Tag Archives: New York Mets

Vols, Inc.: New Ownership to Save Nashville Baseball, Conclusion

For the 1959 season, the team finished second by ½ game to Birmingham in the first half of the split season, and fifth in the second half. The combined record of 84-64 would have been good enough for third place had the season not been split into halves, and would have finished 5 ½ games out of first place.

Attendance increased by 37,000 to just over 129,000. With Sisler’s strong on-field leadership, and McCarthy’s front office skills, it should have been a perfect combination. But when Sisler was named manager of the Seattle Rainers (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA) and Bill McCarthy, concessions manager Bill Lambie, Jr., and trainer Chuck Swope all resigned[27], it was not because they had not performed well.

Sisler and McCarthy had grown to dislike each other.

“Sisler precipitated the explosion when he informed President Greer in Chicago that he would not consider returning as manager unless McCarthy was removed as general manager. Dick’s friends say McCarthy’s failure to provide players needed caused the rift. His detractors say Sisler wanted both jobs. The final result was elimination of both.”[28]

But the Vols, Inc. board of directors had one more ace up their sleeve. In a surprise move for everyone in organized baseball, on October 27, 1959, New York Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner was named field manager and general manager of the Nashville Vols for the 1960 season.

It was reported that Turner’s salary will be $17,500, and he would assume all duties previously performed by Sisler and McCarthy. Turner hired Bill Giles, Jr., the 25-year-old son of National League president Bill Giles to be his assistant, and Lem (Whitey) Larkin as operations supervisor.[29] Turner was expected to sell tickets, too, both by his presence and his efforts.

With a lineup that included Jim Maloney, Jack Baldschun, and Jim Bailey on the pitching staff, and Johnny Edwards behind the plate and future New York Met Rod Kanehl holding down the defense, the club won 71 and lost 82, and finished in sixth place.

When Gabe Paul, Cincinnati Reds vice-president and general manager, announced on August 29 that the Reds six-year working agreement would not be renewed with Nashville effective December 15, it was a blow to the local team.

The reason given by Paul is because the Southern Association “does not allow the use of Negro players”. It was enough for Jim Turner, especially when the club failed to draw 100,000, falling short by 279.

Vols, Inc. continued through 1961 with Joe Sadler and Cleo Miller as president, but when it was announced that through 21 home dates Nashville had drawn 19,228 fans for an average of 915 per game, and first-year general manager Bill Harbour estimated the team would have to approximate last year’s attendance of 99,721 to break even, the writing was on the wall. Nashville drew just over 500 fans a game.

On January 24, 1962 the Southern Association suspended operations due to a lack of enough major league working agreements. Nashville was without a team in 1962.

Returning to organized baseball in 1963 as member of the South Atlantic League, after a one-year absence, the season began with a loss to Macon, 15-4. The opening day home game drew 7,987 Vols fans; that one game’s attendance would turn out to be 15% of the entire season’s draw.

But as the year ended facing a deficit of almost $22,000 on final season attendance figures of 52,812 fans, the directors of Vols, Inc. surrendered their South Atlantic League franchise without a dissenting vote. Board chairman Jack Norman assigned a committee to investigate the feasibility of retaining Sulphur Dell, which would mean a continuation of the corporation which owns the ballpark.

Sulphur Dell sat silent in 1964, but in 1965 Country Music star Faron Young led a group that purchased the ballpark and converted it into a race track. Sulphur Dell Speedways lasted only a few months, and Young’s syndicate turned the keys of the property back to Vols, Inc. and paid a rental fee.

With no prospects for a minor league franchise and with the neglected ballpark left with no upkeep, Vols, Inc. leased the property to the City of Nashville and it was used as a tow-in lot. The ballpark was razed in 1969 when Gregg Industries purchased the property for $255,000 from Vols, Inc. The intent was to construct a merchandise mart. When the mart was never built, the land stood idle for nearly fifty years until First Tennessee Park was built beginning in 2014.

On April 4, 1969, the Nashville Tennessean reported that Herschel Greer, now vice-president of the ownership group, said every Vols, Inc. stockholder would be paid 100-cents on the dollar, if they could provide a copy of their stock certificate.

