Tag Archives: Nashville Tennessean

Sulphur Dell Circuses and Slugfests

In what must be one of baseball’s most productive offensive games ever in Sulphur Dell, Chattanooga outlasted Nashville 24-17 in the second game of a double header on Wednesday, June 12, 1946.

With the Shrine Circus scheduled for a five-day run at the historic ballpark the next week, sportswriter Raymond Johnson offered his view by comparing the wild game to circus shenanigans under the sub-heading “Vol-Lookout Gyrations Bring To Mind Shrine Circus”:

“…it is extremely doubtful if the circus will provide more amusing things than some of the comical and, at times, stupid play Those Vols, their rivals, and the umpires – let’s not forget them – have in the Dell this week.”[1]

Nashville won the first game that day by a score of 4-3, but the night cap was one for the record books.

Nashville Tennessean, 06-17-1946 Shrine Circus Sulphur Dell

Nashville and Southern Association rival Chattanooga set a league record for most hits in one game for both teams with 51 and tied a league record for runs scored in a game with 41. There were 109 official times at-bat, 29 left on base, 15 doubles, three home runs, and a total of 71 bases.[2]

What does not show up in the box score are other zany happenings.

Twenty-eight players, 12 Lookouts and 16 Vols, took part in the game. Nine pitchers, six Vols and three Lookouts, took his turn on the mound. There were four hit batsmen and nine errors.

In the first inning, Nashville’s Joe Stringfellow golfed a long home run out of the ballpark, and a few batters later second baseman Jim Shilling hit an infield popup which Lookouts third baseman Ray Goolsby, first baseman Jack Sanford, and pitcher Larry Brunke dropped between them. Shilling later pitched two innings for Nashville.

There was even a protest, although only rules interpretations can be protested, not judgement calls. In the fourth inning Chattanooga’s Hillis Layne hit a fly ball that hit the right field screen and dropped down to settle at the top of the wooden fence. Base umpire Lyn Dowdy ruled it a ground-rule double, but plate umpire Paul Blackard thought the ball had cleared the fence and gave the signal for a home run.

Nashville outfielders Stringfellow and Pete Thomassie convinced Blackard that the ball was clearly visible on top of the fence and the arbiter reversed his decision. The decision brought manager Bert Niehoff out of the Lookouts dugout to argue that the ball on the fence could have been one hit there during batting practice. After discussing the issue, both umpires ruled once again that, in fact, Hillis should be credited with a home run. Larry Gilbert protested the game at that point, to no avail.

A blowout game had happened in Atlanta’s Ponce De Leon ballpark a few seasons before, with similar results.

In a 26-13 win over the Crackers on August 18, 1943, every Nashville player collected at least one hit, scored at least one run, and all except Charlie Brewster knocked in at least one run[3].  Charlie Gilbert went to the plate eight times in the game, and the entire team totaled 58 plate appearances and 29 base hits.

First baseman Mel Hicks started the Vols scoring spree with a three-run homer in the first inning, and Ed Sauer added another four-bagger for two runs in the fifth. It was the 10th home run on the season for the pair. After three innings the Vols had scored 14 runs, then added five more in the fifth.

The Crackers made it interesting by scoring 11 runs in the final three innings, but by then Nashville increased their total with three more in the seventh and four in the ninth, which included a steal of home by third baseman Pete Elko for the final Vols tally.

Gritty Vols manager Larry Gilbert called on outfielder Calvin Chapman and catcher Walt Ringhofer to direct the ball club in his absence, flying from Atlanta to attend the wedding of team owner Fay Murray’s daughter Emily on that day.[4]

One of the highest scoring games in Vols history, the previous record had occurred two years prior in Chattanooga.

