Tag Archives: New York Giants

Hub Perdue’s First Managing Job


October rings in the close of each baseball season, as the National League and American League champions move on to the best-of-seven World Series. Once a champion is determined, players tuck away their cleats, gloves, and bats for winter, unless opportunity allows them to continue in barn-storming exhibitions to pick up some winter cash. Otherwise, stadiums are locked down until the wisp of spring sets in once again.

Minor league teams finish their seasons much sooner than the big-league clubs, and it was no different in 1913 when the Atlanta Crackers won the regular season Southern Association championship by ½ game over the Mobile Sea Gulls. Bill Schwartz’s Nashville Vols were 19 ½ games behind in the standings with a 62-76 record, good enough for seventh place.

Having completed its season, Atlanta secured the pennant on September 7, as Mobile lost to last-place New Orleans, thereby giving the Georgia club the flag. Most eyes soon focused on the major’s culmination series, taken by Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics as they vanquished Mugsy McGraw’s New York Giants in five games. One would believe that was all the baseball to be played for the year, as football was gaining traction. Games were already being played at Sulphur Dell by high school teams and Fisk University.

Even with no minor league playoffs in those days, Nashville was still in the baseball business. Its own regular season finished, Sulphur Dell hosted a game on the same day as the Crackers pennant clinch. It featured an all-star team from the not-to-distant Kitty (Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee) League, mostly players on the Clarksville and Hopkinsville teams. Only a few hundred fans viewed the contest won by Nashville, 4-1.[1]

Once Mack’s Athletics had captured the World Series crown on October 11, it was time for one final game in Nashville. Sportswriter Jack Nye made the announcement in the October 13 edition of the local newspaper.

“With the closing of the world’s series the obituary of the baseball season is usually written throughout the country but Nashville fans will have one more opportunity to witness an exhibition game before the old winter league sets in.

“Arrangements have been made for a game at the Athletic park next Sunday afternoon between an all-amateur and an all-professional team, chosen from the baseball talent of this city…”.[2]

Named to pitch for the pros were Roy Walker, a pitcher from the New Orleans club, Detroit’s Charlie Harding, who was 12-6 for the Tigers’ Winston-Salem club, and Nashville native Bill McTigue. Native Nashville pro Bob Fisher, who had spent the past season as the Brooklyn Superbas shortstop, would play third base and join Nashville’s John Lindsay (shortstop) and Bill Schwartz (second base) in the infield, while Johnson City’s Tige Garrett would hold down first base.

Earl Peck, catcher for the Henderson Hens, was to man chores behind the plate. The remainder of the pro roster would include outfielders Johnny Priest, who had been a member of the Yankees a few years prior, Knoxville’s James Burke and another Nashville-born slugger, Tiny Graham. Graham had batter .370 during the season for Morristown in the Appalachian League.

Hub Perdue, from nearby Sumner County and nicknamed the “Gallatin Squash” by sportswriter Grantland Rice during his local tenure a few years ago, was to be the featured star for the amateurs even though Perdue had been a professional since 1906. Perdue had played for Nashville 1907-1910 (he was 16-10 on the Vols’ 1908 championship club) and had been a member of the National League’s Boston Braves for the past three years. It was rumored that he had been signed by the Giants’ McGraw to play on a barn-storming tour around the world during the winter.[3]

The balance of the amateur staff would be made up by Payne, catcher; Tally, first base; Lynch, second base; Sawyers, shortstop; Harley, third base; O. Schmidt, left field; Sutherland, center field; Conley, right field; and Gower, substitute.

Two days before the game was to take place on Sunday, October 19, the Friday edition of the Nashville Tennessean and Daily American announced lineup changes. Two professionals with ties to Nashville, Wilson Collins, pitcher for the Boston Braves, and Clarence “Pop Boy” Smith, of the Chicago White Sox, were set to join players previously set to play.

“Collins will play centerfield for the professionals, while Smith has agreed to assist Hub Perdue in pitching for the amateurs. It will be Collins’ first professional appearance in Nashville, and his presence in the line-up is sure to prove a big drawing card, especially among the Vanderbilt students. Smith married a Nashville girl some months ago, and is at present visiting in the city. He declared that he would be glad to take part in the contest, and says his arm is as strong as during the middle of the American league season.[4]

Also added to the pross roster as substitute was Munsey Pigue, who had previously played third base for Clarksville and Cairo, and who had made Nashville his residence.

