Tag Archives: Knoxville

Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Part 2

A similar transaction nearly took place four years earlier. On January 14, 1955, an agreement was signed by Murray, along with business partner Larry Gilbert, to sell to a syndicate represented by Fred C. Rule, president of F. C. Rule Construction, and headed up by J. D. Jackson. Reportedly, the plan of the syndicate was to demolish the grandstand and sell the property for business purposes. A new location was to be sought to build a new ballpark, and even though the syndicate had no plans to move the franchise, it was reported that Knoxville, Tampa, and Jacksonville were anxious to obtain the franchise.

“We want a modern baseball plant,” Rule stated yesterday. “We want one that will seat something like 10,000. We believe a new park would be the best think we could do for baseball.”[3]

On January 22, 1955, co-owners Murray and Larry Gilbert confirmed that they faced the loss of their franchise. The last year for the club to show a profit was 1950; in 1948, the best year for Nashville attendance with 269,843, was the last year Gilbert was manager. At the end of that season, another syndicate tried to buy, and he refused. Now Gilbert is desperate to sell his half-interest in the club and retire full-time to his native town of New Orleans.

All this after Nashville Vols outfielder Bob Lennon won the Southern Association triple crown with 64 home runs, hit for a .354 average, and knocked in 161 runs. But only 89,470 fans attended the games at Sulphur Dell that season, a decrease of 50,000.

This is Part 2 of the ongoing story. Read more about the events that led to the sale of the Nashville ball club in 1959 in the next installment.

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.

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[3] Raymond Johnson, “One Man’s Opinion – Baseball Business Brisk Despite City’s Winter Weather,” Nashville Tennessean, January 25, 1955, 16.

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Another “Moonlight” Moment: Garth Mann

Moonlight3Many of us know the story of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham: he appeared in one game with the New York Giants in 1905 but never made an appearance at the plate. His character was immortalized by actor Burt Lancaster in the classic movie Field of Dreams.

Did you know there was a similar occurrence, this time with a Nashville connection?

Benjamin Garth “Red” Mann was a 6’0″, 155-lb right-handed pitcher who worked his way from Class D ball in Rayne, Louisiana in 1937 to the A-1 classification team in Knoxville by 1942. After World War II he was placed on the major league roster of the Chicago Cubs to begin the 1944 season.

On May 14, 1944, in the second game of a double header against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cubs manager Charlie Grimm inserted Mann as a pinch runner for left fielder Lou Novikoff, who had singled. Mann took third on a double by Bill Nicholson, and scored on Andy Pafko’s single.

GMannCubs

Sixs day later on May 20th, Garth Mann was sent to Nashville. For the remainder of the Vols season he was 7-7 with a 4.88 ERA. During the next few years he would make it to Triple-A with Oakland, Sacramento, and Seattle before retiring in 1949; his pitching record was 114-86 with a 3.53 ERA over 11 minor league seasons.

Today is Garth Mann’s birthday, born on November 16, 1915 in Brandon, Texas. He passed away September 11, 1980 in Waxahachie, Texas at the age of 64.

May 14, 1944 was Mann’s only appearance in a major league game and like “Moonlight” Graham, did not make a plate appearance. It’s a less famous story, of course, but at least Mann scored a run and “Moonlight” Graham did not.

I wonder who would best portray Mann in his “Field of Dreams” story?

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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2014 Area “Hot Stove” Baseball Events

stoveNow we can put the year 2013 behind us. As a New York Yankee fan, it’s really easy to do to! Looking forward to the 2014 season is one thing, but there are many opportunities to be a part of “Hot Stove League” baseball through the rest of the winter. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to their team’s spring training camp in only a few weeks, but in the meantime one can partake of one or more of these opportunities:

Thursday, January 23, 2014: The Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association will hold their 76th annual banquet at the Millennium Maxwell House. Former New York Yankees second baseman and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson will be the speaker.  The doors open at 5:30 PM with the banquet starting at 6:30 PM (CT). Tickets are $50.00 each; email me if you need more information: skip@sulphurdell.com

Saturday, January 25, 2014: Fifth annual SABR Day. Our local Grantland Rice-Fred Russell (Nashville) chapter will meet at Shelby Park in east Nashville in the “Junie” McBride Old Timers board room from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (CT). The Old Timers Nashville Amatueur Baseball Hall of Fame is displayed there. More information to follow. Guests are always welcome at SABR chapter events.

Saturday, January 25, 2014: Fifth annual SABR Day. The East Tennessee Chapter will also be meeting at 10 AM (ET) at the Knoxville Lawson McGhee Library in Knoxville. Email Bryan Stepherson: steverson@charter.net or Mark Aubrey: mark.aubrey@gmail.com for more information. Once again, guests are welcome.

