Tag Archives: Detroit Tigers

Aubrey Gatewood Pitched for Nashville in 1963

15086317_10154705303233894_489973922_n

Provided by Tony Roberts

Aubrey Lee Gatewood was born November 17, 1938 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, Lee, was a truck driver in building construction, his mother Gladys was a homemaker, and when he was born there were three older sisters: Betty, Dolpha, and Delores.

He attended North Little Rock High School, tossed a perfect game in an American Legion game in 1956[1], and played for legendary coach J. A. “Ike” Tomlinson at Arkansas State University for three years[2]. On June 12, 1959, he signed a contract with cthe Detroit Tigers as a free agent and was to become a member of the Birmingham Barons club of the Southern Association but did not play that season.[3]

He was assigned to Durham (Carolina League – Class B) in 1960 and was 2-3 with a 6.50 ERA before being shipped to the Duluth-Superior Dukes (Northern League – Class C) where he finished the year 9-5 with a 2.35 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 95 innings. At one point, he accomplished six consecutive victories.[4] In a playoff game against Minot in September, he was removed from a game after being hit by a line drive.[5]

On December 14, he was selected by the expansion Los Angeles Angels from Detroit as the 11th pick for $75,000.

He began the 1961 season with hopes of earning a roster spot with the Angels. Catcher Del Rice, who had 16 years of experience handling pitchers, assessed Gatewood’s talent in spring training at Palm Springs, California.

“He’s got a good fastball and curve, but will also need a lot of work.”[6]

When the St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Ron Kline to the Angels, Gatewood was sent to Dallas-Ft. Worth (American Association – Class AA).[7] After losing two games in six appearances for the Rangers, he was demoted to Portsmouth-Norfolk (South Atlantic League – Class A) and his poor showing continued. In seven games, he had no wins and three loses.

Optioned to Des Moines (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League – Class B), he filled in quickly as a starter in 11 games in 13 appearances. He picked up his strikeout pace with 89 strikeouts in 75 innings with a 3-5 record and 5.04 ERA.

In October when Angels general manager Fred Haney called up six players from Dallas-Ft. Worth, he returned Gatewood to the Rangers from Des Moines.[8]

On November 27 in the 1961 Rule 5 draft, Gatewood was chosen by the New York Mets for $25,000 (he I s the only player selected in both expansion drafts). [9]He had recently moved his residence from Little Rock to Los Angeles in anticipation of remaining with the Angels.

Mets manager Casey Stengel was unhappy with Aubrey’s control and was returned to the Angels on April 6, 1962.[10] In his best Stengelese rationale, “The Old Perfessor” told Gatewood, “Son, we’d like to keep you around this season, but we’re going to try to win a pennant.”[11]

Assigned to Hawaii (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA), in 20 games he was 6-8 with a 4.54 ERA but was leading the league with 72 walks when he was sent to Tri-City (Northwest League – Class B) to end the season. He won one game and lost three and his ERA ballooned to 10.29.

Nashville, without professional baseball during the 1962 season after 61 years in the now-defunct Southern Association, reorganized in the Class A SALLY League and the Angels signed the Vols on as an affiliate. On April 3 Gatewood was assigned there under manager John Fitzpatrick who had managed Angels affiliate in Quad Cities (Midwest League – Class D) the previous year.

He was being counted on to anchor the starting rotation.

“(Gatewood) will probably be our starting pitcher in the opening game at Knoxville”, touted Vols general manager Ed Doherty. “He can fire. I saw him work four innings the other day and he struck out seven and walked but one. He’s got a good, live arm.”[12]

On April 19, in Nashville’s opening game in Knoxville, Gatewood was the starter. He pitched five innings with no decision as the Vols won 8-4. He was removed from the game after giving up five hits and two runs, but Fitzpatrick pulled him not for being ineffective but for sitting through three rain delays.[13]

In the second game of a double header with Macon on April 29, Fitzpatrick was ejected from arguing a close play at third, and Gatewood was called on to guide the club for the remainder of the game.[14]

Chronic arm trouble haunted him during the season, and twice he was flown to Los Angeles for a medical examination. Bone chips in his throwing elbow were the issue, and both diagnosis resulted in him being sent back to Nashville without surgery. Doctors felt he could be treated with occasional cortisone shots. [15]

However, he was chosen to play in the South Atlantic League All Star game played in Augusta on July 22, where he tossed two innings of hitless relief, striking out three in the All Stars’ whitewashing of the first-half champion Yankees 7-0.

