Tag Archives: Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association

“Bittersweet Goodbye: The Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series”

A new book, “Bittersweet Goodbye: The Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series (The SABR Digital Library) (Volume 50)” has been published and is now available. I am fortunate to be a contributing writer to this publication.

Released at SABR’s 20th annual Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference last week in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, all available copies of “Bittersweet Goodbye” quickly sold out at that event.

1948 is often considered by many the last, great season of the Negro Leagues. Jackie Robinson’s signing with Brooklyn in 1946, then becoming a member of the Dodgers in 1947, was the impetus that ended segregation in the majors. The popularity of the Negro Leagues began to diminish, as all eyes turned to Robinson and his successes on and off the field.

Edited by Frederick C. Bush and Bill Nowlin and associate editors Carl Riechers and Len Levin, this book includes biographies on the owners, managers, and players from the Homestead Grays and Birmingham Black Barons, and describes the detail of the final playoffs between the two teams to determine a final Negro World Series champion.

It also includes information on the two East-West All-Star Games, the Negro National League and Negro American League playoffs, along with the World Series.

Nashville-born Jim Zapp was a member of the Black Barons that season, along with 17-year-old Willie Mays.

Some of these biographies and histories are written by close friends. Friends of Rickwood members Jeb Stewart and Clarence “Skip” Watkins, both knowledgable resources for Birmingham baseball history, and friend and fellow Grantland Rice-Fred Russell (Nashville) SABR chapter member Peggy Gripshover, are included.

My biography is on Grays pitcher Bill “Willie” Pope. Born in Birmingham, his father moved the family to Pennsylvania where Willie played baseball and boxed, and ultimately became a strong, competitive right-handed thrower in the Pittsburgh area sandlots. His professional career took him to Pittsburgh and Homestead in the Negro Leagues, then to organized baseball in Canada at Farnham and St. Hyacinthe, Colorado Springs (Colorado) and Charleston (West Virginia), and winter ball in Mexico.

Standing 6’4” and weighing 247 pounds, his ultimate dream was to play for the Chicago White Sox. That opportunity passed him by, but his season with the magical Homestead Grays would be his legacy.

“Bittersweet Goodbye” is available from Amazon by clicking here.

Or, if you area  member of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), it may be downloaded for free here at SABR’s Digital Library.

Not a SABR member? I encourage you to consider joining! An annual SABR membership is $65 (which works out to about $5 a month), with discounts available for three-year rates and for anyone under the age of 30 or over 65. Family memberships are also available. More information is here.

I hope you will enjoy reading about Willie Pope, Willie Mays, Jim Zapp, and many others who deserve our thanks for being the final bastions of Negro League history.

Note: Previous contributions to SABR publications include biographies on Sam Narron, published in “Sweet ’60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates” (SABR, 2013); Hank Schenz, published in “The Team That Time Won’t Forget: The 1951 New York Giants” (SABR, 2015); John Mitchell, published in “The 1986 New York Mets: There Was More Than Game Six” (SABR, 2016); and R. A. Dickey, published in “Overcoming Adversity: The Tony Conigliaro Award” (SABR, 2017).

A biography on Jack Scott in “20 Game Losers” is to be published soon. Profiles on former major league players Jim Turner, Charlie Mitchell, Sherman Kennedy, Bobby Durnbaugh, Jerry Bell, and Buddy Gilbert are ongoing, as well as Nashville Old Timers board member bios published here.

I continue to publish here and update www.sulphurdell.com on a regular basis.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Father’s Day, 2017: Remembering Dad and Harmon Killebrew

Our father, Virgil Nipper, was inducted into the Nashville Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 at the 69th annual Old Timers banquet at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel. It was a prestigious honor for dad, one that includes local greats W. A. Wright, Larry Cole, Joe Casey, and Bobby Reasonover, among many others.

Dad has always been friendly and jovial, but most certainly humbled by his award. His personality was at its best when talk turned to sports and baseball, and that night was one of the best. He had a way of reeling in others with his stories, but mostly from his honesty and humility.

The following year as president of Old Timers, I was able to greet our 2009 banquet speaker, Harmon Killebrew, at the airport. He and his wife Nita were congenial folks, very cordial, and they were looking forward to an extended visit with relatives in the area along with being available to our board members and guests at the banquet.

