Tag Archives: George Stallings

One Day, Three Wins: Nashville’s 1895 Tripleheader

Rain interfered with Nashville’s home doubleheader with Little Rock on June 25, 1895, as the first game was postponed after three innings when field conditions were too poor to continue. Nashville was leading 2-1, but not enough innings had been played for it to have been a complete game.

George StallingsThe game scheduled for the next day, June 26, was the last visit Little Rock was to have made to Athletic Park for the remainder of the season, creating an unusual circumstance for completing the series. It was the home team’s prerogative to reschedule games, but when Seraphs manager George Stallings decided to play three games in one day to complete the series, the decision did not set well with the visiting team.

Sending word to the opposing club that the first of three games would take place at 10:30 AM, Little Rock’s manager, Richard Gorman, protested to Southern League President J. B. Nicklin that the Travelers should not have to play more than two games in one day. Nicklin did not exactly side with Gorman; he sent a telegram that the choice to play in three games was optional.

Even though Gorman refused to play the morning game, he and two of his players showed up anyway. At game time, umpire Ed Cline yelled “Play ball” and Nashville’s Eddie Daniels toed the rubber. With no batter at the plate, the Nashville pitcher threw three lazy curves to catcher Mike Trost. Cline turned to the 900 spectators and declared the game a 9-0 forfeit in favor of the Seraphs.

When play began in the second game, players from either side had to alternate the umpiring chores for the first three innings as Cline had misunderstood the starting time, set for 2:30 PM.

Nashville committed nine errors but the Seraphs won over Little Rock 17-7. Travelers pitchers Buttons Briggs and Jack Fifield allowed 18 hits, one a home run by Seraphs left fielder Frank Butler, but only seven of the runs were earned.

Sam Moran was the starting pitcher for Nashville. He had a 7-4 record the previous season when the team was known as the Tigers, and would end the season with a 22-12 record. He would become a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff at year’s end.

In the middle game of this day, he pitched all nine innings in the two hours it took to lead his team to the win.

The third game of the day was ended after seven innings due to darkness with Nashville having the upper hand, 8-5. Moran was chosen starting pitcher in the final game by manager Stallings. Lackung the speed he possessed in the previous game, Moran gave up only eight hits and two walks as Nashville completed the trifecta.

Atlanta Constitution 06-28-1895 Three Games Triple Header Nashville Little Rock

Nashville remained in third place in the Southern League with the three wins with a 30-18 record, just behind second-place Atlanta (33-17) and league-leading Evansville (33-16). At seasons end, Atlanta secured the pennant with a one-game lead over Nashville. The season was not without problems, as Montgomery, Memphis, and Little Rock did not finish the year.

When the Travelers ball club disbanded in late July, Nashville acquired the contract of Richard Gorman.

Although rare, there are records of other tripleheaders being played. One was played five years earlier on Labor Day, September 1, 1890, between Brooklyn and visiting Pittsburgh. Unlike the Nashville-Little Rock series, all three games were played with no forfeit, with Brooklyn winning 10-9, 3-2, and 8-4.[1]

In 1896, three games were also played in one day. No reason is given, but the tripleheader was played on Labor Day in Baltimore on September 7. The visiting Louisville Colonels lost 4-3, 9-1, and 12-1 with the final game ending after eight innings due to darkness.[2]

Several years would pass before another tripleheader be played. The games were scheduled to determine third-place in the National League, and were the last games of the season. This time, on October 20, 1920, the Cincinnati Reds visited Pittsburgh and won 13-4 and 7-3 before losing 6-0 in a game shortened by darkness. Cincinnati had clinched third place with the first two wins, but the third game was played anyway.[3]

Three games played in one day gave Nashville an uncommon footnote in the history of baseball.

Sources

www.baseball-reference.com

www.newspapers.com

Nashville American

Atlanta Constitution

[1] Suehsdorf, A. D. “The Last Tripleheader”. SABR Research Journal, http://research.sabr.org/journals/last-tripleheader. Accessed June 20, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Willard, Jim. “Baseball’s last triple-header was certainly one for the record books. http://www.reporterherald.com/ci_19435586. November 30, 2011. Accessed June 16, 2016.