On the third day of the 1941 season in Chattanooga on April 13, Nashville won 25-1 by sending 19 batters to the plate in the seventh and final inning of the second game. Vols outfielder Oris Hockett hit a grand slam and catcher Marvin Felderman drove in three runs with a single to clear the bases, accounting for seven of the runs. With 15 runs in the frame, the Vols came within one of the league record for runs scored in an inning, set by Little Rock against Nashville on April 25, 1929.[5]

Big scores continued six days later on April 19 Nashville won 20-1 at Sulphur Dell, and the next day as the Vols pounded the Lookouts again 21-9.[6]

Rivalries between opponents created some of the most memorable games in Southern Association history, complete with all-time marks, record stats, and individual performances. The success of Nashville’s franchise during the 1940s includes noteworthy performances such as these.

[1] Johnson, Raymond. “One Man’s Opinion”. Nashville Tennessean, p. 40, June 14, 1946.

[2] Nashville Tennessean, April 13, 1946, p. 19

[3] Nashville Tennessean, August 19, 1943, p. 18

[4] The Sporting News, August 26, 1943, p. 19

[5] The Sporting News, April 24, 1941, p. 11

[6] Johnson, Raymond. “One Man’s Opinion”. Nashville Tennessean, p. 32, August 20, 1943.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

newspapers.com

paperofrecord.com

sabr.org

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Vol Dutch Prather’s 23 Home Runs Leads the League

Born on July 7, 1906 in Branch, Arkansas, Murl Argus “Dutch” Prather was a first baseman for Nashville in 1933 and a portion of the 1934 season. Purchased by the Vols in 1932 after hitting 19 homers and batting .303 for St. Joseph of the Class A Western League, he was sent to Hazleton, Pennsylvania the next year and led the Class C New York-Penn League with 104 RBI on 17 home runs and a .301 average.

He made the Nashville club in 1933, but his adeptness in covering the first base bag, not his hitting, was the basis for his call up to the Southern Association. Blinkey Horn, Nashville Tennessean sports writer, opined about the six-foot tall, 200-lb. first sacker.

“Dutch Prather with a great pair of hands is excellent on ground balls and thrown balls. (K)nows where to toss the leather and is unexcelled on the infield in defense ability.”[1]

Murl Dutch Prather

Dutch Prather

Hitting three home runs in the first nine games, his .362 average helped solidify his position on the Vols club. By May 8 he was stuck on three homers and his batting average had dropped to .281, but on May 18 Dutch had knocked two more over the fence. He hit his ninth home run of the season against Atlanta on May 22, helping the Vols win 5-2.

By mid-June he had improved to 13 round-trippers and a batting average of .311.

On August 1 against the Birmingham Barons and playing at Sulphur Dell, he socked his 20th home run of the season off lefty Abe White. Suffering a two-week slump at the plate in the weeks ahead, on August 17 Dutch hit a dribbler to start a rally in Nashville’s 7-0 win over New Orleans and at that point seemed to have regained his touch at the plate.

On September 8, Dutch hit his 23rd and final home run, a golf-shot over the right field fence off Knoxville Smokies pitcher Guy Green. Prather finished the season with a .279 batting average on 145 hits.

His 23 home runs lead the Southern Association, giving Nashville six consecutive seasons of leading the league in that category:

1928 Dick Wade 24
1929 Jim Poole 33
1930 Jim Poole 50
1931 Moose Clabaugh 23
1932 Stanley Keyes 35
1933 Dutch Prather 23

New York Giants manager Bill Terry was so impressed with Prather’s work during the 1933 season, he told local sports writer Horn that he would take Dutch to spring training the next year.

“I intend to take two Nashville players – (Clydell) Castleman and Prather – to spring camp with me. If Prather looks good enough to keep, I will send Joe Malay to Nashville…”[2]

But Horn was not so certain. In his From Bunker to Bleacher column on January 15, Horn expected Prather to be back in the Vols fold once the season began.

“For he has a batting fault – he is always off stride when he hits. Yet he is never off stride when fielding a ball at first base.”[3]

To make the World Series Champion Giants, Prather would have to do two things: impress manager Bill Terry and knock the regular first baseman out of a job: Terry himself, who had hit .322.

