Tag Archives: Greer Stadium

Yogi in Nashville

It wasn’t him they came to see.

Mickey Mantle had left the New York Yankees and returned home to Commerce, Oklahoma to treat a skin rash. His last time to the plate was as a pinch hitter on March 29, and manager Casey Stengel was not very happy when it was reported that Mantle had been spending time fishing near his home town.

But all was well when Mantle rejoined his team in Nashville on April 7, 1953 to face the Vols. He made up for lost time by slugging a 420-foot, 2-run double in the seventh inning. New York won the game 9-1 before 2,693 Sulphur Dell fans.

Yankee pitching coach Jim Turner, a Nashville native, was honored at home plate before the game by Governor Frank G. Clement who appointed Turner a Tennessee Colonel on the Governor’s staff.

As was often the case, Yogi Berra crouched silently behind the plate that day. His contribution to the Yankee cause include participating in one double play with Phil Rizzuto and adding a single and scoring a run. He was later spelled by utility catcher Charlie Silvera and the box score and news articles tell of no further heroics by the 1951 American League Most Valuable Player that day:

New York Yankees vs Nashville Vols 04-07-1953 Yogi Berra

On the season Berra would hit for a .296 average, drive in 108 runs, have 27 home runs and 161 hits, and finish second to Cleveland’s Al Rosen for the 1953 MVP award. In 1954 and 1955 he would add the MVP trophies to his book case.

Berra retired as an active player in 1965, but returned to the Yankees in 1976 as a member of manager Billy Martin’s staff. When the Nashville Sounds and New York began their major-minor league affiliation in 1980 the two teams were scheduled to play an exhibition before the regular season began. Those plans were thwarted when an eight-game strike delayed the remainder of the spring training season.

On April 16, 1981 the Yankees did return to Nashville to play an exhibition game versus the Sounds. A standing room crowd of 17,318 fans attended the game as the major league team won by a score of 10-1.

“You couldn’t have put another fan in Greer Stadium with a shoe horn,” says Farrell Owens, general manager of the local club on that day.

In June of 1981 another strike occurred and caused the loss of scheduled games between June 12 and August 9. During that time owner George Steinbrenner sent his coaches to various minor league affiliates to scout and instruct players at those locations.

Owens remembers those days, too. “Yogi Berra came to Nashville for about 10 days. He wore his Yankees uniform and sat in the dugout during the games. I even had my picture taken with Yogi down on the field.

FO_Yogi

“He didn’t say a “Yogi-ism” or anything out of the ordinary as he was known to do.

“But I wish he had.”

In Berra’s last season as a coach for New York, the Yankees invaded Nashville once again. On April 28, 1983 New York had a four-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning, but a five-run rally with two outs pushed the Nashville Sounds to a 5–4 victory. The attendance was 13,641.

Yogi would become the manager for a second time in 1984.

Fast forward to about 2012. I was called to the home of another collector to view a box of Yankees memorabilia he was selling. I saw a few things I wanted: a few World Series tickets, a Joe DiMaggio mini-bat, and some programs. After agreeing on a price, I placed the box in my car and headed home.

Yogi_BallLater that day I found an autographed baseball at the bottom of the box, and it was a real treasure. Inscribed on the side was “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over” and signed “Yogi Berra”. As a life-long New York Yankee fan, I proudly added the ball to my collection.

Today we have learned of the death of Yogi Berra. We are familiar with many of his famous quotes, and whether he actually ever uttered all of them is no matter. We lost a living, breathing treasure; one for the Yankees, for baseball, and for adoring fans.

For all those great things you said and all those great plays you made, Yogi, you can now rest in peace. And it will never be over.

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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You Did It, Frank. You Did It.

I never thought we’d get to this point, but here we are. Fifteen years ago it wasn’t on the mind of most people, only a very few, and now we are putting a lid on one of the most storied years in the history of Nashville baseball.

Truly, it ranks right up there with 1901 when Newt Fisher organized the first Nashville ball club in the inaugural Southern Association season. It compliments the building of the new concrete-and-steel grandstand at Sulphur Dell in 1927.

Tonight is the final home game for the 2015 Nashville Sounds season. The team had a tough year but the Oakland A’s hook-up provided top-notch talent and the games have been exciting. This is our team.1stTnPark

First Tennessee Park is our ballpark, too. And it passed the test. It is a feel-good facility for Old Timers, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennials, and everyone’s kids and grandkids. The stadium is nestled into the spot it was designed for, and the inside allows for gentle flow before, during, and after games.

Everyone can munch, walk, talk, watch, and cheer without standing in line or getting pushed around. We can even watch the game when we choose to stand in line, and when we are elbows-to-elbows it’s because we want to be.