The day before the game, Perdue was touting his ability to perform, quoted about his willingness to pitch to the best of his ability. “Tell ‘em I’ll show ‘em some pitching tomorrow afternoon,” said Hurling Hub Perdue last night. “I am going to pitch my old arm off to win that game.”[5]

Perdue was a promoter, that’s for certain, but whether due to a small turnout of only 200 fans or in truth suffering from a sore arm, he did not pitch in the game. And the pros took it on the chin, too.

“Hub Perdue was there, but did not pitch on account of a sore arm. However, the son of Sumner took his place on the coaching lines, and was one of the big attractions of the afternoon’s entertainment.”[6]

Held hitless by pitcher “Crip” Springfield through eight innings, the pros could not collect a run until the bottom of the ninth when they had two hits to force across the tying run, sending the game into the tenth inning. Springfield, who had a lame leg, won the game when the amateurs scored a run in the bottom of the tenth and the pros could not respond.

It was Springfield’s triple in the eighth that drove in the amateurs’ first run, but it was his brilliant mastery of the pros that had the sportswriters buzzing.

“Crip Springfield, of the Rock City league, is the name of the hero of the post-season game, which drew the bugs out in spite of the chilly weather and he came near having a no-run, no-hit game to his credit.”[7]

Perdue would play two more seasons in the majors, with Boston (1914) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1914-1915).  He would not return to the majors, but he remained in the minors for another seven seasons. Fighting through lingering arm troubles and wrenching his back slipping on a wet mound, even a spiking incident could not keep him from finishing his minor league career with 168 wins against 129 losses. He even returned to Nashville for a short time in 1920.[8]

In 1921 he was given another chance to manage a team, eight years after his first foray of leading a squad of amateurs. Named manager of the Nashville Vols, the season did not go well, as Perdue’s club finished in sixth place, a distant 41 ½ games behind pennant-winning Memphis. It was his second opportunity to manage, and his last.

Did his previous bid to lead a club in 1913 foretell his managing misfortune?

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Sabr.org

Wright, Marshall D. (2002). The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.

[1] Jack Nye, “Kitty League All Stars Beaten,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, September 8, 1913, 10.

[2] Nye, “One More Baseball Game Here Before Old Winter League Begins,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 13, 1913, 10.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Two More Major League Stars To Play,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 17, 1913, 10.

[5] “Will  Pitch My Arm Off, Says Perdue,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 19, 1913, 34.

[6] “Professionals Held To Two Hits,” Nashville Tennessean and Daily American, October 20, 1913, 10.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John Simpson, “Hub Perdue,” SABR Bio-Project, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/584e9b10, accessed October 10, 2017.

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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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Nashville’s Original Hot Chicken: Nelson “Chicken” Hawks

Nelson “Chicken” Hawks, also known as “the Little Chinese Boy”, was an outfielder-first baseman for the Vols during the 1923 and 1924 seasons. He was born in San Francisco on February 3, 1896.

A product of the local sandlot Ambrose Tailors team[1], as a 21-year-old Hawks’ first professional season was in 1918 as a member of the Oakland Oaks (Pacific Coast League – AA). Playing in 64 games before going into the Army that year, he was back with Oakland for one game in 1919 but refused to sign in a salary dispute.[2]

He managed a semi-pro El Dorado squad[3] and later became a member of the Richmond Elks, a semi-pro team which claimed the “championship of Northern California”. Once the season ended, Hawks continued playing during the winter in the St. Dominic and Tribune leagues.[4] It was an off-season regimen to return to semi-pro leagues for many players from the west coast.[5]

Turning down an offer to play for the New York Giants, he signed to play for Calgary (Western Canada League – B) in 1920. By mid-season he was leading the league at .355[6]. After a league-leading .359 average[7] Hawks was signed to play for the New York Yankees.

Considered one of the fastest players but with one of the weakest arms in the American League[8], Hawks was a reserve outfielder for Miller Huggins’ Yankees and hit .288 in 41 games.[9] His major league debut came on April 14, 1921 at the Polo Grounds against the Giants, pinch hitting for future Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt in the top of the eighth and getting a hit, driving in one run.

New York won their first American League championship season in 1921 but Hawks did not appear in the World Series which the New York Giants won 5 games to 3.

At his own request[10] he was released to the Vernon Tigers (PCL – AA) in January of 1922.[11] He hit a modest .279 while riding the bench due to the abundance of outfielders on manager Bill Essick’s team.[12]

Chicken Hawks 2 But the Yankees-Vernon transactions were considered troublesome as rumors of some sort of cover up had taken place[13] and in June of 1923, while a member of St. Paul (American Association – AA), Commissioner Judge Landis made him a free agent.[14] Hawks had been purchased by the Saints in February and had been hitting a weak .273 while suffering from a variety of injuries.