After his second return in August, he did not win another game.[16]

 ““He had a huge curveball,” says 1963 Nashville Vols historian Tony Roberts watched him from behind the plate, “but his arm issues kept him from dominating hitters.”

“Without rehabilitation like the players receive today, Gatewood just never recovered.”[17]

He had a 6-10 record with a 3.34 ERA for the Vols before being called up by the Angels on September 5, and on September 11 pitched a four-hitter in a 4-1 complete game win over the Red Sox in his major-league debut. He finished 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in four games.

At the beginning of 1964 spring training in Phoenix, he hopes of becoming a starter for the Angels. Los Angeles Times sports writer John Hall explained how Gatewood had come to the club nearly unnoticed.

“Gatewood’s career has been detoured in the past by arm miseries, but he indicated last September that he’s got the hex licked and he’s been taking it slow and sensible this spring, just now ready to make his move to become a starter in the Angel rotation that will include Ken McBride, Dean Chance, Bo Belinsky and Barry Latman.”[18]

But he was sent to Hawaii to begin the season; and was the Islanders starting pitcher in a spring exhibition against the parent club. After 17 starts, a 5-7 record, and 5.12 ERA for Hawaii, he was recalled by the Angels in July. He made seven starts and eight relief appearances, ending with a 3-3 record and a respectable 2.24 ERA.

His third loss came on September 16 against the New York Yankees when he walked Bobby Richardson in the sixth inning, and Roger Maris slugged a home run for his 1,000th career hit.

The Angels kept Aubrey on the major-league roster for the entire 1965 season, although when they sent him to their Seattle farm club during spring training, he threatened to quit[19]. To alleviate pressure on his arm, he became a knuckleball pitcher. Los Angeles Times writer Hall reported the change in delivery.

“Aubrey Gatewood’s knuckler has become the talk of the clubhouse, and the angry man from Arkansas is smiling for the first time all season.

“I can throw strikes with it and that’s the name of the game,” said Gatewood.”[20] His year ended at 4-5 and a 3.42 ERA in 92 innings.

1966 was not so kind to him. He began with El Paso (Texas League – Class AA) and was 2-6 with a 4.97 ERA as a spot starter and middle reliever before being purchased by Buffalo (International League – Class AAA), a Cincinnati farm club where he had a 6-7 record and a 5.67 ERA.

He continued his stay in Buffalo throughout 1967. He appeared in 37 games, winning four and losing five. His ERA was 3.80.

Before the 1968 season began, he was sent to Baltimore, a team which had envied his services in 1965[21]. He pitched for the Oriole’s Rochester (International League – Class AAA) club, but with a 4-10 record and ERA of 4.20, he was removed from the Red Wings roster in July and awaited reassignment.[22]

His reassignment was to Tacoma (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA), on loan to the Chicago Cubs affiliate. He was 1-1, pitched 39 innings in 11 games, and started in four.

Back with Rochester again in 1969, he pitched four innings in two games before being released in May. On June 20, 1969, he signed as a Free Agent with the Atlanta Braves and sent to Shreveport (Texas League – Class AA), where he was 7-6.

After getting a call to the Braves from Shreveport in June of 1970, he pitched two innings in three games for Atlanta. His last major-league appearance came on July 8 against the San Francisco Giants, before being sent to Richmond (International League – Class AA) a few days later. He played in five games for Richmond, and ended his season back in Shreveport.

He never overcame his loss of arm strength or his ability to overpower hitters. Gatewood’s major league career lasted for four seasons, and he finished 8-9 with a 2.78 ERA for Los Angeles and the Atlanta Braves.

After one final season, split between Savannah and Arkansas in the Dixie Association, he retired in 1971. His career included a minor-league career record of 61-90 and 4.36 ERA.

SOURCES

Ancestry.com

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Retrosheet.org

Sabr.org

Writer’s note: Special thanks to Tony Roberts for providing newspaper clippings and other information about Gatewood’s season in Nashville.