As of March 1972, $50,000 was still on deposit in First American National Bank, most of it belonging to stockholders who had passed away, moved away, or had forgotten about their stock. Even if all of them claimed their ownership stake, there would still be $12,000 on hand for the corporation that still existed at that time even though it was out of business.In 13 years, some of the 4,876 investors received their money back – not a terrible investment that offered challenges at nearly every turn. But the challenge of the original issue of stock was a completely successful feat.

Epilogue: The grand experiment that was Vols, Inc., was a master plan for the future; but it was not the first.

“In 1956, the St. Louis Cardinals were preparing to relocate the Red Wings, their financially ailing Triple A farm club. Morrie Silver, a local businessman, sold shares in the club to fans at $10 each. The grassroots campaign raised $300,000 — enough to buy the team from the Cardinals and keep it in Rochester.”[30]

The Wisconsin Timer Rattlers (Midwest League – Class A), and Syracuse Chiefs and Toledo Mud Hens (International League – Class AAA) have similar ownership operations.[31]

Note: This Nashville baseball history was presented on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the 15th annual Southern Association Conference at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Special thanks to Davidson County/Metro Archives and Tennessee State Library & Archives

© 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

baseball-reference.com

newspapers.com

Nipper, Skip (2007) “Baseball in Nashville”. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing

sabr.org

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

[27] F. M. Williams. “Giles, Larkin Added to Vols’ Front Office,” Nashville Tennessean, November 6, 1959, 50.

[28] F. M. Williams, “Front Office Key To Nashvols Future,” Nashville Tennessean, October 2, 1960, 67.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Bruce Felton, “MINDING YOUR BUSINESS; Buy Me Some Peanuts, And Shares in the Team,” The New York Times, July 7, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/07/business/minding-your-business-buy-me-some-peanuts-and-shares-in-the-team.html, accessed March 7, 2018.

[31] Leo Roth, “Stock repurchases keep the ‘Rochester’ in Red Wings,” Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, NY), May 19, 2017, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/sports/2017/05/19/rochester-red-wings-shareholders-new-york-abandoned-property/101766040/, accessed March 10, 2018.

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Aubrey Gatewood Pitched for Nashville in 1963

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Provided by Tony Roberts

Aubrey Lee Gatewood was born November 17, 1938 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, Lee, was a truck driver in building construction, his mother Gladys was a homemaker, and when he was born there were three older sisters: Betty, Dolpha, and Delores.

He attended North Little Rock High School, tossed a perfect game in an American Legion game in 1956[1], and played for legendary coach J. A. “Ike” Tomlinson at Arkansas State University for three years[2]. On June 12, 1959, he signed a contract with cthe Detroit Tigers as a free agent and was to become a member of the Birmingham Barons club of the Southern Association but did not play that season.[3]

He was assigned to Durham (Carolina League – Class B) in 1960 and was 2-3 with a 6.50 ERA before being shipped to the Duluth-Superior Dukes (Northern League – Class C) where he finished the year 9-5 with a 2.35 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 95 innings. At one point, he accomplished six consecutive victories.[4] In a playoff game against Minot in September, he was removed from a game after being hit by a line drive.[5]

On December 14, he was selected by the expansion Los Angeles Angels from Detroit as the 11th pick for $75,000.

He began the 1961 season with hopes of earning a roster spot with the Angels. Catcher Del Rice, who had 16 years of experience handling pitchers, assessed Gatewood’s talent in spring training at Palm Springs, California.

“He’s got a good fastball and curve, but will also need a lot of work.”[6]

When the St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Ron Kline to the Angels, Gatewood was sent to Dallas-Ft. Worth (American Association – Class AA).[7] After losing two games in six appearances for the Rangers, he was demoted to Portsmouth-Norfolk (South Atlantic League – Class A) and his poor showing continued. In seven games, he had no wins and three loses.

Optioned to Des Moines (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League – Class B), he filled in quickly as a starter in 11 games in 13 appearances. He picked up his strikeout pace with 89 strikeouts in 75 innings with a 3-5 record and 5.04 ERA.