Rumored to have been sought by Baltimore (International League – AA)[15], he signed with Nashville (Southern Association – A) because it was the best offer he received[16]. Hawks only played in 47 games for the Vols but had 84 hits in 248 appearances and produced a .339 average. Although he had played first base for the Saints, Vols manager Jimmy Hamilton needed help in the outfield and Hawks made the transition even though Hawks was known to have a weak throwing arm.

Hawks moved to first base for the 1924 season with the Vols, batting .336 with 27 doubles, often coaching at third base.[17] He earned a spot on the 1925 Phillies roster and by June he was leading the National League with a .409 average and holding down the first base spot for Philadelphia[18], replacing Walter Holke.

Falling to a .322 average on the season, he was sent to Newark (International League – AA) where his average continued to dip. As captain of the Bears, he only hit .287 for 1926[19] and became expendable as Newark shipped him to Denver. Hawks refused to report and remained with the Bears.[20]

At mid-season of 1927 and hitting only .272 he was traded in an even swap for Jim “Rube” Parham to league rival Reading[21] a Chicago Cubs affiliate. He joined the club on July 24.

When he returned his contract to the Reading club on Monday, February 6, 1928, he enclosed a letter to Keystones secretary Walter Ludwig.

“I am all set for spring training and know I’m going to have a big year,” he said in his letter. “Last season I didn’t have a bit of spring conditioning and I believe I was hurt on that account. I’ll be all right this year.”[22]

He played for two more seasons there, hitting .339 in 1928 and .316 with 44 doubles in 1929, but at the end of 1929 it was reported that he asked for his release to become player-manager of the Allentown team in the Eastern League (A).[23] In December manager Harry Hinchman sold Hawks to Buffalo (International League – AA).

In 1930 he hit .301 for the year and had a 21-game hitting streak to begin the season at which time he was hitting at a .375 clip.[24] Returning to Reading in an early season series, Hawks was 9-for-21[25], but in April of 1931 he was given his release.[26]

Given a workout with San Francisco (PCL – AA) in April, Hawks was signed by the Seals on June 12, 1931[27] His tenure did not last long, as he replaced George Burns as manager of the Mission Reds a month later[28], but at season’s end he was released by the Missions.[29]

In 1933 Hawks was signed to play semi-pro ball again for the Alameda Elks team for a Tribune tournament to be held in August and September.[30] 1934, named an umpire in a major/minor league exhibition game at Oakland’s ballpark.[31]

Hawks died on May 26, 1973, in San Rafael, California and is buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Oakland Tribune, June 13, 1931, p. 10

[2] Ibid. April 12, 1925, p. 72

[3] Ibid. April 18, 1919, p. 19

[4] Ibid. October 22, 1919, p. 11

[5] Ibid. December 7, 1924, p. 33

[6] Ibid. July 29, 1920, p. 21

[7] “1920 Western Canada League Batting Leaders”. Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference.

[8] Pittsburgh Daily Post, September 26, 1921, p. 8

[9] Oakland Tribune, January 31, 1923, p. 13

[10] Ibid. January 17, 1922, p. 25

[11] Washington Herald, January 7, 1922, p. 8

[12] Oakland Tribune, May 21, 1922, p. 34

[13] Sporting News, December 16, 1926, p. 2

[14] Ibid. June 14, 1923, p. 5

[15] Ibid.

[16] Oakland Tribune, April 12, 1925, p. 72

[17] Sporting News, February 26, 1925, p. 4

[18] Hutchinson News, June 6, 1925, p. 3

[19] Reading Times, July 25, 1927, p. 11

[20] Ibid, May 6, 1929, p. 14

[21] Ibid.

[22] Reading Times, February 9, 1928, p. 19

[23] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 3, 1929, p. 48

[24] Reading Times, May 15, 1930, p. 20

[25] Ibid. May 6, 1930, p. 16

[26] Ibid.

[27] Oakland Tribune, June 13, 1931, p. 10

[28] El Paso Herald-Post, July 9, 1931, p. 15

[29] Sporting News, November 12, 1931, p. 6

[30] Oakland Tribune, August 8, 1933, p. 28

[31] Ibid. October 14, 1934, p. 14

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Nashville Hosted Southern Association All Star Games

This week is Major League Baseball’s All Star week with festivities already underway in Cincinnati. The Summer Classic will be held on Tuesday, July 14th. Minor leagues have either held or will be holding their own All Star games, too.

The Southern Association All Star games were hosted by the city which was in first place on a certain day, often only a few days before the game was to be held. The league began the tradition in 1938. For example, by way of leading the league standings after games held on July 14th, Nashville hosted the 1957 All Star game at Sulphur Dell on July 17th.