In spring training Terry ultimately chose George Grantham as his understudy, and Prather joined Nashville’s spring training headquarters in Dothan, Alabama on Marcy 25[4] in time to watch newcomer Charley Baron hold down first base in a 5-1 Vols loss to the Minneapolis Millers.

The next day he was in charge of the Vols Yannigans (author’s note: scrubs, often rookies or younger players) in an inter-squad game where he made his presence known to not only Nashville manager Chuck Dressen, but his heir-apparent Charley Baron. Although the regulars won 6-5 and Baron had a home run, Prather made a sensational grab of one of Baron’s liners and hit a score-tying three run home run in the seventh inning. Both Baron and Prather were 2-4 and errorless at first.[5]

Dressen must have been happy to have had Dutch back in the lineup, as Baron was sent to Jacksonville, Texas, the Giants’ Class C club in the West Dixie League (Baron would return to Nashville for five games in 1938 as a Brooklyn Dodgers farmhand).

Securing his spot on the team, Prather hit a single off pitcher Johnny Allen’s shin in the first of two exhibition games at Sulphur Dell against the New York Yankees. On April 7 Nashville won 5-4, and in a 6-5 win over the major league club the next day, Dutch slammed a three-run home run off Russell Van Atta to stake the Vols to a 5-0 lead in the first inning.

Babe Ruth, not to be outdone by the Vols slugger, hit a massive home run of his own in the seventh inning.[6]

On April 17 before an opening day crowd of 13,000 in Atlanta, Dutch hit a long home run using Charley Dressen’s bat in Nashville’s 6-4 victory[7]. Prather faced a home run drought until April 29 when he had two against the Chattanooga Lookouts, then followed with another one the next night in Birmingham.

Against Birmingham on May 2, Prather socked two homers and Lance Richbourg, still suffering from the effects of sciatic rheumatism, hits one; all three came in the same inning. Dutch increased his batting average to .333 with six home runs, 12 hits, and 19 RBI.

With a league-leading team average of .312 (Phil Weintraub’s .392 led the loop and Richbourg’s .331 was good enough for seventh place), the slumping Prather became expendable.

With only seven home runs and a 2.95 batting average, on July 14 he was sold to Dallas (Class A- Texas League) only a few hours after being hit by a pitch from Clarence Struss of Little Rock earlier that day[8].  His spring training nemesis Charley Baron, batting .344 for Jacksonville, was called up to take his place.

The injury broke a bone on the middle finger of Prather’s right hand, but the Dallas club was willing to take a chance on him as it was thought he would be out of action for three weeks. However, he played in only 20 games to end the season, batting a paltry .176 with 12 hits and no home runs.

Over the next 15 years he would bounce between Class D, C, B, A, A1, and AAA clubs with varying degrees of success. In 1936 for Omaha/Rock Island (Class A, Western League) he hit 22 home runs and was named Most Valuable Player in the Western League by The Sporting News.[9] He was the only player to play in every game for the Robin Hoods/Islanders.

He briefly served in the Army Air Corps in 1937 and was limited to 103 games with Sacramento (Class AA, Pacific Coast League). In 1939 he spent a portion of the season with the Quebec Provincial League team from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada.

In 1940 Pampa (Class D – West Texas-New Mexico League), Texas, he hit a personal best 27 round-trippers. When “The Story of Minor League Baseball” was published by the National Association in 1952, Prather’s feat of 167 RBI was mentioned.[10]

He managed Pampa the next season and also Tyler (Class C – East Texas League) in 1946. Two future Nashville Vols players, Jim Kirby and Poco Taitt, were members of his team in Tyler.

He led Pauls Valley in 1948, and the Seminole and Shawnee Clubs in 1951, all teams in the Class D, Sooner State League.

Dutch retired as an active player and became an umpire in the West Texas-New Mexico League in 1953. He umpired in the Evangeline League in 1955-1956, California League in 1957, and the Sooner State League in 1957.