A prolific slugger who spent 22 years in the majors, Killebrew was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. At the time of his retirement, he was second only to Babe Ruth in American League home runs. I was humbled by his on-field accomplishments, but his graciousness soon put my awe to rest.

I explained the format of our banquet, and when the time came for him to make his address, he did not disappoint. He was a stirring guest, free with his stories, and he held the audience spellbound. To everyone’s surprise, he remained in the banquet hallafterwards and signed just about any memorabilia item brought to him. While our banquets usually end around 9:30 p.m., he stayed on for over an hour and fifteen minutes.

Before he made his way to his hotel room, I asked if he would mind meeting our board of directors for breakfast the following morning. He agreed.

I took the opportunity to seat him at the head of a table of around 14 in the hotel restaurant. Dad sat to his right (yes, I did it on purpose), and they talked and talked. Dad was in his element, and afterwards told me it what a great opportunity it was.

Almost a year and a half later, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Rickwood Classic, a Birmingham Barons ‘turn-back-the-clock’ game played once a year at Rickwood Field. Harmon was the featured guest that year, and would be throwing out the first pitch at the game, to be held on June 2. I was invited to attend an informal gathering at the Barons home park, the Hoover Met, the night before.

As a guest of the Friends of Rickwood, I arrived at the press box and watched others greet the affable Killebrew. Once everyone had said hello, I ambled up to him and reached out my hand.

“Harmon, I don’t know if you remember me or not. I’m Skip Nipper; we were proud to have you at our Old Timers banquet in Nashville last year.”

“Of course, I do. How’s your dad?”

I was literally stunned that a Hall of Famer, no matter how humble, no matter how famous, no matter how time had separated our banquet and breakfast in Nashville, would ask about dad.

But then, I knew another Hall of Famer who would have said and done the same thing.

Rest in peace, dad. And say hello to Harmon for me.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Farrell Owens: Nashville’s Baseball Celebrant

Tonight the final game of baseball at Nashville’s Herschel Greer Stadium will be played. Fortunate to have seen Don Mattingly, Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni, Otis Nixon, Jack Armstrong, Prince Fielder and so many others, I would have a hard time recalling a favorite moment.

It is not hard to remember who I shared those memories with: my dad, my sons and other members of my family. I am grateful for “Baseball talk” memories with Vic Coode, Butch McCord, and members of the Sounds staff, too.

But I would be greatly remiss if I did not thank a very special friend, Farrell Owens. One only has to mention “Nashville Sounds” and immediately Farrell’s name is thought of. As the first general manager of the Nashville Sounds, his ability to tell first-hand accounts of baseball in Music City are resources for sports talk show hosts, to sports writers, and to me.

Farrell Owens, Rickwood 2013A man whose life is rooted in the local sandlots, Farrell Owens fondly relates a gesture from his father which begins his baseball story, “In the summer of ’56, my dad bought me a first baseman’s mitt at Friedman’s on Charlotte Avenue after I did not make the team I had tried out for.  It was my first year to try to play organized amateur baseball and I was really down.”

“That new mitt really picked me up.  I played all summer in the neighborhood with that glove”, says Farrell.

Farrell’s playing career began in Junior Knothole baseball playing for the West Side Parts team as a twelve-year-old in the summer of 1957.  The next year, his team was Holder-Northern Lumber Company in the Senior Knothole League.  In 1959 he played for them again, and in 1960 the team was sponsored by Pettus-Owen-Wood Funeral Home.

He did not play the next summer of 1961.  As a sixteen-year-old he had been a member of the Cohn High School team, but he chose to help his father coach the Cohn Men’s Club team in Senior Knothole ball.  That team won the city’s league championship.

However, he played for two teams during the summer of 1962 at the age of seventeen: for Green Hills Merchants in the Larry Gilbert League and for Post 5 in American Legion ball.   Farrell was selected as a Gilbert League All Star in 1963; the All Star game was played at Sulphur Dell.  At the age of 19 he played for the Lipscomb College entry in the City League.

While at Cohn, Farrell was named to the first team of Nashville’s All-City baseball team.  Upon graduation in 1963, he went to Lipscomb to play baseball, becoming a starter on the 1964 team but transferred to Austin Peay in the fall.