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Pittsburgh Courier, January 11, 1964, p. 15

[2] Decatur (Illinois) Herald, January 11, 1971, p. 17

[3]Battle Creek Inquirer, June 30, 1959, p. 14

[4] Eau Claire Daily Telegram, August 1, 1960, p. 11

[5] St. Cloud Times, September 7, 1960, p. 26

[6]Long Beach Independent, March 27, 1961, p. 19

[7] Ibid., April 11, 1961, p. 18

[8] Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1961, p. 79

[9] Long Beach Independent, July 31, 1964, p. 37

[10] Des Moines Register, April 15, 1962, p. 45

[11] Stewart, Wayne. (2012) The Little Red Book of Baseball Wisdom (Little Red Books). New York, New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

[12] Nashville Tennessean, April 4, 1963, p. 31

[13] Ibid., April 20, 1963, p. 13

[14] Ibid., April 30, 1963, p. 15

[15] Ibid., August 14, 1963, p. 20

[16] Ibid., September 12, 1963, p. 23

[17] Telephone conversation with Roberts November 17, 2016

[18] Hall, John. “Gatewood to Success”. Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1964

[19] Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1965, p. 46

[20] Hall. September 12, 1965.

[21] Long Beach Independent, June 7, 1965, p.  25

[22] Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 27, 1968, p. 33

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, History, Research

Nashville’s Swift Sherman Kennedy

Sherman Montgomery Kennedy was born in Conneaut, Ohio on November 13, 1877. His father, Benjamin, was a real estate agent, and his mother, Clara, was a homemaker. By the time his three sisters were in school and his brother was a farm hand, Sherman had already made his name in baseball.[1]

Little is known of his early playing days, but by 1899 he joined the New London Whalers in the Connecticut League, hitting for a .244 average while playing third base and outfield, and pitching to a 7-6 record in 14 games. He played only a few games for New London in 1900, but Kennedy began the inaugural Southern Association season in 1901 at short stop.

In the opening game in Chattanooga on May 2, he reached on an error, scored a run, and made an error while making a putout with three assists in the field. Nashville won in 10 innings, 15-14; the next day he dropped from seventh to eighth in the lineup but gathered his first hit on a single as his team won its second game 6-4.

By mid-season, he had moved to first in the batting order to take advantage of his speed. Nashville ended the season 78-45 to capture the flag; Kennedy ended the year with 50 stolen bases and was reportedly off to the major leagues.

snapper_kennedy_fbBefore re-joining Nashville for 1902, the 23-year-old played center field for the Chicago Orphans (now the Cubs) on May 1 against Detroit.[2] He was hitless in five plate appearances against George Mullin, striking out once. It was Kennedy’s only major league game.

When he returned to Nashville, Dennis Lowney had been signed from Little Rock to play shortstop, and Kennedy took his turn in center field where he played outstanding defense on the outfield hills of Athletic Park.

He made good use of his swiftness in a 7-1 win over New Orleans that kept the Pelicans eight games behind the leading Nashville ball club. Lead-off batter Roy Montgomery socked a long fly ball to right center in the first inning and Kennedy chased after it. Losing his balance just as he grabbed the ball with his glove, he rolled to the ground but held on to rob Montgomery of a sure double.

The Nashville American reported the play with near-poetic expression:

“Kennedy’s catch of Montgomery’s drive in the first inning was a thing of beauty and a source of much joy to the jubilant fans. Sherman fell sprawling on his back upon the bank in right center just as he got his left hand on the sphere, but he clung to the ball, nevertheless. It was a great play.”[3]

Suffering from a knee injury during the middle of the season, Snapper’s stolen base total was reduced to 29. He played in 98 games, hitting .261, and Nashville captured a second-consecutive pennant.

He signed a new contract for the 1903 season, but for whatever reason manager and club-owner Newt Fisher asked Kennedy to approve his being loaned to New Orleans for two weeks to begin the season. Refusing the assignment, on May 30 had two hits in his first two season appearances for Nashville.