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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(Rain) Check, Please

Abner Powell, along with Nashville’s Newt Fisher and Memphis’ Charlie Frank, organized the Southern Association that began play in 1901. Powell had played and managed New Orleans beginning in 1888 and played for Nashville’s Southern League team for eighteen games in 1894.

He managed New Orleans in 1901 and 1902 and Atlanta’s entry in the new league in 1903 and 1904, and in 1905 sold his interest in his team and purchased a share of the Nashville club. In those days, loyalty to a particular team, especially when a player, was often trumped by investment power.

Powell is credited for introducing knothole gangs and ladies’ days to boost attendance at baseball games during his early years in New Orleans. And he invented one key item that became known as the “rain check”, the detachable stub on printed tickets.[1]

RaincheckRain outs have been the bane of team owners, players, and fans across the nation. Long before concessions and attendance added to the bottom line, paid attendance paid the bills.

Sulphur Springs Bottom was Nashville’s area for recreation and games were played at Athletic Park, later known as Sulphur Dell. It was a low-lying area just north of the city center, prone to flooding especially during spring rains. There have been many rain outs in Nashville, and the phrase “Rain, rain, go away” has been sounded for years, especially during baseball season.

Teams organized in the 19th Century and were at the mercy of the skies. On July 6, 1875 as W. T. Lincks and Morgans played to a 2-2 tie at Sulphur Springs Bottom before being rained out and the May 4, 1879 game between the Memphis club and a team from Nashville is rained out and postponed indefinitely.

Suspended games, postponements, and cancellations were the result. On June 26, 1895 Nashville played an unusual number of games in one day, three games against Little Rock due to the previous day’s double header being rained out. The first game is scheduled for 10 AM when only two opposing players show up and umpire Cline calls a forfeit in favor of Nashville as manager Dick Gorman explains that his team refuses to play three games in one day. The afternoon games are won by Nashville 17-7 and 8-5, and the Seraphs and manager George Stallings are credited with three Southern League wins.

More than 2,500 fans stood in line for nearly an hour on May 1, 1945 before Nashville’s home opener was called due to rain, and the next year on April 8 the exhibition game between the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers was cancelled due to morning rains and a downpour which came 45 minutes before the scheduled start. The outlook for the game had called for 7,500 fans to turn out, as all reserved seats were sold out and 4,000 fans were turned away.

Rain checks came in handy without rain on April 23, 1956 in a 12-8 loss to New Orleans when only 438 Nashville fans show up in 46-degree weather. Each was rewarded by general manager Bill McCarthy who announced the club would honor their rain checks for any future Vols game during the season. There was no rain, but the detachable ticket gave loyal rooters a way to attend another game free of charge.

Abner Powell was a visionary who gave many things to baseball that continue today: the rain check, ladies’ day, and knothole gangs. But his greatest invention may have been one that today’s players and fans take for granted: He innovated the covering of the playing field with a tarpaulin to keep the surface dry.

Team owners probably do not take that one for granted.

[1] Taggart, Caroline. Right as Rain: The Meaning and Origins of Popular Expressions. Great Britain: Michael O’Mara, 2013

© Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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The Trouble With Umpires

George Stallings was on his deathbed on May 13, 1929 when his doctor asked why the former baseball manager had a bad heart. Stallings was reported to have said, “Bases on balls, doc … those damned bases on balls.”

He may not have had enough time to give further detail, but couldn’t Stallings have been a little more specific? Was it the failure of his pitchers to throw strikes, or the failure of the umpire to call them?

A pitcher’s aim is to throw strikes. That’s what they do, or at least what they want to do. Umpires, on the other hand, use their judgment to call them as they see them. Therein lies the one word that have haunted them since before Abner Doubleday was knee-high to a shin guard: judgement.Ump

I believe that should Stallings have been able to carry on the discussion, he would most certainly pinned the blame on umpires. That’s a great yoke for arbiters to carry, the cause of his death being the decisions of umpires.

