Tag Archives: Daily American

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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“Volunteers” the Pick

Team nicknames are commonplace today, but in the early days of baseball it was not so. Cities claimed their teams by including the name of the leagues they played in, such as New York Americans, St. Louis Nationals, and so on.

Tongue-in-cheek references by sports writers often caught on. “Trolley Dodgers”, for one, stood for exactly what it sounds like. It was shortened to “Dodgers” for the Brooklyn team in the National League and was carried with them to Los Angeles.

Nashville’s baseball team had an early name, “Americans”, but the team did not play in any sort of league with that name. The local newspaper, The Daily American, claimed the team’s name as it gave the most thorough coverage of Nashville’s first professional team in the newly-formed Southern League.

The Southern League failed and re-organized throughout the remainder of the 19th Century and names for resurrected Nashville clubs included “Seraphs”, “Blues”, and “Tigers”.

When the Southern Association began play in 1901, nicknames were not widely used except when sports writers used references in a variety of manners. Newt Fisher became manager and local scribes would call the team the “Fishermen”. Under Johnny Dobbs tutelage the club was given the moniker the “Dobbers”. When service clubs were formed to boost local commerce, the team was often known as “Boosters” due to the support of those organizations.

One flippant remark to the quality of the team’s performance in 1907 was “Hustlers”. Apparently, there was lack of it.

As ball club ownership in other cities began to appease the fan base by adding an official team name, Nashville management did not seem to notice the importance. After all, some clubs used more than one.

If management would not approve it, at least writers and fans could settle in on one name that was unofficial. In 1908 the three local newspapers held a contest among fans to give the Nashville club an official name. Nashville’s three newspapers, American, Banner, and Tennessean, accepted mail-in votes from readers during the month of February, sent to Nashville manager Bill Bernhard, choosing from three agreed upon selections: Lime Rocks, Rocks, and Volunteers.

Grantland Rice was sports editor of the Tennessean at the time and his personal choice was “Volunteers”. The proximity of the State Capitol to the recently named ballpark, Sulphur Dell (Rice gave it that name in a January 14 column six weeks prior) and his premise that the name suggested courage, gave him reason to support the name.

On February 29, Rice announced in a Tennessean sports page headline, “Volunteers Wins Out in Fan Vote”. His column validated that 950 votes were cast for “Volunteers”, far-outdistancing the other choices.

He even states the name will stick, “…no matter who the manager or owner may be.”

The name did stick: Nashville remained a member of the Southern association from until it closed up shop after the 1961 season. For those 54 years the team was known as “Volunteers”, often shortened to “Vols”. Even the ownership group that had been formed in 1959 took on “Vols, Inc.” for the name of the new corporation. The club was revived for one additional season in 1963 as a member of the South Atlantic League.

When fans failed to support the team, the team folded; the Nashville Vols would be no more.

Tennessean 02-29-1908 Grantland Rice Names Volunteers Vols

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Author’s note: Much of the information included in this article comes from John A. Simpson’s excellent book, “The Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie”: The Nashville Vols, Their 1908 Season, and the Championship Game. It is a wonderful account which provides as a resource for Nashville’s baseball history beginning in the 1800s up to an incredible season posted by the Volunteers. It is available from Amazon and other sources. You may read my review from an earlier post here: https://262downright.com/2015/04/10/from-my-bookshelf-the-greatest-game-ever-played-in-dixie/

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