“I came to play with Nashville,” said Kennedy, “and I don’t propose to play anywhere else. I like the town and the people. I also like Newt(.) Fisher, and I will be glad to play for him and Nashville, but I will not play in any other city of the Southern League. This is final and absolute.”[4]

But on June 4 he was in New Orleans in an experiment that did not work.  He did not show for the Pelicans game against Birmingham the next day, and on June 6 he shows up as Nashville’s shortstop against Little Rock.

Battling from third place with Memphis and Little Rock ahead in the standings, stealing three bases in a double header with Montgomery on August 12 and two more on August 15, adding a sacrifice against Birmingham.

“Sherman Kennedy has “come back to life.” Sherman is doing his best now and his fast work on the base lines is a joy to the Nashville fans. “Let’s get Kennedy on a base,” is the cry now. Sherman stole two more bases yesterday. If he keeps up this work he will lead the league “a block” in the matter of stolen bases.”[5]

He stole four bases, including a steal of home, and was four-for-four at the plate against Memphis on August 25, fans took up a collection amounting to $32.00 to show appreciation for his specialty work on the base paths. Near season’s end he stole nine bases in 11 games, and finished with a team-best 35 stolen bases (James Smith lead the league with 48, splitting time between Shreveport and New Orleans). Nashville fell to fifth to end the season.

On February 27, 1904, Kennedy arrived in Nashville with his wife and new baby with him. It was the earliest he had shown up to prepare for any season, and Newt Fisher was pleased.

“Manager Fisher and Kennedy spent Saturday at the home of the former, talking over the prospects for the coming season and discussing the players who have been signed. To-day they will be at Athletic Park and will get into uniforms.”[6]

Fisher wanted Sherman to play first base, and he performed admirably at his new position. But the tide turned in a game on June 23 with his club hovering around the .500 mark. Kennedy muffed a throw to first by second baseman Tom Smith. The error was so unlike the agile first sacker that the crowd began to boo.

“There was one of two reasons for Kennedy’s rank error; either he was not able to handle the ball or he dropped it purposely. If it was the first reason, then he is not a fit player for that important position. If it was the second reason, then it is the plain duty of Newt Fisher to put him on the bench and keep him there until he learns what the duty of a ball player is and does not let his temper run away with him…”[7]

The next week Kennedy apologized, and he began to play up to the standard his teammates expected. But on September 17 his father contacted him to say the Kennedy’s young son Frank, who had been ill, was not doing well.

…Kennedy left for his home in Connaught <sic>, O., on a night train, and because of the fact that the season is so nearly over will not return. Kennedy’s child has been seriously ill for some time, and this is no doubt the cause of his indifferent work of late. Other hard luck has also been staring “Ken” in the face for several weeks, and he was almost broken down from the heavy strain on his mind. Kennedy has many friends here who will regret the news of his child’s illness.”

Little Frank soon recovered, and Nashville finished with a 72-67 record, 11 games behind pennant-winning Memphis. Talk began to circulate that Kennedy would sign with New Orleans for 1905. Instead he played for Shreveport where he led the league with 57 stolen bases, tied with 51 sacrifice hits, and batted .290.

For an unknown reason, he did not return to Shreveport until July 11, 1908. The Pirates were in a neck-and-neck battle with New Orleans and Birmingham for the top league spot, and he was immediately inserted into the lineup in a double header with Little Rock. He had two hits and stole a base in the split.

His speed and his bat did not return to him. When the season was over, his batting average had fallen to .189 in 69 games.

Whether another calamity had befallen him is not clear, but his late-season appearance and anemic performance may have spoken for his retirement from baseball.

A 5’10”, 165-lb. switch-hitter, he played all positions except pitcher and catcher for Nashville between 1901-1904. His team won the first two Southern Association championships. “Snapper” had a .292 batting average, and averaged 37 stolen bases in his four seasons with the club.

At the age of 66, he passed away on August 15, 1945 in Pasadena, Texas and is buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.

*Author’s note: It appears Sherman Kennedy is often confused with Albert Kennedy; baseball-reference.com shows both players with the same nickname “Snapper”.

SOURCES

Ancestry.com

Baseball-reference.com

Nashville American

Newspapers.com

Retrosheet.org

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] 1900 United States Federal Census, accessed November 1, 2016

[2] Lee, Bill. (2003) The Baseball Necrology: The Post-Baseball Lives and Deaths of Over 7,600 Major League Players and Others. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.

