Tag Archives: Field of Dreams

A Baseball Museum for Nashville?

On more than one occasion I have visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; every baseball fan should visit in one’s lifetime. Exhibit displays are excellent (rotated often), library and research opportunities abound, and the ambiance of the quaint village is rarely paralleled.

Hiking, boating, and golf are just a few outside opportunities available, too, and should your son be on a team playing in a tournament nearby, that’s even better. Doubleday Field and the Cooperstown Dreams baseball complex host amateur games for youngsters and adults, and there is a Fantasy Week offered for those who want to learn from former pros such as Ozzie Smith and Phil Niekro.

My visits have included traveling with business associates and friends, and once I visited alone to do research in the library at the tutelage of Tim Wiles, who recently left as Director of Research at the Hall of Fame to become Executive Director of Guilderland Public Library some 60 miles away. Tim was able to access files on Nashville baseball which help immensely in my ability to tell local baseball history more completely.

Even with Tim’s valued assistance, those files were pretty thin.

All of those things aside, I often wonder why the National Baseball Hall of Fame is even in Cooperstown? In 1939 it was determined by the Mills Commission that a century before, Abner Doubleday invented The Game in Phinney’s field in the village named after the family of author James Finnemore Cooper. I get that.

2DayCome to find out, Doubleday was nowhere near Phinney’s field at that time; he was at West Point where he had entered the United State Military Academy the previous year. Doubleday never claimed to be the father of baseball, although he did have a relative by the same name who lived in the area in the early 1800s.

To boot, Cooperstown only has about 2,000 residents, is 4 1/2 hours away from New York City, and is in the middle of nowhere except for the beautiful countryside.

Some may like it that way, but I’m guessing that the location is a detriment to mass visits. The village may not be able to cater to more than those who currently stop by for a tour of the museum, take advantage of the library, or visit another venue.

So, why is “Cooperstown” in Cooperstown?

In reality, the Hall of Fame and Museum is not going anywhere even if I were to remotely suggest that Nashville would make a better and more accommodating home.

The question is this: Would local citizens and visitors to Nashville support a baseball museum, even if it was about regional baseball history only?

For one, I think they would. Baseball was not born in Nashville, and southern baseball has roots in many communities below the Mason-Dixon Line. However, as Nashville continues to experience rapid growth and with visitor momentum continuing to accelerate, new venues of opportunity are needed.

And everyone loves baseball.

Can two Halls of Fame exist? Yes. In Kansas City there is the Negro League Baseball Museum, and in Birmingham construction is underway for another one to emphasize African-American participation in the illustrious history of the Negro Leagues.

Besides, our “Athens of the South” calls out not only to the many local colleges and universities, it really is a testament to our being a center of learning. Locally, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, Johnny Cash Museum are in full measure, with newly-announced George Jones and African-American Music museums on the horizon.

Wouldn’t a museum entrusted to the documents, images, oral and visual histories, and opportunity to view those traditions of yesteryear make sense, a repository of southern baseball history?

We have a new ballpark that will soon open near the site of beloved Sulphur Dell, which was once known as baseball’s oldest ballpark in existence. Games were played there as early as 1862. We have ownership and management of the Nashville Sounds who will be immortalizing a part of local history within the stadium, and a city whose leadership will allow for the same throughout the greenway outside the stadium.

The Old Timers Baseball Association of Nashville continues to promote baseball with scholarships, an annual award banquet, and monetary support to area ball fields and programs, too.

1DaySuccessful baseball programs at Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, Belmont, Trevecca, and nearby Cumberland are also a tribute to baseball roots in the area. Toss in local baseball  at the high school and youth league levels, and we can easily say “We know our baseball”.

19th Century baseball has taken a foothold, too; what began as a two-team league in Franklin and Nashville, in three short years the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball has expanded in middle Tennessee to Knoxville and Chattanooga.

This great opportunity to provide a location for the study of baseball and to view its visual and oral merits, all within a day’s driving distance from much of the United States, should not be overlooked.

I am sure we had an Abner Doubleday in our town once, too.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Baseball Shrines

Sulphur Dell was the baseball home of not only the Nashville Vols, but also the Negro League Nashville Elite Giants, Black Vols, Stars, and Cubs. Major league teams played exhibition games there, too,  as they moved north from spring training. Amateur league and high school games were often played at the famous park, especially when it came to all star games and tournaments.baseball_resized

What is not so well known is the ballpark was used as a venue for other types of entertainment: professional wrestling matches, donkey races, concerts, and circuses. After baseball was gone, Sulphur Dell “the ballpark” became Sulphur Dell “the speedway” when it was turned into a racetrack for a few weeks in 1965.

To me, Sulphur Dell was a ballpark, so I don’t give much credit to other forms of entertainment that took up brief residence. Nashville Banner sports editor Fred Russell once wrote that the ballpark was even a tourist destination, as some visitors to Nashville just had take in the famous outfield and short right field fence.

I have been fortunate to visit baseball shrines around the country.  Off the top of my head, this is my list, limited to major league ballparks and special venues in no particular order.  Which ones have you been to, and which one was your favorite to visit?

  • Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown
  • Field of Dreams movie site, Dyersville Iowa
  • Louisville Slugger Museum, Louisville
  • Wrigley Field, Chicago
  • US Cellular Ballpark, Chicago
  • Fenway Park, Boston
  • Yankee Stadium, New York City
  • Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia
  • Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati
  • Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati
  • Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, Cincinnati
  • Sportsman Park, St. Louis
  • Busch Stadium I, St. Louis
  • Busch Stadium II, St. Louis
  • Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh
  • Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta
  • Turner Field, Atlanta
  • Royals Stadium, Kansas City
  • Negro League Baseball Museum, Kansas City
  • The Ballpark at Arlington
  • Texas Rangers Hall of Fame
  • Angels Stadium, Anaheim
  • Memorial Stadium, Baltimore
  • Astrodome, Houston
  • Chase Field, Phoenix

			

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