Tag Archives: National League

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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R. A. Dickey’s Journeys

Today I was able to attend Lipscomb University’s “Forehand & Friends” event. Head baseball coach Jeff Forehand and the University hosts these events during the spring. Major Leaguer R. A. Dickey, a close personal friend of Forehand and 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner was coach Forehand’s special guest to kick off the new baseball season.

R.A.DickeyR. A. is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays after being traded from the New York Mets in the off-season after his magical season. He related the difference in pitching in the American League East which is loaded with hitting, compared to the National League East which is more pitcher-laden.

To further his career when it had stalled, R. A. decided to learn to throw a knuckleball  beginning in 2006, he spent the 2007 season with the Nashville Sounds when he was selected as the Pacific Coast League’s Pitcher of the Year. Moving up to the majors he was with the Mariners and Twins before being signed by the Mets.

His 2012 season was very special, but in 2013 he was given the American League’s Golden Glove Award for Pitching.

But that’s not all. R. A. tells his success stories along with his faith stories. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to bring attention to Bombay Teen Challenge that rescues young girls in Mumbai from abuse and exploitation. He has written a book about his life, “Wherever I Wind Up”, which includes a description of being sexually abused as a youngster.

Today he spoke of consistency in his “walk”, his spiritual journey through life guided by God. R. A. told his audience to “live life”; others are curious about how one goes about daily activities and when he is asked about his faith, he has an opening to nurture their own faith journey and minister to them.

“I had to re-invent myself when I decided to learn to throw a knuckleball”, he said. Mentors Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, and Tim Wakefield helped guide him, but it was ultimately up to Dickey.

“But I get excited about learning.”

It is evident he gets excited about sharing his faith, too.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville’s Fred Toney: Winner of a Double No-Hitter

Fred Toney, born in Nashville on December 11, 1888, pitched the longest no-hit game in baseball history on May 10, 1907 for Winchester in the Bluegrass State League, but may be best known for pitching for Cincinnati on May 2, 1917 against Hippo Vaughn and the Chicago Cubs in a game that is the only one on record where both hurlers tossed no-hitters through nine innings.

Toney won the game by holding the Cubs hitless after Vaughn gave up two runs to the Reds in the top of the tenth.

FredToneyOn July 1, 1917, Toney pitched complete games in a doubleheader for the Cincinnati Reds against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In both games, he allowed three hits each, setting a National League record that still stands. As one of the outstanding pitchers in the National League from 1915 to 1921, Toney lead the league in saves in 1918 and won 20 games in 1917 and 1920.

In 1923 Toney suffered an injury to the middle finger of his pitching hand in a bunt attempt and was never quite as effective as he could not grip a baseball as before. He finished the season 12-11 with the St. Louis Browns, his last season in the majors.

Toney retired after spending his last professional season with Nashville in 1925. He opened a soda and sandwich shop and at the time of his death he was working for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. He passed away in his hometown on March 11, 1953 and is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery.

In 1971 Toney was elected to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

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