Tag Archives: Johnny Edwards

Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Conclusion

For the 1959 season, the team finished second by ½ game to Birmingham in the first half of the split season, and fifth in the second half. The combined record of 84-64 would have been good enough for third place had the season not been split into halves, and would have finished 5 ½ games out of first place.

Attendance increased by 37,000 to just over 129,000. With Sisler’s strong on-field leadership, and McCarthy’s front office skills, it should have been a perfect combination. But when Sisler was named manager of the Seattle Rainers (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA) and Bill McCarthy, concessions manager Bill Lambie, Jr., and trainer Chuck Swope all resigned[27], it was not because they had not performed well.

Sisler and McCarthy had grown to dislike each other.

“Sisler precipitated the explosion when he informed President Greer in Chicago that he would not consider returning as manager unless McCarthy was removed as general manager. Dick’s friends say McCarthy’s failure to provide players needed caused the rift. His detractors say Sisler wanted both jobs. The final result was elimination of both.”[28]

But the Vols, Inc. board of directors had one more ace up their sleeve. In a surprise move for everyone in organized baseball, on October 27, 1959, New York Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner was named field manager and general manager of the Nashville Vols for the 1960 season.

It was reported that Turner’s salary will be $17,500, and he would assume all duties previously performed by Sisler and McCarthy. Turner hired Bill Giles, Jr., the 25-year-old son of National League president Bill Giles to be his assistant, and Lem (Whitey) Larkin as operations supervisor.[29] Turner was expected to sell tickets, too, both by his presence and his efforts.

With a lineup that included Jim Maloney, Jack Baldschun, and Jim Bailey on the pitching staff, and Johnny Edwards behind the plate and future New York Met Rod Kanehl holding down the defense, the club won 71 and lost 82, and finished in sixth place.

When Gabe Paul, Cincinnati Reds vice-president and general manager, announced on August 29 that the Reds six-year working agreement would not be renewed with Nashville effective December 15, it was a blow to the local team.

The reason given by Paul is because the Southern Association “does not allow the use of Negro players”. It was enough for Jim Turner, especially when the club failed to draw 100,000, falling short by 279.

Vols, Inc. continued through 1961 with Joe Sadler and Cleo Miller as president, but when it was announced that through 21 home dates Nashville had drawn 19,228 fans for an average of 915 per game, and first-year general manager Bill Harbour estimated the team would have to approximate last year’s attendance of 99,721 to break even, the writing was on the wall. Nashville drew just over 500 fans a game.

On January 24, 1962 the Southern Association suspended operations due to a lack of enough major league working agreements. Nashville was without a team in 1962.

Returning to organized baseball in 1963 as member of the South Atlantic League, after a one-year absence, the season began with a loss to Macon, 15-4. The opening day home game drew 7,987 Vols fans; that one game’s attendance would turn out to be 15% of the entire season’s draw.

But as the year ended facing a deficit of almost $22,000 on final season attendance figures of 52,812 fans, the directors of Vols, Inc. surrendered their South Atlantic League franchise without a dissenting vote. Board chairman Jack Norman assigned a committee to investigate the feasibility of retaining Sulphur Dell, which would mean a continuation of the corporation which owns the ballpark.

Sulphur Dell sat silent in 1964, but in 1965 Country Music star Faron Young led a group that purchased the ballpark and converted it into a race track. Sulphur Dell Speedways lasted only a few months, and Young’s syndicate turned the keys of the property back to Vols, Inc. and paid a rental fee.

With no prospects for a minor league franchise and with the neglected ballpark left with no upkeep, Vols, Inc. leased the property to the City of Nashville and it was used as a tow-in lot. The ballpark was razed in 1969 when Gregg Industries purchased the property for $255,000 from Vols, Inc. The intent was to construct a merchandise mart. When the mart was never built, the land stood idle for nearly fifty years until First Tennessee Park was built beginning in 2014.

On April 4, 1969, the Nashville Tennessean reported that Herschel Greer, now vice-president of the ownership group, said every Vols, Inc. stockholder would be paid 100-cents on the dollar, if they could provide a copy of their stock certificate.

As of March 1972, $50,000 was still on deposit in First American National Bank, most of it belonging to stockholders who had passed away, moved away, or had forgotten about their stock. Even if all of them claimed their ownership stake, there would still be $12,000 on hand for the corporation that still existed at that time even though it was out of business.In 13 years, some of the 4,876 investors received their money back – not a terrible investment that offered challenges at nearly every turn. But the challenge of the original issue of stock was a completely successful feat.

Epilogue: The grand experiment that was Vols, Inc., was a master plan for the future; but it was not the first.

“In 1956, the St. Louis Cardinals were preparing to relocate the Red Wings, their financially ailing Triple A farm club. Morrie Silver, a local businessman, sold shares in the club to fans at $10 each. The grassroots campaign raised $300,000 — enough to buy the team from the Cardinals and keep it in Rochester.”[30]

The Wisconsin Timer Rattlers (Midwest League – Class A), and Syracuse Chiefs and Toledo Mud Hens (International League – Class AAA) have similar ownership operations.[31]

Note: This Nashville baseball history was presented on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the 15th annual Southern Association Conference at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Special thanks to Davidson County/Metro Archives and Tennessee State Library & Archives

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

newspapers.com

Nipper, Skip (2007) “Baseball in Nashville”. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing

sabr.org

Wright, Marshall D. (2002) “The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961″. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc.