[3] Nashville American, July 16, 1902, p. 6

[4] Nashville American, May 31, 1903, p. 8

[5] Ibid. August 16, 1903, p. 6

[6] Ibid. February 29, 1904, p. 3

[7] Ibid. June 24, 1904, p. 7

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, History, Research

Early Exhibitions Led to a Working Agreement with Chicago Cubs

On October 11, 1951, when the Nashville club signs a working agreement with the New York Giants, it ends a long association with the Chicago Cubs. Upon Larry Gilbert’s arrival in the southern city, in 1939 he continued owner Fay Murray’s working agreement with the Brooklyn Dodgers through the 1942 season, and signed his club on with the Chicago. Gilbert was even considered to manage or coach the Cubs

But the relationship goes back much further than that. In 1885 Cap Anson brought his Chicago White Stockings (often called Anson’s Colts) to Nashville. On April 10, his club wins over Nashville’s professional team 4-2 before 4,000 fans.

In 1903 the Chicago baseball team would become the Cubs. As early as 1908 the National League team visited Nashville for a series of exhibition games that continued for another 10 years.

In front of 3,500 in attendance at Sulphur Dell on April 6, 1908, the Cubs are victorious over Nashville 7-0. Chick Fraser holds the Vols to two hits, both by Doc Wiseman. The next day, the Cubs beat Nashville as Chicago pitcher Carl Lundgren holds the Vols to two hits once again, this time for a 7-2 win.

The famous “Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance” combination has one double play in the game.

Coming off their 1908 World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, the Cubs visited Nashville once again, this time to play a late-March three-game series. Manager Bill Bernhardt’s Vols lost all three by scores of 3-0, 3-0, and 11-2. Boston Red Sox players attended the game as both major league squads had set up camp in Nashville (the Red Sox won 9-2 on April 1 and 10-2 the following day.)

In 1910, on March 28 and 29, Nashville loses by consecutive 3-1 scores. In the third game, the Vols have 10 hits against Chicago starting pitcher and future Hall of Famer Three-Finger Brown and reliever Orval Overall but lose 9-2.

Settling in Nashville once again for two exhibition games at Sulphur Dell in 1911, the Cubs takes game over the Vols, 8-4, 8-2 on March 28 and 29.

On March 24, 1912, the Vols continue their losing streak to the Cubs, 6-3. In the second inning against Nashville-born pitcher Fred Toney, Vols catcher Rowdy Elliott socked a long home run that cleared the Sulphur Dell fence by 10 feet and is considered only the second home run off a right-handed pitcher ever hit in the fabled ballpark.

Scoring four runs in the ninth inning on March 24, 1915, the Cubs win over the Vols 4-2 even though the big leaguers committed three errors. Breaking a habit of losing to Chicago, Nashville wins 3-1 on March 25, 1913, as a fist-fight ensues between Heinie Zimmerman of the Cubs and umpire Hadley Williams. Zimmerman was peeved at the way the Vols were hitting pitcher Lew Richie.

On March 24, 1914, Nashville loses to the Cubs by a score of 2-0, and the next year lose again 7-4 on April 4 as Cy Williams has two home runs for the visitors including an inside-the-park homer.sporting-life-march-10-1917-chicago-cubs-nashville-vols-agreement

Williams has another home run on April 7, 1915, along with Cubs outfielder Frank Schulte, in a 12-1 win over Nashville at Sulphur Dell. Vols third baseman Johnny Dodger has two errors and the Cubs outhit Nashville 17-5 in Chicago’s win.

It appears the two clubs did not play each other during 1916, but a new agreement that include the Cubs was on the horizon. On February 6, 1917, having broken off talks with the St. Louis Browns, it was expected the Nashville Baseball Club will sign a working agreement with the Chicago Cubs. On March 6, a working agreement was announced with the Chicago Cubs whereby the major league club would provide an infielder, outfielder, and pitcher each season.