Prather died on March 13th, 1967 in Ada, Oklahoma, and was buried in McGee Cemetery in Stratford, Oklahoma.[11]

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

nebaseballhistory.com

newspapers.com

southernassociationbaseball.com

Notes

[1] Nashville Tennessean, April 23, 1933

[2] Ibid., December 9, 1933

[3] Ibid., January 15, 1934

[4] Ibid., March 26, 1934

[5] Ibid., March 27, 1934

[6] Ibid., April 9, 1934

[7] Ibid., April 18, 1934

[8] Ibid., April 15, 1934

[9] The Sporting News, November 19, 1936

[10] Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia

[11] Prather’s FindaGrave.com

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Hank Aaron’s Professional Debut Was in Sulphur Dell

Henry Aaron was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1982 after a career that included 25 All-Star appearances, at least a .300 batting mark in 14 seasons, hitting 30 home runs 15 times, and winning three Gold Glove Awards.

Aaron1Most notably renown for becoming baseball’s home run king on April 8, 1974 in passing Babe Ruth with his 715th, Aaron would still have more than 3,000 hits should his total of 755 home runs be removed from his hit total.

“Hammerin’ Hank” captured the National League MVP Award in 1957, won the league’s batting title in 1956 and 1959, and appeared in the World Series in 1957, 1958, and 1969.

Born on February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama, the 18-year-old, 5’11” 170-lb sensation began his march to baseball immortality as a member of the 1952 Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns. The team held spring training in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, then traveled to several cities to play exhibition games between Buffalo and Kansas City.

The Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox, and Philadelphia Stars were the other teams in the six-team league. The Clowns did not schedule games in Indianapolis, playing all games in other cities, but opening day was scheduled for May 11, 1952 as a double header against the Philadelphia Stars.

In Nashville, at Sulphur Dell. It would be Hank Aaron’s first regular-season game as a professional.

The Memphis World heralded the “newcomer Henry Aaron, the sensational 16 [sic]-year-old, will open at short…”

Memphis World 05-06-1952 Indianapolis Clowns Philadephia Stars Hank Aaron Rookie Sulphur Dell

But the Nashville Tennessean made no mention of Aaron in articles previous to and after the two games:

Tennessean 05-10-1952 Henry Aaron Sulphur Dell Indianapolis Clowns Philadelphia Stars 05-11-1952Tennessean 05-11-1952 Henry Aaron Sulphur Dell Indianapolis Clowns Philadelphia Stars 05-11-1952Tennessean 05-12-1952 Henry Aaron Sulphur Dell Indianapolis Clowns Philadelphia Stars 05-11-1952

With no report of his batting or field totals on that day in the historic ballpark, one can only guess that he began a string of games that included strategic hits and powerful blows that lent to his successful career.

Exactly one month later, on June 11, Aaron was leading the Negro American League with a .483 batting average on 15 hits, 51 total bases, five home runs, six doubles, 28 runs, and 24 RBI. On that day he was purchased by the Boston Braves for $10,000 and his major league career was off and running.

Sent to Eau Claire (Class C – Northern League), he ended his first season in organized baseball with a .336 average. In his first full year in the minors at Jacksonville (Class A – South Atlantic League) in 1953, Hank slammed 22 home runs and had 208 hits leading to a batting average of .362. He earned a trip to spring training where he caught on with the Braves who had left Boston for Milwaukee.

On April 4, 1954, Hank returned to Nashville and had two doubles, scored twice and had two RBI in an 18-14 exhibition win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. At Sulphur Dell one year later against Brooklyn, he hit a home run and a single, driving in two runs in the Dodgers 10-8 win.

In Brooklyn’s 12-2 win the next year on April 9, he had a double and an RBI. It would be four years before Aaron returned to Sulphur Dell, this time against Cincinnati before 6,763 in a 6-3 win over the Reds when he had a single and scored a run.

Aaron’s four appearances in Nashville as a member of the Braves were preceded by a particular date on the baseball calendar, May 11, 1952, when Hammerin’ Hank marked his official professional debut in the infield dirt at Sulphur Dell.

© Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Special thanks to fellow researcher, Mark Aubrey (oldknoxvillebaseball.blogspot.com)

References

Bryant, Howard. (2010). The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron. New York, New York. Pantheon Books.

Vascellaro, Charlie. (2005). Hank Aaron: A Biography. Greenwood. Westport, Connecticut.

Online Sources

http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/aaron.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com

http://www.baseballhall.org

http://www.crossroadstofreedom.org

http://www.georgiaencyclopeia.org

http://www.newspapers.com

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From My Bookshelf: “The Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie”

Dixie coverWith the descriptive sub-title of “The NASHVILLE VOLS, Their 1908 SEASON, and the CHAMPIONSHIP GAME“, John A. Simpson’s book (2007, McFarland & Company, Inc. Jefferson, North Carolina & London) gives a true account of an especially historic game at the end of an especially historic season.

It did not take nearly eight years from when first published for me to read this book nor review it. Actually, I found it to be such an amazing account from first reading that I reread it, finishing it again a few days ago.

Since I thirst for anything about Nashville baseball, I could not help myself. Now it’s time for me to tell you what I think about it.

The title of the book comes from a description by Nashville Tennessean sports writer Grantland Rice about the last game of the 1908 season, played for the Southern Association championship between the Nashville Vols and New Orleans Pelicans at the Vols’ home field, Athletic Park.

Simpson’s research of Nashville baseball in the early 20th Century comes through in great detail, as he writes of events leading up to this final game. His ability to set the stage for the season, then ending with specific line scores, playing careers of the ballplayers, and a final argument about Nashville player Jake Daubert’s Hall of Fame credentials summarize his wonderful volume.

John takes his reader from explicit reasons for Nashville’s involvement in professional baseball from its roots, with an early description  of the ballpark which would also become known as Sulphur Dell in 1908 (once again, named by Rice in a sports article and immortalized in prose), to the detail surrounding the game.

The game itself is described by inning-by-inning as players come to bat, pitchers’ throw their pitches, and umpires make their calls. The fans number over 10,000 according to Rice, and they jeer and cheer and boo and hiss, giving atmosphere to the challenge of the competing teams attempting to win that last game and earn the right to the pennant.

Well-respected Nashville manager “Berny” Bill Bernhard assembled a special team for the season, including speedy Harry “Deerfoot” Bay, Wiseman, and Daubert to complement pitchers Hub Purdue, Vedder Sitton, Win Kellum, George Hunter, and Johnny Duggan. Bernhard gets in the action from time-to-time, too, and proves a valiant leader and mentor in the championship drive.

Gathering information and data from a myriad of sources has allowed Simpson to accurately detail players’ families, attitudes, and idiosyncrasies even up until each one’s death. In the end, the chapter named “Life After Baseball” helps Simpson’s readers command a deeper understanding of what happens when players’ careers are finished and how they deal with being away from The Game.

He summarizes each players’ life from an objective genealogy and statistics perspective, but also gives compassion to those whose life does not necessarily end in happiness. Players’ careers are also indexed by year and by team, so one can easily see how Nashville was often one of many stops in the move up or down the baseball ladder.

Included is a familiar relationship that he gained through the Julius “Doc” Wiseman family in Cincinnati, who opened their homes and family albums to John. This incredible opportunity is not taken lightly by the author and once again offers a compassionate look at Wiseman’s remarkable career inside and outside of baseball.

Wiseman was revered by his teammates and his fans, as his playing career ended having played for 11 seasons with Nashville.

Limited images do not deter the storytelling of early Nashville baseball or detract from the detail within the chapters. He weaves an important story in great respect; to take it all in, one needs only to accept this book as a history book, and a fine one it is for others who thirst a deeper understanding.

The legacy of Nashville and southern baseball is told in this wonderful book. I have read it twice, I have referred to it a hundred times, and I highly recommend it.

 © 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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Nashville Bugs, Builders, and Ballpark Construction

Nashville’s shiny new ballpark, soon to open on Friday, April 17th, is being constructed in the vicinity of its predecessor, historic Sulphur Dell. The original name is attributed to Grantland Rice who wrote in his Nashville Tennessean column in 1908 “…will be known as Sulphur Spring Dell, and not Sulphur Spring Bottom, as of yore.”