It wasn’t a trial run season, either. From Opening Day when the Sounds hit the ground running to provide fans the best possible baseball experience possible to now, everyone is happy. I’ll bet there’s more to come over the winter, more improvements. I’m excited about 2016 already and everyone else should be, too.

Couldn’t you just see how the Sounds staff evolved? From just getting by at an old delapidated facilty to really enjoying their workplace haven, the difference was evident. Smiles got a whole lot more conversation going than blank stares, all adding to a great atmosphere as Booster and those staff members have become the game-day face of the franchise inside the stadium.

Frank_Ward.fwI doubt any of them wishes they were back at Greer Stadium. First-class fans needed a first-class ballpark, the one we deserved.

Co-owner Frank Ward delivered it and deserves a thunderous applause for that. The full-time face of the franchise quieted a whole bunch of disparaging citizens who said it couldn’t be done, that it wouldn’t measure up, that parking would be a mess, and that it wouldn’t be worth it.

Those folks probably came to see a game or two. And loved it.

Frank, thanks. A lot. We knew it could be done, and you did it. And you did it right where it belonged all the time.

See you at the ballpark, where tonight I will enjoy the Game on more time.

Until next year.

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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New Friends, Old Friends, and Ballpark Notes

SD OutsideApril 17, 2015 will always be a special memory for me; so many great things happened that day. Some were expected, many were not, but with the opening of First Tennessee Park near the site of the Sulphur Dell ballpark all were a dream come true.

Here are a few observations, special memories, and special people who were there. I’ll remember these for a long time:

  • Carol Yochem, president, Middle Tennessee Region, First Tennessee Bank. We were able to speak for a few minutes before the ribbon cutting. It was our second meeting; the first was at the unveiling of the new ballpark concept. Carol, thank you for your kind words in person and in your Tennessee Voices column of Friday’s Tennessean, and thank you for being the driving force behind our beautiful new ballpark.
  • My wife Sheila, my son Chris and grandson Brody, my father Virgil and brother Jim. We were able to attend Opening Day together. These are the special people in my life who have supported my research and writing for many years. Thanks for being there to share wonderful memories.
  • Dave Ammenheuser, Tennessean Sports Columnist. We were able to hear stories from Nashville Vols Buddy Gilbert, Larry Taylor, Roy Pardue, and Bobby Durnbaugh. Wasn’t that one of the best baseball moments? You are a true professional, but your recent friendship means more than a walk off grand slam homer over the Sulphur Dell right-field fence.
  • Farrell Owens, Andy Lane, and Eddie Dempsey. Friends extraordinaire, it was great to relive stories of baseball history with you while we were navigating the new ballpark.
  • Toby Compton. You have become the reliable face of the Nashville Sports Authority. Your ability to alleviate concerns for building costs and traffic issues has been top-notch.
  • Ushers and operations staff at First Tennessee Park. When the ushers wipe the seats off before letting fans sit in them, that’s a professional service that was missed at Greer Stadium. Food and beverage service? You bet it was.
  • Thomas Trotter and the grounds crew. These guys do not get enough accolades. Yes, it was a new field, but Thomas and his team were able to perfect it for their specifications. It was perfect.
  • Media coverage. The number of reporters and cameras along “media row” on the third base concourse gave credence to the importance of this historic event.
  • Families and friends of Nashville Vols players Bobby Durnbaugh, Larry Taylor, Buddy Gilbert, and Roy Pardue. Getting these guys to the ballpark to share their stories are nearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How great was it to see these Sulphur Dell idols together?
  • Sulphur Dell marquee. Not the original but a great testament to what once was, no doubt. Just thinking about the memories that are stirred by seeing this iconic marker. Wow.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Greer Stadium Legacy to End

In 1959 Herschel Lynn Greer, Sr. was instrumental in forming Vols, Inc. and served as the first president of the organization, established to keep professional baseball in Nashville as support of the historic Nashville Vols club was waning.

When Nashville’s baseball stadium was built to house the Southern League Nashville Sounds in 1978, Larry Schmittou and the Sounds ownership posthumously honored Greer by naming the facility after him. An avid baseball fan, Herschel Greer, Sr. passed away in 1976.

Greer_Stadium_View_From_CenterThe ballpark has been home to the Nashville Sounds, Nashville Xpress, Belmont University, and numerous amateur and high school games.  Stadium capacity is 10,139.

The Nashville Sounds have continued the heritage begun by the Nashville Vols, Nashville Elite Giants, and Nashville Xpress, and although Greer Stadium has served baseball fans well, those fans can look forward to a convenient state-of-the-art ballpark that will give the hometown team an exciting place to play.

When the 2015 season begins Nashville will celebrate a new downtown ballpark at the old Sulphur Dell site and will be a footprint to development of Jefferson Street beginning at the Cumberland River.

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