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

SOURCES

baseball-reference.com

newspapers.com

Paper of Record

sabr.org

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Research

The Up and Down Career of Gene Host

Eugene Earl Host was once one of the highest-rated mound prospects in the Detroit organization.  Born on January 1, 1933 in Leeper, Pennsylvania, the 5′ 11″, 190-pound hard-throwing left hander was signed as a 19-year-old free agent in 1952 by the Detroit Tigers.

Sent to Kingston of the Coastal Plains League in his first professional season, he was 26-7 with a 1.81 ERA and named to the league All Star team.

He spent the 1953 season with Montgomery in the South Atlantic League (A) where he was 10-13 with a 3.51 ERA and in 1954 bounced between three teams: Little Rock (Southern Association – AA), Wilkes-Barre (Eastern League – A), and Durham (Carolina League – B). His combined record was 7-7.

In 1955 he spent the entire season with Little Rock where he was 10-13 once again. In May he hit Chattanooga’s Lyle Luttrell with a pitch, breaking his jaw.

In 1956 he finished 13-15 with Charleston (American Association – AAA) before being called up to the Tigers where his contract with the major league club called for a salary of $4,200.

He pitched in one game for Detroit at Briggs Stadium on September 16, 1956 against Boston. Wearing number 19, he started the game and allowed four runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Two of those hits were home runs by Billy Klaus (in the 5th inning with one on and one out) and Jackie Jensen (also in the 5th inning, a solo shot with two out).

After a single by Jimmy Piersall and a walk to Norm Zauchin, manager Bucky Harris called on future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning to replace Host on the mound. Bunning won in relief, allowing one hit the rest of the way as the Tigers won 8-4.

On December Host was traded by the Tigers with Wayne Belardi, Ned Garver, Virgil Trucks and $20,000 to the Kansas City Athletics for Jack Crimian, Jim Finigan, Bill Harrington and Eddie Robinson.

Gene HostHost signed with Kansas City at a salary of $5,100 and appeared in 11 games for the Athletics in 1957, mostly in relief. His uniform number was 28. He started two games, at Comiskey Park on April 20 against the Chicago White Sox (his first game for Kansas City, no decision) and at Cleveland Stadium on May 10 against the Indians (his first loss of the season).

His second loss came on June 9 at home at Municipal Stadium. In relief of Tom Morgan with no one out and two on in the fifth inning Host retired the side with no outs. In the eighth he gave up a solo home run to Ted Lepcio. In the ninth inning Jimmy Piersall and Ted Williams hit home runs and Lepcio singled home Jackie Jensen. Boston won 8-4 as Kansas City’s offense gave no support to Host.

On June 14 at Kansas City versus the New York Yankees, Host came on in relief of Mickey McDermott. Facing Mickey Mantle with two out and Bobby Richardson on second, Mantle promptly homered. Finishing the game, Host allowed seven hits, three runs (all earned), and struck out one: Mantle in the ninth.

Host’s final game in the majors was on June 23 at Fenway Park in Boston where he allowed three runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Traded to Buffalo for Glenn Cox a few weeks later, Host pitched in three games for the Bisons before being obtained by the Denver Bears of the American Association in late July. Under the tutelage of manager Ralph Houk, Denver won their league title. Playing versus Buffalo in the Junior Series championships Host was removed from the 20-player limit but he shared in the players’ share of the winnings.

In September he was sent to Little Rock to end the season. He was 1-4 in five appearances for the Travelers before being assigned back to Buffalo for 1958.

Host never appeared for the Bisons, however, as he was purchased by Indianapolis (American Association – AAA) in April before the season began. Having made his home in Little Rock, he left the club for a week to return to Arkansas without explanation, then rejoined the team on April 24. In May the Indians sent him to San Antonio (Texas League – AA) who returned him to Buffalo in June.

Buffalo assigned him to Winona (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League – Class B) but he refused to report and was placed on baseball’s suspended list.

Out of baseball in 1959, he returned the next season as a member of the Monterrey Sultans (Mexican League – AA) pitching staff. In the opening game he was the loser in a slugfest in Mexico City in front of 25,000 fans who saw the Reds win 13-8. His record with the Sultans was 2-5 as his ERA ballooned to 5.86.