Realizing he had made a mistake in transferring, Farrell made the move back to Lipscomb with the blessing of legendary head baseball coach Ken Dugan who told Farrell, “I would be happy to have you back”.

Dugan was a mentor to Farrell.  “While at Lipscomb, he was certainly the most influential on me, ahead of his time as a baseball coach. I took pride in learning as much as I could from him and used his techniques and management in my own coaching career.”

In 1966 Lipscomb won the District championship, the first school team to qualify for the Regional tournament.  Farrell was center fielder on that team.  As a senior in 1968 Farrell gained national notoriety by pulling an unassisted double play as an outfielder against arch-rival Belmont.

In 1992 Farrell was inducted into the Lipscomb University Athletic Hall of Fame.

During his college career, Farrell played during the summer for the Coursey’s BBQ team in the Tri-State League.  The team competed as a member of the 19-and-over Stan Musial Division, a part of the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC).

Coursey’s qualified for the Stan Musial World Series in Battle Creek, Michigan.  The team won one and lost two in the tournament and Farrell led the tournament with a .397 average.

By 1969 Farrell was coaching high school baseball and continuing to play in sandlot baseball in the Tri-State League but this time for a new team, Tennessee Pride Eggs, sponsored by the company’s owner, Herman Bullock.  Farrell was Tri-State League Player of the Year in 1969, batting .456.  His last year to play was 1972.

He began to manage the Haury & Smith Construction team in 1973 and led the team to the state championship in Knoxville.  Farrell relates the story:

“One of the happiest moments of my baseball life happened to me when I was a 29-year-old manager for Haury & Smith.  We were playing the Knoxville team in their hometown Bill Meyer Stadium for the Stan Musial state championship.”

“The score was tied 0-0 after nine innings, but we scored two runs in the top of the tenth inning.  In the bottom of the tenth, with men on first and third and no outs, pitcher Butch Stinson gets the next hitter to fly out to the outfield.  The runner on third scores, but the runner on first is held.”

“After the next batter strikes out, a ball is sharply-hit to shortstop Ricky Wheeler who throws to Donnie Polk, covering second base for the final out.  Butch had pitched a 10-inning complete game, and we won the State Championship 2-1!”

“I can remember us celebrating at the Andrew Johnson Hotel after the game and I was so happy I yelled out, ‘Bingo!  One for the roses!’”

In 1974 the team won the league title once again but lost in the Stan Musial state tournament in Memphis.

In 1975 and 1976 Haury & Smith played in the National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series in Wichita, Kansas after winning the state and regional tournaments.  Mike Wright, Steve Burger, and Jerry Bell were members of that team.

It was in the fall of 1976 when Larry Schmittou called upon Farrell to begin organizing what would become the Nashville Sounds professional minor league team.

In 1977 while at Pearl High School where he had become head baseball coach in 1972, Farrell wrote an article on base running that was published in the prestigious “Athletic Journal”. That year Farrell was inducted into the Nashville Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame by the Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association and he helped to establish a new amateur league in Nashville, the Kerby Farrell League.

Leaving teaching and coaching in 1978 to help found the Nashville Sounds, he served as Vice President and General Manager for five years.  The new venture became a member of the Southern League (AA) and an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.  At one time Farrell owned a part of four minor league teams.

In 1989 Farrell began an amateur baseball newspaper, “The Sandlotter”, covering play in the Greater Nashville Amateur Baseball Association (GNABA).  No longer a publication, his venture became an internet source in 1997 and is now accessed online atwww.sandlotter.com.  It covers the SANDLOTT Mid-State League.

A lifelong Nashvillian, Farrell became a baseball player, coach, instructor, mentor, teacher, and former professional baseball executive.  He served as president of the Nashville Old Timers during 1987-1988 and continues to serve on the board of directors and executive committee.

His life has impacted many other players and friends.  His counsel continues to guide and mold lives today as an authority on Nashville’s baseball history.

“I have learned that there is a romantic aspect to teaching and talking about baseball.  Everyone lends an ear to it”, he says.

Farrell has two daughters, Paige and Ashley, and one granddaughter Charlotte who was born in February of 2012.