The first event hosted by Nashville took place on July 8, 1940. The Southern Association All-Stars, with a 17-hit attack featuring home runs by Paul Richards and Rufe Hooks, defeated the Nashville Vols 6-1 at Sulphur Dell before a crowd of 5,500. Nashville’s Boots Poffenberger was the losing pitcher.

Three years later on July 9, 1943, Sulphur Dell was the venue for a second time as the Nashville Vols defeated the Southern Association All Stars, 3-2. Mel Hicks, Johnny Mihalic, and Whitey Platt of the home team garnered two hits apiece.

On July 20, 1948 Nashville hosted the Southern Association All Stars again at Sulphur Dell. Charlie Gilbert slammed a home run over the short right field fence in the twelfth inning to lead the Vols over the league’s stars 4-3.  A crowd of 9,147 was in attendance.

AllStarTicket1948 262

The next season on July 12, 1949 the league All Stars crushed their hosts 18-6 at Sulphur Dell before 11,442 fans.  Atlanta second baseman Davey Williams, already sold to the New York Giants, was five-for-five. Three of his hits were doubles as he scored four runs and participated in three double plays. Mobile’s George “Shotgun” Shuba slammed a three-run homer and Atlanta Crackers outfielder Lloyd Gearhart added a two-run home run.

Once again the Southern Association All Stars won over Nashville 7-6 on July 17, 1957. It was the first All Star game held at the home park of the second-place club at the time of the game, as the Vols had lost their first-place standing which earned them as host.

Before hosting rules or fan selection were implemented, choosing an All Star team was common place among sportswriters. Nashville’s Grantland Rice picked his own Southern Association elite team in the August 28, 1910 edition of the Nashville Tennessean. New Orleans would win that season’s pennant:

Catchers

Syd Smith, Atlanta

Rowdy Elliott, Birmingham

Pitchers

Harry Coveleski, Birmingham

Otto Hess, New Orleans

Frank Allen, Memphis

Tom Fisher, Atlanta

First Base

Bill Schwartz, Nashville

Second Base

Dutch Jordan, Atlanta

Shortstop

Steve Yerkes, Chattanooga

Third Base

Frank Manush, New Orleans

Left Field

Jud Daley, Montgomery

Center Field

Shoeless Joe Jackson, New Orleans

Right Field

Bobby Messenger, Birmingham

© Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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It Happened on This Day in Nashville: April 8

Another special day in the history of Nashville baseball is April 8. The New York Yankees, New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and Cleveland Indians all appear at Sulphur Dell on this day through the years, and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play at the historic park:

April 8, 1901
Nashville is scheduled to play Vanderbilt in their first exhibition game before the Southern League season begins. It will be the first of three games with Vanderbilt, followed by games versus Suwanee <sic>, Cumberland and Jake Benes’ St. Louis team.

April 8, 1915
Nashville Vols lose to the National League New York Giants by a score of 4-2 in an exhibition game at Sulphur Dell.

April 8, 1934
Before a crowd of 5,000, the Vols beat Joe McCarthy’s New York Yankees 6-5 for the second straight day. James P. Dawson reports the game for The New York Times, saying that two home runs at Sulphur Dell “cleared the high fence and a 30-foot wire extension on the abbreviated mountain in right field“. Babe Ruth goes two for three, Lou Gehrig is one for two, and Bill Dickey is hitless in five at-bats.

April 8, 1946
Today’s exhibition game at Sulphur Dell between the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers is cancelled due to morning rains and a downpour which comes 45 minutes before today’s scheduled start. The outlook for the game called for 7,500 fans to turn out as all reserved seats were sold out, and 4,000 fans are turned away.

April 8, 1953
During an exhibition game at Sulphur Dell, Giants rookie Daryl Spencer is hit in the face by a pitch from Cleveland Indians hurler Mike Garcia.

April 8, 1956
The Brooklyn Dodgers win over the Milwaukee Braves 12-2 before an overflow crowd of 11, 933. Gil Hodges hits a home run and the Dodgers collect a total of 17 hits in the win. Del Rice, catching for the Braves, lifts a high fly over the right-center-field wall for a homer.

April 8, 1958
Jay Hook, bonus baby right-hander signed out of Northwestern University by the Cincinnati Reds, is assigned to Nashville.

April 8, 1960
Nashville’s Sulphur Dell hosts an exhibition game between the Milwaukee Braves and the Cincinnati Reds.

Reds Braves ticket_FB

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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From Sulphur Dell to World Series Hero: Dusty Rhodes

Quick, name the Most Valuable Player of the 1954 World Series. Yes, that one, the one in which Willie Mays makes that miracle catch and throw.