In October when Angels general manager Fred Haney called up six players from Dallas-Ft. Worth, he returned Gatewood to the Rangers from Des Moines.[8]

On November 27 in the 1961 Rule 5 draft, Gatewood was chosen by the New York Mets for $25,000 (he I s the only player selected in both expansion drafts). [9]He had recently moved his residence from Little Rock to Los Angeles in anticipation of remaining with the Angels.

Mets manager Casey Stengel was unhappy with Aubrey’s control and was returned to the Angels on April 6, 1962.[10] In his best Stengelese rationale, “The Old Perfessor” told Gatewood, “Son, we’d like to keep you around this season, but we’re going to try to win a pennant.”[11]

Assigned to Hawaii (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA), in 20 games he was 6-8 with a 4.54 ERA but was leading the league with 72 walks when he was sent to Tri-City (Northwest League – Class B) to end the season. He won one game and lost three and his ERA ballooned to 10.29.

Nashville, without professional baseball during the 1962 season after 61 years in the now-defunct Southern Association, reorganized in the Class A SALLY League and the Angels signed the Vols on as an affiliate. On April 3 Gatewood was assigned there under manager John Fitzpatrick who had managed Angels affiliate in Quad Cities (Midwest League – Class D) the previous year.

He was being counted on to anchor the starting rotation.

“(Gatewood) will probably be our starting pitcher in the opening game at Knoxville”, touted Vols general manager Ed Doherty. “He can fire. I saw him work four innings the other day and he struck out seven and walked but one. He’s got a good, live arm.”[12]

On April 19, in Nashville’s opening game in Knoxville, Gatewood was the starter. He pitched five innings with no decision as the Vols won 8-4. He was removed from the game after giving up five hits and two runs, but Fitzpatrick pulled him not for being ineffective but for sitting through three rain delays.[13]

In the second game of a double header with Macon on April 29, Fitzpatrick was ejected from arguing a close play at third, and Gatewood was called on to guide the club for the remainder of the game.[14]

Chronic arm trouble haunted him during the season, and twice he was flown to Los Angeles for a medical examination. Bone chips in his throwing elbow were the issue, and both diagnosis resulted in him being sent back to Nashville without surgery. Doctors felt he could be treated with occasional cortisone shots. [15]

However, he was chosen to play in the South Atlantic League All Star game played in Augusta on July 22, where he tossed two innings of hitless relief, striking out three in the All Stars’ whitewashing of the first-half champion Yankees 7-0.

After his second return in August, he did not win another game.[16]

 ““He had a huge curveball,” says 1963 Nashville Vols historian Tony Roberts watched him from behind the plate, “but his arm issues kept him from dominating hitters.”

“Without rehabilitation like the players receive today, Gatewood just never recovered.”[17]

He had a 6-10 record with a 3.34 ERA for the Vols before being called up by the Angels on September 5, and on September 11 pitched a four-hitter in a 4-1 complete game win over the Red Sox in his major-league debut. He finished 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in four games.

At the beginning of 1964 spring training in Phoenix, he hopes of becoming a starter for the Angels. Los Angeles Times sports writer John Hall explained how Gatewood had come to the club nearly unnoticed.

“Gatewood’s career has been detoured in the past by arm miseries, but he indicated last September that he’s got the hex licked and he’s been taking it slow and sensible this spring, just now ready to make his move to become a starter in the Angel rotation that will include Ken McBride, Dean Chance, Bo Belinsky and Barry Latman.”[18]

But he was sent to Hawaii to begin the season; and was the Islanders starting pitcher in a spring exhibition against the parent club. After 17 starts, a 5-7 record, and 5.12 ERA for Hawaii, he was recalled by the Angels in July. He made seven starts and eight relief appearances, ending with a 3-3 record and a respectable 2.24 ERA.

His third loss came on September 16 against the New York Yankees when he walked Bobby Richardson in the sixth inning, and Roger Maris slugged a home run for his 1,000th career hit.

