League All Star team. Two years later he pitched in the 1940 World Series for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1942 he spent part of the season in Newark after having been sent to the New York Yankees where he ended his playing career at 41 years of age in 1945.

He signed to manage Beaumont in the Texas League in 1946 where his team finished fifth with a record of 70-83. In Portland the next two seasons, he finished third and fifth, winning 97 and losing 89 in 1947 and winning 89 and losing 99 in 1948. When Casey Stengel was named manager of the Yankees, Turner became pitching coach in 1949.

During his 11-year tenure with the Yankees, he developed the pitchers who led the Yanks to nine pennants and seven world championships.

Jim Turner Banner ProfileIn 1960, “Milkman Jim” (a nickname given to him because he always returned to the family farm during the off-season) returned to Nashville as general manager and field manager of the Nashville Vols. In the winter of 1958, a campaign had been initiated to organize a group to take over the financially-distressed Nashville Vols. Led by civic leaders Herschel Greer, Dr. Cleo Miller, country music star Eddie Arnold, Vols, Inc. was formed and shares in the new venture were sold at $5.00 per share. Nashville had been led on the field by manager Dick Sisler during the previous three seasons, but attendance at the gate had begun to dwindle. In 1959 the team lost only $2,300.00, but in a move that was enormously popular in Music City, Jim Turner was offered the reins of the ball club not only to improve the performance of the team on the field, but also to improve paid attendance.

The decision to attain Turner almost did not happen. “It was necessary to act quickly to get Jim Turner,” said Vols, Inc. board member Jack Norman told the Nashville Tennessean, “Jim has had several attractive offers. One particularly was pressing closely. It was therefore necessary to make an immediate decision.” Turner never divulged the offers that he had received.

With full control of the team, Turner managed the Cincinnati Reds-affiliate Vols with a roster that include catcher Johnny Edwards, utility man Rod Kanehl, and pitchers Jim Maloney and Jack Baldschun.  Turner’s 1960 Vols team finished sixth in the Southern Association, with 71 wins and 82 losses. The crowds continued to decline throughout the season, and Turner resigned at the end of the year.  He returned to the majors with assignments by the Reds that included becoming pitching coach in 1961 until his retirement in 1973.

Returning to Nashville, he continued to attend local college and amateur games, and was a season ticket holder with the Nashville Sounds with their inception in 1978 until his passing on November 29, 1998.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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T’was Walks That Killed The “Miracle Man”

One of the influencers of early Nashville baseball was George Stallings, a bulldog personality who took his baseball style to the managerial ranks with great success.

Born in Augusta, Georgia, Stallings entered medical school but instead signed to play with the Philadelphia Phillies although he was cut in spring training. He was only an average player who played in seven games in the majors.

His minor leagues career began in 1887, and played for Toronto, Birmingham, Galveston, Stockton, Toledo, Oakland, Hartford, San Jose, Augusta, Kansas City, Nashville, and Detroit over thirteen seasons.

GeoStallings

George Stallings

While with Augusta in 1893, Stallings began his managerial career, and the next season managed the Nashville Tigers (and also played 29 games in the outfield) and the re-named Nashville Seraphs in 1895 (Stallings was a backup catcher).

The Tigers finished in second place in the Southern League one game behind pennant-winning Atlanta, but his Nashville Seraphs team won the Southern League championship in 1895.

He became a manager in the big leagues beginning in 1897 with the Phillies, and in 1910 led the New York Highlanders to a second place finish in the American Leagues.  But his greatest fame came as manager of the 1914 Boston Braves.  The Braves had finished in last place in 1912; for the 1913 season, the team finished fifth under Stallings’ tutelage.

On July 15, 1914, the team was once again mired in last place 11 ½ games behind the first-place New York Giants when the team began an almost-impossible streak of winning 52 of 66 games to finish 10 ½ games in front of the Giants.

The Braves surprised the heavily-favored Philadelphia Athletics by winning four consecutive games to capture the World Series championship and earn the nickname “Miracle Braves”.  Future Nashville Vols manager Larry Gilbert was an outfielder on the 1914 World Champion team.

From that point on, Stallings would be known in baseball circles as “Miracle Man”. He is credited with being the first manager to use platooning with success.

Stallings’ major league managerial record was 880-900.  His last year to manage at that level was 1920, but he continued to manage for seven more years at Rochester before one final year at Montreal, a franchise that he helped to resurrect in the International League.

Baseball lore tells that as Stallings was near death, his doctor asked why he had a bad heart. “Bases on balls, doc … those damned bases on balls.”

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