But that’s nothing new. Umpires have been criticized and disparaged for years. The pay scale is probably pretty good these days, but defending one’s decision in the old days could actually lead to fights among players, managers, and fans. The umpire’s job can often become a thankless one, too, as being judge and jury often leads to having to take cover.

One such instance occurred in Nashville on September 12, 1915. The Chattanooga Lookouts had taken the first game over the Nashville Vols at Sulphur Dell when all hell broke loose.

In the bottom of the second inning, umpire Dan Pfenninger removed Nashville outfielder George Kircher from the coaching box. When Vols manager Bill Schwartz argues against Pfenninger’s action, unhappy fans begin to toss bottles from the grandstands. The trash literally covered the field.

The disturbance continues for nearly ten minutes as a few fans begin to infiltrate the playing field and are dispersed by an officer. Four spectators who had been seen hurling bottles onto the field were arrested.

Play resumed, but in the bottom of the third umpire Ted Breitenstein twice reversed a decision at second base and another disturbance began as a bottle aimed at Pfenninger strikes Nashville catcher Gabby Street on the arm.

Pfenninger forfeits the game to the Lookouts 9-0 after the crowd surged onto the field and threatened Chattanooga manager Kid Eberfield. He had climbed into the bleachers to take a bottle away from a raucous fan who had hit him on the head with a thrown bottle. Lookouts players removed their leader from the fray and intercede in their leader’s verbal barrage.

Stallings, who was a pugnacious bulldog of a manager, would probably have sided with Eberfield’s actions and taken great delight in those two particular umpire’s plight.

But shielding oneself from players, managers, and fans was not always the responsibility of the umpire himself, as leagues began to take a protective approach. Havoc was not to reign at each and every disagreement.

For example, Southern Association president Robert H. Baugh must have had enough of such shenanigans and on October of 1916 decreed that beginning with the 1917 season any player put out of a game by an umpire would be automatically fined $10.

Rules of conduct that included fines did not always make for keeping the peace. On June 25, 1941, Nashville pitcher Boots Poffenberger was suspended for 90 days by league president Trammel Scott. It seems Boots was upset with umpire Ed “Dutch” Hoffman’s calls, and in the fifth inning of the previous night’s game had been ordered off the field by the arbiter after “continual griping and use of abusive language”.

Instead of leaving the field, Poffenberger turned and threw the ball at the umpire, hitting him in the chest protector but not injuring.  Commenting on Poffenberger’s suspension, Nashville manager Larry Gilbert declared, “I’m through with him.  He won’t pitch for Nashville any more”.  Poffenberger won 25 games the previous season and had won seven and lost only three up to the unfortunate confrontation.

But he never pitched for Nashville again.

We have to hand it to the ump for keeping his head in the game, too. On April 25, 1948 in Mobile, Buster Boguskie of Nashville and the Bears’ George Shuba were both ejected for scuffling at second base after Shuba’s hard slide in an attempt to break up a double play.

As the two were rolling in the infield dirt Mobile’s Stubby Greer, who had been at second, ran home and when Nashville coach George Hennessey protested umpire Red McCutcheon’s decision to count the run, Hennessey was tossed.

And on July 18 of that same year umpire Bill Brockwell ejected four Nashville Vols in their 10-3 loss in Chattanooga.  Buster Boguskie was sent packing for arguing a strike decision, manager Hugh Poland was sent to the showers after continuing the debate, Johnny Liptak was chased for a comment as he passed Brockwell on his way to coach first base, and Ziggy Jasinski, who had taken Boguskie’s place at bat, was banished after making another remark that Brockwell did not like.

Someone has to be in control, don’t they?

Stallings would have been upset at the umps for an entirely different reason in another game 1952. On April 25 the start of the game in Nashville was delayed by twelve minutes due to the belated appearance of umpires Walt Welaj and Andy Mitchell. They exclaimed they “were rubbing up baseballs”.

Twelve minutes can’t be so bad, but isn’t that another thing umpires do before each game? Was there more baseballs than they could handle that day?

A few guys give the position a bad name, however. All the way back in 1903, J. E. Folkerth, the baseball umpire who had passed bogus checks of $25.00 to Nashville manager Newt Fisher and three others, was given a sentence in criminal court this morning of three years in the state prison.

