Tag Archives: Mayor Karl Dean

This Ballpark Belongs to Us

1stTnParkToday marks a new day in the calendar of Nashville baseball history. Future timelines might read something like this:

April 17, 2015 – Nashville’s new ballpark, First Tennessee Park, opens in the vicinity of beloved Sulphur Dell. It marks the traditional locale of the city’s baseball history beginning in the 1860s through amateur and professional teams until 1963

Finally.

Junie McBride used to tell stories about growing up around Sulphur Dell. He was proud of having been able to warm up Hall of Famer Honus Wagner in the 20s when Pittsburgh came to town for an exhibition game heading north after spring training.

He joked and laughed about sneaking into Sulphur Dell through an ice chute as a youngster long before the ball park was turned around in the opposite direction following the 1926 season. He not only spoke of seeing games at Sulphur Dell and Greer Stadium, he hoped to live to see a new Nashville ballpark.

Negro Leaguer Butch McCord loved to tell his baseball stories, to relate what he experienced and how The Game impacted his life, expressing the pains and joys of baseball but then moving away from the bitterness it brought to him. The ballparks he played in were not always places of baseball glory.

He wanted to see a new ballpark for Nashville, too.

My dad Virgil Nipper gave a history lesson about Sulphur Dell seated next to me on an airplane as we returned from our first visit to Wrigley Field in 2002. The conversation sparked my interest in studying and writing about it. A website, a book, a blog and a renewed interest in the history of Nashville baseball were the result.

To Junie, Butch, and dad: I am grateful for your stories. Thank you.

There are two others who are owed a debt of gratitude.

A fan of baseball as well as being mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean has heard stories such as those told to me. Placing the city in a prominent position in the world of minor league baseball was a hard road, as the idea of a new ballpark has gone through a political process that seemed endless.

His vision for a ballpark was kick started when he responded to Nashville Sounds owner Frank Ward’s statement to him on Opening Day at Greer Stadium in 2013, “Let’s go build a ballpark at Sulphur Dell.

It took only a few words from Dean. “Let’s do it.

Frank Ward purchased the Nashville ball club in 2009. Herschel Greer Stadium was its home; the ballpark was outdated, rusty, and confined. A new place for his ball club was in order. Four years later he said those words to the mayor and the commitment was off and running.

Mayor Dean and Frank, thank you. My Nashville cap is off to you both, as by working together the ball began to roll towards the completion of the ballpark the citizens and fans deserve.

Today it will be known as the finest minor league ballpark in the land. That’s quite an accomplishment.

In attending tonight’s first game my thoughts will be about so many things. My dad. Junie McBride. Nashville Vols manager Larry Gilbert and Vols owner Fay Murray. Negro Leaguers Jim Zapp, Turkey Stearnes. Jim Gilliam. Larry Schmittou and Farrell Owens and the original owners from the Sounds. Nashville Elite Giants teams. Butch McCord. The Nashville Old Timers. Radio broadcaster Larry Munson. Sports writers Grantland Rice, Fred Russell, and George Leonard. Bat boys and scoreboard operators.

Former Vols Larry Taylor, Roy Pardue, Buddy Gilbert, and Bobby Durnbaugh will be attending, too. It must be a special night for them.

Sadly, Junie McBride and Butch McCord did not live to see this day. But I will take a look around more than once and observe those who are celebrating the most.

The fans.

We waited a long time for this. We hoped and prayed for this. We looked over the plans, attended meetings, heard the gossip, wondered when, watched the camera, and even held our breath. Through it all, we never gave up.

Frank Ward and Mayor Dean, for all you have done you deserve our thanks. You can claim this ballpark as part of your legacy.

But this ballpark is ours. And we are going to enjoy this for a long, long time.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Today’s Visit to First Tennessee Park

A month ago assistant general manager Doug Scopel gave me a nice tour of the new Nashville Sounds ballpark. With the on-going construction we side-stepped pipes, boards, and electrical supplies along with the workers who were bustling about their business. I had been given a similar tour when Autozone Park was built in 2000, so I knew how important it was to watch my step.

I was honored that Doug would be so kind, and he was more than accommodating in providing information and answering questions that I had. I’ve got to be honest that I wasn’t sure what I my perception was going to be, but once I was there I couldn’t have been more impressed. There were plenty of options for the Sounds management team to consider, such as how large to make the dugouts, how wide to build the concourse, and how much emphasis to place on the players’ batting cage and swing areas.