It is late in Game One of the 1954 World Series.  Played at the cavernous Polo Grounds in New York, Cleveland Indians first baseman Vic Wertz crushes a fly ball to deep centerfield.

There is one out in the eighth inning, the score is tied 2-2, and with two runners on base the drive is certainly going to send in two runs, and possibly three, as Giants centerfielder Willie Mays turns towards the wall to make a play.

Mays makes an over-the-shoulder catch that not only robs Wertz of an extra-base hit, but Mays’ unbelievable throw to the infield sends the runners scurrying back to their bases. Cleveland’s Larry Doby is able to tag up and move to third, but Al Rosen holds up at first base. The next batter is walked, but the Giants are able to get two more outs without allowing a run.

The score remains tied into the bottom of the tenth when Mays walks and steals second, Hank Thompson is walked intentionally, and with one out Giants manager Leo Durocher sends in a pinch hitter for Monte Irvin. James Lamar “Dusty” Rhodes steps up to the plate and wallops a three-run homer off future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon to lead New York to a 5-2 win.

The next day Rhodes pinch hits for Irvin again and delivers a single to drive in Mays. Remaining in the game to play left field, Rhodes hits a home run off of Early Wynn, another future Hall of Famer, to help ensure the win in Game Two as the Giants beat Cleveland 3-1.

The Series moved to the Indians Municipal Stadium for Game Three. With the Giants ahead 1-0 in the third inning, once again Durocher calls on Rhodes to pinch hit for Irvin. With the bases load he delivers a single that scores Don Mueller and Willie Mays and adding to the Giants lead 3-1. Staying in and playing left field, Rhodes is intentionally walked in the fourth inning with New York ahead by a score of 4-0. He strikes out in his last two plate appearances but the Giants win 6-2 and take a 3-0 lead in the Series.

Rhodes does not play in Game Four, as the Giants quickly take a 7-0 lead and win by a final score of 7-4. Dusty RhodesEven though the Indians had won a record 111 games to capture the American League pennant, the Giants take the series in four games. The Giants are 1954 World Champions!

For the Series Rhodes stats total a .667 batting average, two homers and seven RBIs.

“The Catch” becomes one of the most memorable events in all of baseball history; we’ve seen it over-and-over in film and pictures. One sportswriter said, “It would have been a home run in any other park, including Yellowstone.”

So the answer is Willie Mays, right? Well, no. There was no official World Series MVP until 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Johnny Podres won the award.

But in the mind of Giants fans everywhere, it was Rhodes. And there is a Nashville connection.

The 6-ft., 178-pound left-handed hitter had played five seasons with Chicago Cubs minor league affiliates. At the end of the 1951 season the Nashville baseball club purchased Rhodes from the Rock Hill, South Carolina club of the Tri-State League.

A line-drive pull hitter, Rhodes would fit well in Nashville’s lineup. Taking advantage of the short right-field “dump” at Sulphur Dell, Rhodes delivered, too.  After 82 games the 25-year-old led the Southern Association in batting with a .357 average. His 114 hits included 14 homers, 4 triples, and 27 doubles with 62 RBIs and 64 runs.

He was purchased for $25,000 by the Giants and reported to the major league team in Cincinnati on July 13 and his non-descript seven-year major league career began. Used primarily as a pinch hitter for Monte Irvin, his statistics were not impressive.

The 1954 post season was a different story.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville Vols Uniforms 1964 – 1977

Often the uniforms of the Nashville ball clubs were similar to the colors of the major league clubs for which the Vols had some affiliation. During the 1940s the Chicago Cubs had ties to Nashville and the Vols wore dark royal blue and scarlet as trim colors. When Nashville was a farm club of the New York Giants in the early 1950s, the uniform colors included black and orange. Many of us remember the Cincinnati Reds years, and the Nashville uniforms of red and white.

In research I have located references to uniform colors for Nashville’s early professional teams:

From 1886 (Nashville’s second year in the Southern League): “Spalding will make the Nashvilles uniforms”

From 1894: “Manager (George) Stallings to let players decide on color of season’s uniforms”

From 1897 (Nashville’s team in the newly-formed Central League): “Blue with Maroon trim”

From 1903: “Grey with Black trimming”

From 1904: “Blue uniforms, Red cap and socks”

I wonder what the uniforms of the Nashville Vols would have looked like had the team  continued? Here are a few drawings of “what if” uniforms for the years 1964 through 1977 when there was no professional baseball in Nashville:

NasVolUnis_262

 © 2013 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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