Tag Archives: Columbus

Nashville Barons?

In the fall of 1961, attempts to continue the Southern Association were failing. Atlanta dropped out in hopes of becoming a major-league city, and Shreveport and Mobile decided not to remain in the league.

Birmingham was rumored to be moving its franchise to Montgomery, Huntsville, or Columbus, Georgia. Barons owner W. A. Belcher would not remain in Birmingham due to the enforcement by city officials prohibiting mixing of the races in athletic contests, even though the law has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.

If it was to continue, operating as a six-team loop became a real possibility. Not only was it difficult to navigate through the question of playing black players (in September the board of directors of Nashville had voted to include negroes beginning in 1962), finding major-league affiliations was another issue. Chattanooga (Philadelphia Phillies), Birmingham (Detroit Tigers), and Little Rock (Baltimore Orioles) had affiliations, but Nashville and Macon did not.

When Belcher decided to withdraw the Barons from the league, two cities were needed. It had been determined the Los Angeles Dodgers would attempt to place a team in Evansville, Indiana, and the Minnesota Twins would do the same in Columbus.

But the key was Nashville’s inability to round up a major-league club to supply financial support and players. The final discussion about survival in Nashville, a last-gasp solution, was for the Vols to take over the Barons-Tigers agreement.

raymond-johnsonNashville Tennessean sports writer Raymond Johnson was aware of the possibility on November 17. It came from a conversation he had at the Georgia Tech-Alabama football with Eddie Glennon, who had resigned as general manager of the Barons just a few days earlier.

“Here take this.” Glennon told Johnson. “You might need it.”

It was a roster of players that Detroit was going to supply to Birmingham for the 1962 season. It included: Stan Palys, George McCue, LeGrant Scott, Norman Manning, Bob Micelotta, Mike Cloutier, Bob Patrick, Rufus Anderson, John Ryan, Al Baker, Henry Duke, John Sullivan, Larry Koehl, Jerry Lock, Bob Humphreys, Jim Proctor, Willie Smith, Jim Stump, R. G. Smith, Gene Bacque, Bob Paffel, and Nashville native Jere Ray.

It is doubtful the Nashville Vols would have become the “Barons”, but it shows willing effort to keep the Southern going. Per Johnson, the assistance of Glennon and behind-the-scenes activity by Dick Butler, president of the Texas League, Sam Smith, head of the SALLY League, and Buzzy Bavasi of the Dodgers were instrumental in attempts to prolong the historic league.

The entire process became moot a few months later, as the decision to shut down came in January of 1962, ending Southern Association operations. In his column, Johnson described the recent troubles that led to downfall, an epitaph that could have been written on the league’s gravestone.

“Fire that destroyed Russwood Park took Memphis out…Sale of Pelican Stadium so a huge motel could be built at the site virtually eliminated baseball in New Orleans…Atlanta scribes got the idea the Georgia metropolis was too big for the Southern and they inoculated the fans so well that they forgot baseball was played in Ponce de Leon Park…They may not return for triple A ball, either…The fear of mixing black and white athletes caused Birmingham to withdraw.”

SOURCES

Johnson, Raymond. (1961, November 30). One Man’s Opinion Column: “Sadler Spins Like a Reel After Closing Tiger Deal”. Nashville Tennessean, p. 30.

Watkins, Clarence. Baseball in Birmingham. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2010.

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

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Opening at Home for the First Time

Nashville’s first home opener took place on May 4, 1885 against Columbus. The club had been on a lengthy road trip to open the Southern League season with visits to Macon, Augusta, Birmingham, and the team who was paying a visit to Athletic Park. The local club returned with a satisfactory 7-4 record.

Nashville’s Daily American May 4 edition urged locals to come out and support the new professional team, not only for the game of that day but for the entire season.

“They deserve a large attendance and a perfect ovation at the hands of Nashville people…large audiences should attend the games to encourage the club that is trying to win the pennant for Nashville.”

The next day’s account of the game began with a sour lead.

Daily American 05-05-1885 Opening Day Nashville First Home Professional game“The opening championship game for Nashville was a disastrous one. The Columbus club defeated the Americans by a score of 3-2. The scorer’s record will show that, with a few exceptions, an excellent fielding game was played. The defeat was evidently attributable to the light hitting of the locals.”

The box score proves it. Nashville was outhit 8-5, had 5 errors (Columbus had 4) while the opponents’ first baseman Charlie Hamburg had the only extra base hit, a double. Len Sowders, first baseman for the home team, would be shut out at the plate but when the season was over would lead all hitters with a .309 average.

Losing pitcher Alex Voss struck out four on his way to 210 for the year as he would finish with a 26-14 record. It would be an auspicious start as Nashville would build up to a 62-39 record at season’s end, good enough for third place in the inaugural Southern circuit.

It was the first of many season openers in Nashville.

© Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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