Crime doesn’t pay, even if you receive the benefit of the doubt; but steps were taken in the 19th Century to hire and keep the best umpires.

The organizing of the inaugural Southern League for the 1885 included the hiring of an umpire staff of four men at $75 per month and $3 per diem for expenses. That was decent pay by some standards: in 1878 National League teams had to pay umpires $5 per game.

By the end of the season, five of the eight clubs requested that the league president consider increasing that amount. It was hard to keep them on the staff if they were underpaid and could not cover their expenses.

And the owners did not want to pay it out of their own pockets, either.

Beyond that, one season was all it took for conscientious owners to realize the importance of having their games to be overseen in an honest and worthy manner. It was still a “gentlemen’s game”, and it was to have stayed that way.

And going nose to nose with an umpire to argue a call can be hazardous to one’s health, as not all umpires remain “gentlemen”. On October 22, 1933, while managing a barnstorming team playing in Mexico City, Nashville’s Lance Richbourg was struck in the face by Cuban umpire Senor Hernandez after Richbourg disputed a decision at home plate.

For the remainder of his career and beyond, Richbourg suffered from the effects of sciatic rheumatism. Could his encounter have been the cause?

And then there are substitute umpires. Consider the case of one James Hillery, a multi-talented player for Nashville’s first professional team. A gentlemen? Yes. Qualified to call balls and strikes when no league umpire is present? Yes.

But how long does the honor of an umpire last, no matter that his reputation precedes him.

On April 1, 1885 before a home town crowd of 1,500, a clear picture of what lies ahead begins to focus. The newly-formed Nashville Americans topped the visiting Clevelands by a score of 15-7 on that day. There is nothing unusual about that, but James Hillery was asked to serve as umpire.

Was he filling in for an ump who didn’t show up for the game? Had umpires in the fledgling league not been assigned for exhibition games?

There is no evidence that he did other than discharge his duties as asked and as expected. But something happened, lending to the fact that all umpires, and players for that matter, should always hold themselves to the standard set before them.

Without more detail other than the reporting of its occurrence, on June 1, 1885 visiting Chattanooga wins over Nashville 6-2. After the game, the directors of the Nashville Baseball Club indefinitely suspended third baseman James Hillery for drinking, and assess a $50.00 fine. Although he returns 10 days later, a precedent is set.

Rogues, rhubarbs, and umpires? Just part of the game.

In defending the standing of his trade in his book Standing the Gaff (1935), long-time Southern Association umpire Harry “Steamboat” Johnson may have said it best:

“A doctor has an undertaker to cover his mistakes, and umpires don’t. When (a physician) makes a mistake, it is buried and forgotten. When I make one, it lives forever. Play ball.”

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville in the 1897 Central League

Nashville’s on-again, off-again love affair with the Southern League collapsed after the 1895 season, a year which saw George Stallings lead the Nashville Seraphs to a second place finish with a record of 69-38. Financial instability of teams from various cities, including Nashville, led to the league reorganizing once more in 1896. Six teams comprised the league but by mid-season Birmingham and Atlanta had dropped out; New Orleans, Montgomery, Mobile, and Columbus remained until August.

With the Southern in disarray as Memphis had no park in which to play and Atlanta having been accepted into the Southeastern League, only Columbus and Birmingham were committed to playing in the Southern League for a new season. It did not happen, although the league would re-organize for 1898 and 1899 but  would fail to complete the season either year.

On January 18, 1897, a new Central League was organized at the Acme Hotel in Evansville and five cities were repesented: Terre Haute, Nashville, Cairo, Evansville, and Washington (Indiana) agree to membership. It was determined to withhold the Washington membership until representatives from Memphis and Little Rock (who were expected at the meeting but failed to attend) could be contacted.

Although the complete lineup of cities was not determined, the organizers knew from experience with failed ball clubs just what they thought was needed to complete the season. For example, it was agreed that the player salary limit should be fixed at $900 and a $300 fee was assessed to clubs for membership with one-half due at the next league meeting and the remainder due one month later.

