Tag Archives: Miracle Braves

Nashville’s Larry Gilbert: Baseball Honors A Legend

Metro Archives Photo

On Sunday afternoon, July 27, 1941, Larry Gilbert was honored as Sporting News “1940 Minor League Manager of the Year” before his team’s double header against Chattanooga at Sulphur Dell in Nashville.

It was the second ceremony of the year honoring Gilbert, the first having been held May 7, recognizing him for his 25 years in the Southern Association[1]. He was given various gifts, including a gold lifetime pass by league president Trammell Scott, a silver set from Vols team owner Ted Murray and treasurer Jack Flanagan, and his players presented him with a silver service.[2]

Gilbert began his career in local sandlots of his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, but found his way to the majors as a member of the famous “Miracle Braves” of 1914, which had a 26-40 record in July but managed to win the National League pennant by winning 68 of its next 87 games[3]. Gilbert was a seldom-used outfielder and appeared in 72 games, hitting .268. His only appearance in the World Series was as a pinch hitter,  drawing a walk from  Philadelphia Athletics ace Bill James.

As a 23-year-old the next season, Larry was used very little and batted a paltry .151. His career would resume in Toronto (International League – Class AA) and Kansas City (American Association – Class AA) before he joined New Orleans (Southern Association – Class A). He would remain there for nine years, becoming manager of the club in 1923, leading the club to the league pennant that season, and remained there through 1938 (he moved to the front office in 1932, but returned to the dugout in 1933).

When Nashville owner Fay Murray was looking for a manager after the 1938 season, he convinced Larry to become part-owner, general manager, and manager of the Vols. He remained as field leader through 1948, moving to the front office until 1955, when he sold his shares in the club.

Larry Gilbert’s rise to fame as the best manager in the minor leagues culminated in 1940, when his Nashville ball club led the Southern Association from opening day until the end of the season. His team won 101 games with a combined batting average of .311, pitcher Boots Poffenberger won 26 games, and reliever Ace Adams struck out 122 rival batters.

In the league playoffs, the Vols eliminated Chattanooga, three games to none, and won the playoff championship against Atlanta by winning four games to two for the Crackers, sending Nashville to the Dixie Playoffs to face Texas League champion. They polished off the Houston Buffaloes in five games, ending a remarkable season. That club was selected as the 47th best minor league of all time in 2001 in celebration of Minor League baseball’s 100th anniversary[4].

His two-year record at Nashville was 186-115, and included a Southern Association regular-season pennant, two playoff championships, and one Dixie Series title. He had previously led New Orleans to four pennants, two playoff championships, and two Dixie Series crowns.

On September 8, 1948, in his final game as manager, Gilbert was honored once again, this time for 25 years as a manager in the Southern Association, beginning with his first entering the league in 1923.  6,509 Nashville fans, Baseball Commissioner A. B. Chandler, George M. Trautman, president of the National Association, and Southern Association president Charlie Hurth, were there to bestow recognition to Larry Gilbert, the most successful manager in the history of the Southern Association.

With eight league championships, including six consecutive titles with Nashville between 1939-1944, his final record as manager for the Vols and New Orleans was 2,128 – 1,627. It was an impressive record for an equally impressive manager.

From the honors bestowed upon him, it was easy to tell that Baseball loved Larry Gilbert.

To view Gilbert’s entire managerial record, click here: http://www.southernassociationbaseball.com/managers/larrygilbert.php

Sources 

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Paper of Record 

Retrosheet.org

Sabr.org

Southernassociationbaseball.com

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Raymond Johnson. “Fourth Celebration Due,” One Man’s Opinion column, Nashville Tennessean, July 28, 1941, 8.

[2] Sporting News, May 15, 1941, 12.

[3] “1914 The Miracle Braves”, http://www.thisgreatgame.com/1914-baseball-history.html, accessed July 27, 2017.

[4] Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, “Top 100 Teams: 47. 1940 Nashville Vols,” http://www.milb.com/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=47, July 27, 2017

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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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