Rice immortalized the name in rhyme which sealed the name that fans (Rice called them “bugs”) adopted for the ages. The poem expressed the significance of having a stadium ready in time for Opening Day, too:

In Sulphur Dell 

There as a sound of revelry by day

In Sulphur Dell with axes swinging free –

And every fan there passed, yelled “Hip-Hooray –

Lay on McDuff, and give one punch for me.

And from afar the echo rolled in glee –

“The Nashville grandstand’s being torn away.”

 

Sweet are the songs which Madame Calve sings

But not so sweet as that of falling axe

In Sulphur Dell where every echo rings

With timbers falling under mighty whacks

Keep up the good work – break your blooming backs’

“Keep up the good work – break your blooming necks

We’ll give a cheer each time the axlet swings.

This was not the first instance of bringing the ballpark up to standards for the baseball season. As early as the spring of 1885 when Nashville’s first professional team came into existence, on March 24th it was reported that an extra force of workmen was put to work on the grounds of Athletic Park, grading the field and laying off the diamond before Nashville’s Southern League season would begin a few weeks later.

That did not stop games from being played: on March 30th and 31st, Nashville hosted a team from Indianapolis, and on April 1 over 1,500 spectators watched Nashville beat the Clevelands 15-7 and 3-2 the next day. On May 6th the Nashville club begins its home season with Chattanooga and 2,000 fans are in attendance as Nashville loses 9-7.

In 1897 the old bleachers on the east side were torn away and in their place were erected a large number of seats “such as are used in curcuses (sic).”

In 1901 when Nashville’s baseball team entered the newly-formed Southern Association, upgrades to the ballpark took place again, although as late as the first of April there were reports that dressing rooms for the players had yet to be constructed. Seating capacity was being increased to 2,500 with 1,000 seats available in the grandstand.

Newt Fisher, owner-manager of the Nashville club, announced on October 1, 1903 that the grandstand would be increased by 500 seats. Fisher was beginning his plans well in advance after what had been a profitable year for him. Fisher had made $10,000 over the course of the season.

When the ballpark was turned around for the 1927 season, the old grandstand was demolished and a new steel-and-concrete design was chosen to replace it. Winter weather and rain interrupted the process more than once, and in February, the contractor was offered a bonus of $5,000.00 to complete the structure for the March exhibition season.

Once again, games were played no matter the conditions of the grandstand. With the playing field in optimum shape and workmen continuing their work, on March 25th the first contest is held in the new ‘turned-around’ ballpark. It was an exhibition game played between the Nashville Vols and Minneapolis Millers, the Millers winning 5-3 as the visiting team’s right-fielder Dick Loftus hits the first home run in the new park.

It would be a while before more upgrades would take place. A new scoreboard was added in left-centerfield, but that would be the extent of new construction until a few cosmetic modernizations would happen. When fans arrived on Opening Day April 17, 1951, they saw a remodeled facade, new turnstiles, brick walls, wider exists and other improvements. Unchanged were the “dumps” in the outfield and the short right field fence.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1956 between 2-5 PM, the Nashville Vols management held an open house for the “renovated” ballpark. The playing field of the ancient park was altered somewhat by the smoothing out of the right field “porch”. Additional improvements consisted of a new coat of green paint for the stadium seats, except for the reserved seats section which were painted orange.

For the 1958 season a left-field bleacher section was torn down and a weather-damaged fence replaced, but no additional changes were made to Sulphur Dell during the demise of the facility and baseball in Nashville.

After selling light fixtures, stadium seats, and other items that had some remaining value, on April 16, 1969 the ballpark was demolished and filled in; the remains of the recent demolition of the Andrew Jackson Hotel (to make room for the Tennessee Performing Arts Center) was deposited on the site.1stTennPark

Other than rainouts and spring floods, there are no instances when Opening Day did not proceed as planned. Nashville games have begun on time, and there is plenty of confidence that the same will hold true this season.