[27] F. M. Williams. “Giles, Larkin Added to Vols’ Front Office,” Nashville Tennessean, November 6, 1959, 50.

[28] F. M. Williams, “Front Office Key To Nashvols Future,” Nashville Tennessean, October 2, 1960, 67.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Bruce Felton, “MINDING YOUR BUSINESS; Buy Me Some Peanuts, And Shares in the Team,” The New York Times, July 7, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/07/business/minding-your-business-buy-me-some-peanuts-and-shares-in-the-team.html, accessed March 7, 2018.

[31] Leo Roth, “Stock repurchases keep the ‘Rochester’ in Red Wings,” Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, NY), May 19, 2017, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/sports/2017/05/19/rochester-red-wings-shareholders-new-york-abandoned-property/101766040/, accessed March 10, 2018.

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Nashville’s Jim Turner: Player, Coach, Manager, Fan

Born in August 6, 1903 in Antioch, Tennessee, James “Jim” Riley Turner began his journey in baseball in March of 1922. Trying out for the hometown Nashville Vols as a catcher in the presence of manager Larry Doyle, pitcher Red Lucas, outfielder Mike Burke, and third baseman Hap Morse, Turner was told “come back next year”. He spent the rest of the year playing semipro ball in the Nashville area.

Turner’s brother Bryant was usually the pitcher on their teams, and when Bryant failed to show up for a game for Nolensville, Jim pitched the game and struck out 18 Gladeville batters. He was a pitcher from that time on. One of the spectators told Little Rock manager Kid Elberfeld about Turner and on the team’s next visit to Nashville Little Rock signed him to a contract for $175 a month.

In March Little Rock sent Turner to Paris, Tennessee in the Kitty League where he played in 1923 and 1924. He won 14 games the first year and 16 games the next. Sent to Winston-Salem in 1925, for the next five seasons Turner had stops in Greensboro, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Selma, and back to Greensboro. During the winter of 1929-1930, Turner was sold to Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League where he played for three seasons. He spent four seasons in Indianapolis winning 18 games in 1936.

He had spent 14 years in the minor leagues before his break into major league ball when he was sold to the Boston Braves. As a 32-year-old rookie in 1937, Turner won 20 games, had a National League-best ERA of 2.38, led the league in shutouts with five and complete games with 24. The next season he was selected to the 1938 National League All Star team. Two years later he pitched in the 1940 World Series for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1942 he spent part of the season in Newark after having been sent to the New York Yankees where he ended his playing career at 41 years of age in 1945.

He signed to manage Beaumont in the Texas League in 1946 where his team finished fifth with a record of 70-83. In Portland the next two seasons, he finished third and fifth, winning 97 and losing 89 in 1947 and winning 89 and losing 99 in 1948. When Casey Stengel was named manager of the Yankees, Turner became pitching coach in 1949.

During his 11-year tenure with the Yankees, he developed the pitchers who led the Yanks to nine pennants and seven world championships.

Jim Turner Banner ProfileIn 1960, “Milkman Jim” (a nickname given to him because he always returned to the family farm during the off-season) returned to Nashville as general manager and field manager of the Nashville Vols. In the winter of 1958, a campaign had been initiated to organize a group to take over the financially-distressed Nashville Vols. Led by civic leaders Herschel Greer, Dr. Cleo Miller, country music star Eddie Arnold, Vols, Inc. was formed and shares in the new venture were sold at $5.00 per share. Nashville had been led on the field by manager Dick Sisler during the previous three seasons, but attendance at the gate had begun to dwindle. In 1959 the team lost only $2,300.00, but in a move that was enormously popular in Music City, Jim Turner was offered the reins of the ball club not only to improve the performance of the team on the field, but also to improve paid attendance.

The decision to attain Turner almost did not happen. “It was necessary to act quickly to get Jim Turner,” said Vols, Inc. board member Jack Norman told the Nashville Tennessean, “Jim has had several attractive offers. One particularly was pressing closely. It was therefore necessary to make an immediate decision.” Turner never divulged the offers that he had received.

With full control of the team, Turner managed the Cincinnati Reds-affiliate Vols with a roster that include catcher Johnny Edwards, utility man Rod Kanehl, and pitchers Jim Maloney and Jack Baldschun.  Turner’s 1960 Vols team finished sixth in the Southern Association, with 71 wins and 82 losses. The crowds continued to decline throughout the season, and Turner resigned at the end of the year.  He returned to the majors with assignments by the Reds that included becoming pitching coach in 1961 until his retirement in 1973.

Returning to Nashville, he continued to attend local college and amateur games, and was a season ticket holder with the Nashville Sounds with their inception in 1978 until his passing on November 29, 1998.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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The Nashville Vols Era: Did You Have a Favorite?