And the view, oh my, fans are going to love the view.

Since my visit to First Tennessee Park was “off the record” I was not able to take photographs, although I did get to sneak this one in as I was leaving:

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Today, I revisited First Tennessee Park with a media group. Once again Doug lead the tour and allowed everyone plenty of time to take photographs and ask questions. Sounds general manager Garry Arthur, owner Frank Ward, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, and groundskeeper Thomas Trotter were there, too, and each one was available for questions and answers.

Mayor Dean and Frank Ward did the honors of putting home plate in place at its new home in the ballpark. Not just any home plate, however; Greer Stadium’s home plate had been saved just for that purpose. It wasn’t so much a ceremony, but I have to admit it was touching as if to say a final “so long” to Greer.

This time I took plenty of photos and even recorded the Mayor’s address to the media from behind the plate. The helicopter buzzing above was a little disconcerting, but I believe he was able to establish once again how happy he is with how things have turned out. Images will be forthcoming, but there is one that I took just before leaving the infield; big difference from a month ago, wouldn’t you say?

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And before heading out of the construction zone, I was able to reach down and scoop up a pocketful of infield dirt  mix, too. That will be tucked away for the ages.

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© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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What’s in a Name?

Nashville Sounds Image

Nashville Sounds Image

Today’s announcement that the new Nashville Sounds ballpark would be named “First Tennessee Ballpark” seems to put an end to any hope that “Sulphur Dell” would be included in the name. There had been no promises, no announcement to that end, no discussion that I am aware of that ever committed to the idea.

Are you angry about that? Are you disappointed? Why?

Yes, the Sounds and Mayor Dean’s office passed out Sulphur Dell t-shirts at the citizen’s information meeting at the Farmers Market and used the name in press releases, publications, and signs.

If you and your community thought the name was used in how the whole idea of a new downtown ballpark was presented to the citizens of Nashville, I understand. If politicians used the name to forward their own impact on constituents, I understand. Maybe you feel betrayed, I don’t know – I don’t live in the city but I can see why you might not be happy about today’s announcement.

The new ballpark, all shiny and new, will be a terrific addition to the downtown community. It will be the ballpark that Nashville deserves, and in the proximity of the old one. But, no, the new ballpark won’t be Sulphur Dell. Nor should it be, anyway.

As owner, developer, and writer of www.sulphurdell.com, for whatever it’s worth, my take is this: If the name of the new ballpark had included “Sulphur Dell”, the memories that we hold near and dear would begin to fade. We can’t bring “it” back, none of it: The right field dump. The outfield dimensions including the right field line that was only 262 feet. The “drained-out bathtub” quirkiness of the colorful ballpark that in right field was 22 1/2 feet above the playing surface. The “mountain goats” roaming the outfield hills. The tall outfield fence. Larry Munson’s raspy voice on the radio. The smell -gosh, I could go on and on – these would all be hollow memories of a beloved iconic ballpark, stamped in time.

Thoughts of the old ballpark often take us babis3ck when life was slower, when baseball was a game to be watched and not as a side attraction to popcorn, hot dogs, to nachos and cheese, a time when we could almost reach out and touch a player and invite him over for supper. Those will continue in our minds, in our photo albums, our books, and in our visits together.

There may be a void in the new ballpark for some fans, so at this point I am glad we are where we are together. I’ve been quietly working on a new website design and what you see today is not close to the finished product. But I promise that this labor of love will be better than it was. I enjoy studying, researching, remembering, and writing about Nashville’s famous ballpark. I just hope I can do your memories justice.

Bear with me, won’t you? Don’t we still have lots to tell and share?

In the meantime, share your memories with me, watch what I write on the Sulphur Dell Ballpark page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Sulphurdell) and look forward to a new ballpark for a new generation to build their own recollections.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Sulphur Dell Information Meeting Thursday, October 24th

imageThe Metro Planning Department will hold an information session and community meeting to discuss the proposed new baseball stadium in Sulphur Dell (south of Jefferson/Jackson Street, west of Third Avenue North, north of Harrison Street, and east of Fifth Avenue North).

Sulphur Dell is the historic home of professional baseball in Nashville.

This event will include discussions about the stadium project, site and building design, street design, and operational impacts. Community members will have the opportunity to submit questions and comments.

The information session and community meeting will take place on Thursday, October 24, from 2 pm to 3:30 pm at the Nashville Farmer’sMarket 900 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37208.

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