Besides, April 17th is just around the corner, and we “bugs” will have to trust those who “break their blooming backs”. I believe we will be there.

 © 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Grantland Rice Named “Sulphur Dell” On This Day

From humble beginnings as Nashville’s city park, even P. T. Barnum pitched his city of tents on the grounds of Sulphur Spring Bottom in November of 1872. Throughout its history the proximity of this lovely piece of ground was not so beautiful after late-winter’s rainfalls filled the low-lying basin.

Escalating interest in the game of “base ball” led to the formation of Nashville’s first professional team to play in the inaugural Southern League season in 1885. The grounds at Athletic Park were often in such poor condition that games were postponed, moved to another ball field at Peabody or Vanderbilt, or cancelled.

The African-American community took to the emerging National Game and cheered on their local favorites. As early as June of 1907 the semi-professional Nashville Standard Giants played at Athletic Park; renamed the Negro League Nashville Elite Giants in 1920, Sulphur Dell was often the home playing field for the team.

Grantland_RiceIn his sports column published in the Nashville Tennessean on this day, January 14, 1908, Grantland Rice referred to the local ballpark as “Sulphur Spring Dell”. In later years Nashville Banner sports editor Fred Russell intimated that Rice couldn’t find anything to rhyme with “Sulphur Spring Bottom”, as the area had been known, thus the new moniker for Nashville’s baseball home.

In subsequent columns Rice shortened the name to “Sulphur Dell”, and fans and players adopted it when referring to their beloved ballpark. When Grantland Rice first typed out the words “Sulphur Dell”, how could he have known that time would etch the name into the minds of baseball folk, casual fans, players and sportswriters across the country.

After the 1926 season ended new ownership of the Southern Association’s Nashville Volunteers decided to turn the ballpark around so fans would not be squinting in the afternoon sun. One of the visitors to the new “turned around” Sulphur Dell was player-manager Casey Stengel and his Toledo Mud Hens; Stengel hit a triple in the exhibition game against Nashville.

A few weeks later on April 7, the 65th General Assembly of Tennessee adjourned early to see Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees play the St. Louis Cardinals at Sulphur Dell. The two teams had faced each other in the past World Series with the Cardinals winning four games to three.

A resolution had been adopted to invite Ruth to address the Senate the morning of the game, but he sent word that it would be impossible for him to appear because of a lack of time. Undoubtedly the Legislature had time and observed the Cardinals beat the Yankees that day 10-8.

The first night game was played at Sulphur Dell on May 18, 1931 as the Vols lost to Mobile 8-1.

On April 12, 1932 attendance was 14,502; with seating capacity of 8,000 in the grandstands the outfield was lined off with rope to accommodate the crowd. It was the largest crowd to see a game at Sulphur Dell.

After arriving from Memphis by team bus at 4 PM on May 8, 1946 the Racine Belles checked into the Noel Hotel then made their way to Sulphur Dell to play against the Muskegon Lassies. The Belles won 8-5.

On opening day April 17, 1951, Nashville’s Sulphur Dell celebrated 24 years of service to local citizens with a new look that included a remodeled façade, new turnstiles, brick walls, wider exits and other improvements.  Unchanged were the “dumps” in the outfield and the short right field fence.

The last professional baseball game was played at Sulphur Dell on September 8, 1963, as the Vols of the South Atlantic League faced Lynchburg in a double header.  Nashville outfielder Charlie Teuscher belted three home runs as the Vols won over Lynchburg 6-3 and 2-1.

It was the last hurrah of the famous park. Amateur baseball was played at Sulphur Dell in 1964 and in 1965 it was turned into a speedway. After becoming a tow-in lot for Metro Nashville, Sulphur Dell was demolished in 1969.

Today’s recollections of great players, games, and teams honor the memory of the hallowed grounds of Sulphur Dell thanks to the “Dean of American Sportswriters”, Grantland Rice.

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