Controlling player salary limits were a driving force for organizing a new league but travel expenses were the main reason due to the proximity of all cities which had been proposed as members. Membership fees were to keep the league solvent for a complete season.

Gabe Simons of Evansville was elected President-Secretary-Treasurer of the Central League. Billy Works, manager of the Nashville team, was named Vice-President.

Works had become anxious to place a Nashville team in either of two proposed leagues, the Central or Interstate League. George Stallings and Charley Frank of Memphis assisted him in his quest. An Interstate League had been proposed by Works to have Nashville, Knoxville, Jackson, Memphis, Chattanooga and Little Rock as members. In a letter from Charley Frank to George Stallings, Little Rock, Memphis, Clarksville, Evansville, Paducah, Cairo, Henderson, Terre Haute, Fort Wayne, Springfield (Illinois) and Nashville were selected as potential cities in the Central League.

However, on February 12 representatives from Nashville, Terre Haute, Washington, Evansville, Paducah, and Cairo met in Evansville to finalize plans for the Central. Uniforms were even selected for each team: Evansville, cadet blue, white trimmings; Terre Haute, gray and blue; Paducah, old gold and maroon; Washington, brown and red; Cairo, gray and black; and Nashville, blue and maroon.

At a meeting on February 27 Washington was admitted to the Central League over Terre Haute’s opposition, claiming that Washington is too small a city to support a team. At that meeting the league adopted the Reach baseball.

On April 28 Evansville won over Nashville, named the Centennials, 3-2 in the opening game of the 1897 Central League season for both clubs. Approximately 500 fans were on hand at Athletic Park.

The financially sound (or so it seemed) Central League was up and running.

It was reported on June 1 by league president Simons that Washington (pop. 18,000) was averaging 700 at each home game, including Sunday games; Paducah (pop. 20,000) was averaging 800 patrons, while Cairo, Terre Haute, and Evansville were drawing “even more”. There was no mention of Nashville’s attendance but it should be noted that it was the only city not allowing Sunday games.

On June 3 Nashville dropped out of the league with no explanation. The team traveled to Cairo to continue its schedule in hopes that the team would be transferred to Decatur, Illinois. A week later the team was transferred to Henderson, Indiana.

The board of directors accepted the resignation of Central League president Gabe Simons on June 28th as Simons was hoping to take over management of the Evansville club and no longer wanted to shoulder the responsibility and “annoyances” of the League office. Mr. F. C. Winter of Washington was named president of the Central. By mid-July Evansville was without financial backing or a manager as Simons failed in his bid to take over the club.

CentralLeague_FB

On July 20 the Central League seasons collapses. After the disbandment of the Washington club, the other teams decide it is not worthwhile to continue as all teams are in financial arrears due to so many Sunday games having been rained out.

With another noble attempt to entrench Nashville into the world of professional baseball, it would be four years before Nashville’s Newt Fisher would be instrumental in forming the Southern Association of Baseball Clubs with his hometown as a member in 1901. That attempt would last: the Southern Association disbanded in 1961 and Nashville remained a member during the league’s entire existence.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville Vols Uniforms 1964 – 1977

Often the uniforms of the Nashville ball clubs were similar to the colors of the major league clubs for which the Vols had some affiliation. During the 1940s the Chicago Cubs had ties to Nashville and the Vols wore dark royal blue and scarlet as trim colors. When Nashville was a farm club of the New York Giants in the early 1950s, the uniform colors included black and orange. Many of us remember the Cincinnati Reds years, and the Nashville uniforms of red and white.

In research I have located references to uniform colors for Nashville’s early professional teams:

From 1886 (Nashville’s second year in the Southern League): “Spalding will make the Nashvilles uniforms”

From 1894: “Manager (George) Stallings to let players decide on color of season’s uniforms”

From 1897 (Nashville’s team in the newly-formed Central League): “Blue with Maroon trim”

From 1903: “Grey with Black trimming”

From 1904: “Blue uniforms, Red cap and socks”

I wonder what the uniforms of the Nashville Vols would have looked like had the team  continued? Here are a few drawings of “what if” uniforms for the years 1964 through 1977 when there was no professional baseball in Nashville:

NasVolUnis_262

 © 2013 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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