Most Nashville Vols memories written to me and posted on the “I remember…” page of sulphurdell.com were from the 1950s and early 1960s. Very few are from the 1940s, as fans from that era have either passed away or had no internet or email access. Those who did write to me usually had a favorite player or two, and the memories of those players are vivid.Vol_Player

Here are a few that I have received over the years. Take a look and see which players you remember:

“I remember players like second baseman Buster Boguskie; shortstop Hal Quick; catchers Smokey Burgess, Carl Sawatski, Rube Walker, and Roy Easterwood; right fielder Charley Workman; center fielders Charley Gilbert and Carmen Mauro; left fielders Elwood “Footsie” Grantham and Johnny Krukman; pitchers Pete Mallory, Ben Wade, Hal Jeffcoat and Bobo Holloman (but for the life of me I can’t remember who played 1st and 3rd during those times).” – Don Duke, Cadiz, Kentucky

“Once shortstop Bobby Durnbaugh turned on an inside pitch and hit a woman sitting behind third base. Bob Lennon had an exaggerated swing to hit pop flies over the right field wall. George Schmees played the right field dump like no one else.” – Glenn H. Griffin, Pelham, Alabama

“I remember Chico Alvarez in left one night, catching a drive while flat on his back on that bank. My memory of the ‘Dell’ is mainly about the Jay Hook-Jim O’Toole-Jim Maloney-Johnny Edwards era, all of whom had fair-to-good major league careers.” – Tony Bosworth, Nashville, Tennessee

“Our favorite players over time were John Mihalic, Buster Boguskie, Les Fleming, Tookie and Charlie Gilbert (along with their father/manager Larry Gilbert) and Carl Sawatski; high on the list was Hal Jeffcoat.” – Bill Dunaway, Huntsville, Alabama

“I remember the night that I believe it was Tookie Gilbert that hit it over the fence almost dead center field. It hit a bus in the street and came back in the park and he only got a triple!” – Richard Ramsey, Winter Haven, Florida

“…George Schmees, Eric Rodin, Buster Boguskie, Hugh Poland, and Larry Munson.” – Larry Neuhoff, San Diego, California

“I remember my parents took me to Sulphur Dell each year in the mid- to late- 50’s and maybe a few times in the early 60’s. The names that come to mind are Tommy Brown at third base, Bobby Durnbuagh at shortstop, Larry Taylor at second base, Haven Schmidt, and of course, the right fielder who roamed the “Dump” and his name was George Schmees. I always enjoyed going to the Dell and listening to Dick Shively and later Larry Munson do the play by play on the radio.” – Teddy Ray, Fayetteville, Tennessee

In those days fans seemed to take a deep personal interest in hometown team heroes. Who was your favorite?

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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A Couple of Jims, Part II

Jim Maloney had a dream season in 1960. He had been assigned to Nashville where his manager was Jim Turner, former pitching coach for the New York Yankees.

On May 29th he tossed a two-hitter against Shreveport in Nashville’s 9-2 win in the opener of a double header. He struck out 14 batters to bring his season total to 82 in 86 innings. On June 15th he pitched Nashville to a 6-4 victory in Birmingham, holding the Barons to eight hits while striking out ten. Another bonus baby, catcher John Edwards, sealed the win with a three-run homer.

Maloney_RedsOn June 19th Maloney failed to finish for only the fourth time in fifteen starts by being lifted in the sixth inning, but his team still wins over Atlanta 3-0. On June 28th, the twenty-year-old struck out fourteen Lookouts as Nashville beat Chattanooga at Engle Stadium 3-1. Maloney allowed only seven hits.

Through all Southern Association games of July 5th, Maloney was 12-4 and led the Southern Association in innings pitched with 134. His 2.88 ERA is only good for fifth place, however, as he trailed Nischwitz of Birmingham (1.93), Richert, Atlanta (2.60), Ready, Little Rock (2.61), and Allen, Mobile (2.80). Maloney’s 142 strikeouts put him in second place behind Atlanta’s Pete Richert who has 155.

Maloney brought his record to 13-5 on July 12th by pitching a two-hit masterpiece as Nashville won over Shreveport 7-0, and five days later on the 17th in first game of a double header, he scattered six hits to win his fourteenth game against five losses in winning over Little Rock at Sulphur Dell.

Jim Turner RedsIn his farewell appearance in a Nashville uniform on July 22nd, Maloney limits Little Rock to three hits in six innings but the game is called in the seventh due to rain with the score 0-0. Maloney had been called up to the Cincinnati Reds and will join the major league club on July 25th in Chicago.

Jim Maloney ended his Nashville Vols career with a 14-5 record with 164 strikeouts in 161 innings, and a 2.84 ERA.

At the end of the 1960 season Jim Turner resigned his position with Nashville. He was signed as pitching coach of the Cincinnati Reds, a position he held from 1961 through the 1965 season. One of the members of Turner’s pitching staff would be Jim Maloney.

In his 5 seasons under Turner’s tutelage in Cincinnati, Maloney had a 73-40 record.

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