Host was a member of the Nashville Vols in 1961, signed by the club in March. He appeared in 11 games, winning two and losing five. His first win came against Chattanooga on Monday, April 10 in the second game of the season as Nashville trounced the Lookouts 8-6. By May 3 Birmingham handed him his fourth consecutive defeat, but on May 7 he pitched brilliantly in a four-hit, 2-0 shutout as Nashville’s Gene Davis popped a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

It was Host’s final win of his career. The May 31, 1961 edition of The Sporting News announced his release by Nashville.

Once his baseball career was over he became a bus driver for Continental Trailways, and in 1964 began working as a machinist at the Ford Motor Co. glass plant in Nashville. Host passed away August 20, 1998 at the age of 65 and was cremated.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

From My Bookshelf: Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser

BootsBookArguably the most famous baseball team in the history of Nashville sports, the 1940 Nashville Volunteers were voted the 47th best minor league team of all time in the 100th celebration of Minor League baseball in 2001. Its heroic bad-boy pitcher, who finished the season in spectacular fashion with a 26-9 record, is celebrated by author Austin Gisriel in Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser (2014, Summer Game Books), .

With the huge advantage of sorting through scrapbooks kept by Boots’ first wife Jo and made available by Poffenberger’s grandson Jeremy Knode, Gisriel thoroughly examines the life of one of baseball’s unruly children.

And this journey of Poffenberger’s life in baseball, even with his garish attitude, is a pleasurable one.

Gisriel describes the portly pitcher in easy fashion, allowing the reader a view into those well-kept scrapbooks. He thoroughly details Poffenberger’s life from his home town of Williamsport, Maryland through sandlot ball, military service, and ultimately professional baseball and retirement.

Having been declared ineligible after his antics perturb both the Detroit Tigers and Brooklyn Dodgers management, Boots’ three-season foray into his major league career ends. Nashville manager Larry Gilbert takes a chance on the affable Poffenberger, purchasing him from the Dodgers in March of 1940, when no one else would have him:

“The Vols were skippered by Larry Gilbert, who had become part owner of the club after managing New Orleans for 15 seasons.There, Gilbert developed a reputation as an effective handler of eccentrics, flakes, and trouble-makers…”

Poffenberger’s success culminates in Nashville. It was then and there that he found his best success with one of the best minor league teams of all time.

“Boot(s) Poffenberger, of course, lead the league in wins with 26 becoming the first Volunteer hurler to notch at least 25 in a season. Boots appeared in 37 games and remarkably, received a decision in all but two of them. His .743 win percentage was first in the league.”

At an end-of-season banquet held at a local supper club for the 1940 team, Nashville Banner sportswriter Fred Russell sings Boots’ praises for what he had meant to the team:

“I mean it with the utmost sincerity when I say that Poffenberger’s reputation is unfair to him, and, as this season has proved, he has been the victim of major league operators’ and managers’ own deficiencies in what should be a prime requisite of their job – handling men.

Model boy? No. Bad actor? I have known ten dozen ball players who were bigger problems than Poffenberger.”

But seven months removed from the glowing tribute given by Russell, the wrapping comes off of the package. Already facing questions about his drinking habits and game preparation, on June 25, 1941 Poffenberger is suspended for 90 days by League president Trammel Scott after throwing at umpire Ed “Dutch” Hoffman in the fifth inning of the previous night’s game. And Larry Gilbert, the well-respected molder of disorderly baseball men, gives up on him:

“I’m through with him”, Gilbert was quoted as saying in the Nashville papers the next day. “He won’t pitch for Nashville anymore.”

His time in Nashville parallels every aspect of Poffenberger’s baseball career. Boots Poffenberger: Hurler, Hero, Hell-Raiser is a quality description of this up-and-down life. This account finds tempo in Boots’ visit to the major leagues and ends in some humility in his failings. Boots had become lost in baseball lore until Gisriel brings him out of his slide to obscurity.

I recommend adding it to one’s Nashville’s baseball and southern history library.

Disclaimer: Austin Gisriel provided a copy of his book in exchange for a Nashville/Sulphur Dell cap. That exchange had no influence on this review.