Thursday, February 6, 2014: 13th annual American Baseball Foundation Lead Off Dinner, Birmingham, Alabama. Roger Clemens, seven-time Cy Young award winner, is speaker. Tickets are $150.00 each and more information may be found here:  http://www.americanbaseballfoundation.com/lead-off-dinner/

Saturday, March 1, 2014: 11th annual Southern Association Conference will be held in Atlanta. Presentations will consist mainly of Atlanta’s long and memorable tenure in the Southern Association although other topics related to baseball in Atlanta and the South may be included. Should you wish to be considered as a presenter, send a brief synopsis to David Brewer:  david@rickwood.com.

Friday, April 4, 2014: The 19th Annual Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture will be held at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.  The luncheon speaker is former Kansas City Royals star Willie Wilson. Additional information will be updated soon here:  http://www.mtsu.edu/english/BBConf/

Opening Day is right around the corner, too.  In 2014 there are many opportunities to enjoy the Game! Here’s a list of area minor league teams’ games to kick off the home season:

Thursday, April 3, 2014:

Bowling Green Hot Rods vs. South Bend Silver Hawks, 7:05 PM (CT)

Chattanooga Lookouts vs. Jackson Generals, time TBA (ET)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014:

Birmingham Barons vs. Jacksonville Suns, 7:05 PM (CT)

Huntsville Stars vs. Pensacola Blue Wahoos, time TBA (CT)

Jackson Generals vs. Mississippi Braves, 7:05 PM (CT)

Tennessee Smokies vs. Chattanooga Lookouts, 7:05 PM (ET)

Thursday, April 10, 2014:

Louisville Bats vs. Columbus Clippers, 6:35 (ET)

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Memphis Redbirds Opening Day vs. Iowa Cubs, 7:05 PM (CT)

Nashville Sounds Opening Day vs. Omaha Storm Chasers, 7:05 PM (CT)

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The Decline of 1954

Poor attendance at Sulphur Dell began to plague the Nashville Vols in 1954, the third year of a three-year affiliation with the New York Giants. The team was well-stocked with power hitting slugger Bob Lennon (64 home runs, 210 hits, 161 runs batted in)  and steady first baseman Larry DiPippo (.298, 132 hits, 20 homers), but the pitching staff would have only one starter to finish the season with a winning record, Joe Margoneri (14-10).

Buster Boguskie would play 50 games at second base, 17 at shortstop, and 24 games at third as manager Hugh Poland attempted to find the infield combination that set a record for double plays in a season with 202 just two years prior.

Nothing was going right at the gate, either. After eighteen home games attendance was 21,626, compared to 23,762 in 1953. It was a downward trend that would continue throughout the season. Minor league baseball would suffer the worst overall attendance since 1945.

Mini-BallAs a way of boosting attendance, at the June 3, 1954 game at Sulphur Dell, the Nashville baseball club gave away 1,000 miniature baseballs; 700 of those ‘small balls’ bore the signatures of major league players, and 300 of them had the autographs of Vols players.

Through June 3rd, Nashville was in fifth place with a 20-24 record, 8 ½ games behind Atlanta.

A few days later in the June 8, 1954 edition of the Birmingham Post-Herald, sports editor Naylor Stone wrote that Knoxville will replace Nashville in the Southern Association in 1955. Stone stated that the deal was done and Knoxville was assured a berth in the league even “before it erected its new $500,000 Municipal Stadium.”

“This season Knoxville re-enterd the Class B Tri-State League with the understanding it would be released from Tri-State territory if a Southern Association franchise became available,” Stone wrote.

Knoxville had been a member of the Southern between 1932 and 1944 when the franchise was given to Mobile.

On June 11, 1954, Nashville club general manager and vice-president Larry Gilbert declared that rumors of the team being sold to Knoxville interests for $200,000 were untrue, stating that should the club be sold a Nashville investor would be the first consideration. He further stated that any sale would be a package deal to include the team and ballpark.

Nashville would end the 1954 season with a total attendance tally of 89,470 fans. On January 22, 1955 Ted Murray and Larry Gilbert, co-owners of Nashville, confirmed that they faced the loss of their franchise that the city had held since the league was organized in 1901. A 30-day option for the purchase of Sulphur Dell, the city’s ball park, had been obtained from them by a syndicate in Nashville.

Reportedly, the plan of the syndicate was to sell the property for business purposes and demolish the grandstand. It was rumored that interested parties in Knoxville, Tampa, and Jacksonville were anxious to obtain the franchise.

None of those things materialized, although Gilbert sold his interest in the club and moved back to New Orleans where he had maintained a home.

The decline of the Nashville franchise, however, would continue until 1961 when the Southern Association closed up shop. A new franchise was resurrected for one season in 1963 in the South Atlantic (SALLY) League, but the attempt was fruitless and Nashville had no professional baseball for fifteen years when the Nashville Sounds were formed for the 1978 season.

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