Thank you Farrell, for telling me those stories, for reliving your past, for sharing your treasures of baseball, not only with me but with so many others. You have always been giving of what you know, your wealth of knowledge. It has been a great run at Greer, but we want to know more.

See you at the new ballpark.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Baseball Celebration, Baseball Chatter

Baseball has been a slice of America since its beginning. It has created rivalries among cities, towns, and states, and has also brought schools, teammates, and families together. Attending a game brings a peace to everyday life where fans can chat about home, discuss batting averages, and enjoy the progress of raw talent while admiring the decline of an All-Star and maybe a future Hall of Famer.

It is a participation game. It calls for players at nine positions on the field, and a supporting cast of relievers, utility fielders, and sometimes designated hitters. Playing the game creates situations that call for quick thinking, strong arms, and lively bats.

It is also a game to be watched. Fans see athletic skills, managerial prowess, and disappointing losses at the ballpark. “The Game” is perfect in its imperfections through errors, wild pitches, and strikeouts.

The solace of a ballpark, of concrete and steel and of wood splinters and bleachers, overlooks the stage of green and brown where players paint their masterpieces of sweat and of tears.

Celebrating those moments are as important as studying the past, reliving historical traditions, and hoping for continuation of moments once experienced by previous generations.

Tomorrow night at the Millennium Maxwell House in Nashville the Old Timers Baseball Association of Nashville will give area baseball fans a chance to celebrate once again. It will be the 76th annual banquet for the Old Timers, an organization which has as its creed a testament to all things “Baseball”:

“To enjoy fellowship with baseball enthusiasts and to honor and support the great game of baseball at all levels.”

HearFormer professional baseball players will be attending including Bobby Richardson who was MVP of the 1960 World Series as second baseman for the New York Yankees, amateur players will be honored, twenty high school seniors will receive scholarship awards, Gerald Montgomery will be honored as the latest selection for Nashville’s Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, and Dennis Birdwell will be given his “Mr. Baseball” award.

But that’s not all. The baseball chatter at each table will be there for all to hear. Lean in and listen. The stories are vital to those telling and vital those who hear them.

Those “slices of America” are important in the celebration of “The Game”, too.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Old Timers to Award 20 Scholarships at 76th Annual Banquet

ScholarshipOld Timers Baseball Association of Nashville president Jim Forkum released the names of twenty high school senior baseball players who will be receiving a scholarship award at the Old Timers’ 76th annual banquet on Thursday night, January 23rd.

Former New York Yankees second baseman and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson will be assisting in the presentation of scholarships. The award winners can be found on the Old Timers website:

http://www.otbaseball.com

Join in the festivities by purchasing a ticket at the door. It will be an exciting night and you are encouraged to attend!

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Old Timers Banquet to Feature Auction Items

The Old Timers Baseball Association of Nashville will be holding their 76th annual banquet on Thursday, January 23, 2014. The event will begin at 6:30 PM but beginning at 5:30 PM a silent auction will take place in the reception area. A few items will be auctioned live during the banquet.

Franklin American Mortgage Company is the main sponsor for the banquet to be held at the Millennium Maxwell House, 2025 Rosa L Parks Boulevard.

Board member Morgan Butler has done an awesome job in accumulating desirable items for the 2014 auction. Here’s a partial listing of the items that will be auctioned:

Gavel

Signed Photos
Rafael Furcal
Bob Turley
Gary Templeton
Mike Hampton
Kyle Davies
Steve Avery
Scott Rolen
Don Larsen

Signed Postcards
Bob Feller
Juan Marichal

Signed Baseballs
R.A. Dickey
Brad Paisley
Chipper Jones
2013 Vanderbilt Team Ball
Wade Boggs
Duke Snider
Don Zimmer
Lenny Dykstra
Scott Kazmir
Gaylord Perry
Rickie Weeks
Rex Brothers

The sale of auction items goes towards a fund to provide assistance to area baseball programs, and gives one more reason for baseball fans to attend the banquet. Tickets are available from any Old Timers board member, at Nashville Sporting Goods, Hit After Hit, and at the Nashville Sounds office.

The banquet will feature former New York Yankees second baseman and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson. More information can be found at http://www.otbaseball.com.

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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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