 © 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Biography, History, Opinion

It Happened On This Day in Nashville Baseball: December 22 – December 28

Junie McBride

Junie McBride

December 22, 1916 – Today is the birthday of J. F. “Junie” McBride, player, coach, and manager in Nashville’s local amateur leagues for over 50 years. President of the Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association from 1966 through 1968, Junie was given the group’s prestigious “Mr. Baseball” award in 1992. The upper floor of the clubhouse at Nashville’s Old Timers Complex at Shelby Park is named the “Junie McBride Hall of Fame Room” in his honor.

December 23, 1953 – Nashville’s own Jim “Junior” Gilliam, second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, wins the National League Rookie of the Year, awarded by The Sporting News.

December 24, 1913 – Today is the birthday of George Jeffcoat, Nashville pitcher from 1939 though 1942 and brother to former Vols player Hal Jeffcoat. With an overall record of 53-38 for Nashville, his best season for the Vols was in 1940 when he was 14-6 with a 3.78 ERA and was second in the league with 121 strikeouts. His greatest accomplishment for Nashville came on September 11, 1940 in a Southern Association playoff game as Jeffcoat struck out seven consecutive Chattanooga batters on his way to tallying a league record eighteen strikeouts

December 25, 1908 – Former major leaguer Ben Chapman is born in Nashville. In his 15-year career he played for the Yankees, Senators, Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, Browns, and Phillies and played every position except first base and catcher. His career major league batting average was .302. A four-time All Star, Chapman led the American League in stolen bases for three consecutive seasons (1931, 1932, and 1933) and again with 35 in 1935 while splitting time with the Senators and the Red Sox. He led the America League in triples with 13 in 1934 while with the Yankees. Chapman became player-manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1945 and was known for opposing the presence of Jackie Robinson in the majors due to his race

December 26, 1984 – Johnny Gill passes away in his home town of Nashville. His major league career was short-lived, playing in only 118 games with the Indians, Senators, and Cubs, but his minor league career lasted for 23 years primarily as an outfielder. Known to his teammates as “Patcheye”, Gill’s best seasons were spent with Knoxville, Chattanooga, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Portland. His last professional season was in 1947 when at the age of 42 he played and managed for Fulton, Kentucky and Clarksville, Tennessee in the KITTY League. Born in Nashville on March 27, 1905, upon his death Gill was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Nashville

December 27, 1920 – Robert “Dutch” McCall is born in Columbia, Tennessee. In his first three seasons in organized ball he was mostly an outfielder, but after signing with the Nashville Vols, manager Larry Gilbert converted McCall to a pitcher. In 1942 and 1943 with Nashville, his combined pitching record was 15-11. But after a 2-year stint in military service, his 1946 season was exceptional. On April 30th, he tied the Southern Association record for strikeouts in a game with 17 and for the season he led the league in strikeouts with 179 as he finished 12-9. McCall earned a call-up to the Chicago Cubs for the 1948 season where he went 4-13 in his only year in the majors, retiring in 1954

December 28, 1906 – Local favorite Tommy Bridges, whose major league career spanned 16 seasons all with the Detroit Tigers, is born in Gordonsville, Tennessee

(c) 2014 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, History, Research

Tommy Bridges: From Gordonsville to Detroit

Tommy Bridges, whose major league career spanned 16 season all with the Detroit Tigers, was born in Gordonsville, Tennessee on December 28, 1906. A pitcher who finished with a 194-138 lifetime record, Bridges also had a 50-36 lifetime minor league record with five teams in six seasons.

Upon joining Detroit in 1930, the first batter he faced was Babe Ruth who grounded out on Bridges’ first major league pitch; Bridges then proceeded to strike out Lou Gehrig. On August 5, 1932 Bridges came within one out of pitching a perfect game.TBridges

In 1934 he  gave up Ruth’s 700th lifetime home run.

A six-time All Star selection, his 23 wins and 175 strikeouts led the league in 1936, and led by his well-known curveball. Bridges was named the No. 2 sports hero of 1935 in a nationwide poll behind Notre Dame football player Andy Pilney.

Bridges played in the 1934, 1935, 1940, and 1945 World Series for Detroit. He became a scout and coach for the Cincinnati Reds in 1951 and was later a scout for the Tigers and the New York Mets.

Bridges passed away in Nashville, Tennessee in 1968 at the age of 61 and is buried in Ridgewood Cemetery in Carthage, Tennessee.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, History