The Angels kept Aubrey on the major-league roster for the entire 1965 season, although when they sent him to their Seattle farm club during spring training, he threatened to quit[19]. To alleviate pressure on his arm, he became a knuckleball pitcher. Los Angeles Times writer Hall reported the change in delivery.

“Aubrey Gatewood’s knuckler has become the talk of the clubhouse, and the angry man from Arkansas is smiling for the first time all season.

“I can throw strikes with it and that’s the name of the game,” said Gatewood.”[20] His year ended at 4-5 and a 3.42 ERA in 92 innings.

1966 was not so kind to him. He began with El Paso (Texas League – Class AA) and was 2-6 with a 4.97 ERA as a spot starter and middle reliever before being purchased by Buffalo (International League – Class AAA), a Cincinnati farm club where he had a 6-7 record and a 5.67 ERA.

He continued his stay in Buffalo throughout 1967. He appeared in 37 games, winning four and losing five. His ERA was 3.80.

Before the 1968 season began, he was sent to Baltimore, a team which had envied his services in 1965[21]. He pitched for the Oriole’s Rochester (International League – Class AAA) club, but with a 4-10 record and ERA of 4.20, he was removed from the Red Wings roster in July and awaited reassignment.[22]

His reassignment was to Tacoma (Pacific Coast League – Class AAA), on loan to the Chicago Cubs affiliate. He was 1-1, pitched 39 innings in 11 games, and started in four.

Back with Rochester again in 1969, he pitched four innings in two games before being released in May. On June 20, 1969, he signed as a Free Agent with the Atlanta Braves and sent to Shreveport (Texas League – Class AA), where he was 7-6.

After getting a call to the Braves from Shreveport in June of 1970, he pitched two innings in three games for Atlanta. His last major-league appearance came on July 8 against the San Francisco Giants, before being sent to Richmond (International League – Class AA) a few days later. He played in five games for Richmond, and ended his season back in Shreveport.

He never overcame his loss of arm strength or his ability to overpower hitters. Gatewood’s major league career lasted for four seasons, and he finished 8-9 with a 2.78 ERA for Los Angeles and the Atlanta Braves.

After one final season, split between Savannah and Arkansas in the Dixie Association, he retired in 1971. His career included a minor-league career record of 61-90 and 4.36 ERA.

SOURCES

Ancestry.com

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

Retrosheet.org

Sabr.org

Writer’s note: Special thanks to Tony Roberts for providing newspaper clippings and other information about Gatewood’s season in Nashville.

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Pittsburgh Courier, January 11, 1964, p. 15

[2] Decatur (Illinois) Herald, January 11, 1971, p. 17

[3]Battle Creek Inquirer, June 30, 1959, p. 14

[4] Eau Claire Daily Telegram, August 1, 1960, p. 11

[5] St. Cloud Times, September 7, 1960, p. 26

[6]Long Beach Independent, March 27, 1961, p. 19

[7] Ibid., April 11, 1961, p. 18

[8] Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1961, p. 79

[9] Long Beach Independent, July 31, 1964, p. 37

[10] Des Moines Register, April 15, 1962, p. 45

[11] Stewart, Wayne. (2012) The Little Red Book of Baseball Wisdom (Little Red Books). New York, New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

[12] Nashville Tennessean, April 4, 1963, p. 31

[13] Ibid., April 20, 1963, p. 13

[14] Ibid., April 30, 1963, p. 15

[15] Ibid., August 14, 1963, p. 20

[16] Ibid., September 12, 1963, p. 23

[17] Telephone conversation with Roberts November 17, 2016

[18] Hall, John. “Gatewood to Success”. Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1964

[19] Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1965, p. 46

[20] Hall. September 12, 1965.

[21] Long Beach Independent, June 7, 1965, p.  25

[22] Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 27, 1968, p. 33

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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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The Pride of Nashville: R.A.Dickey

R.A.

A product of Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy and the University of Tennessee, major league pitcher R. A. Dickey was the banquet speaker at the 69th annual Old Timers banquet in 2007 where he related his experiences on the field and called attention to his life’s faith journey.

“For me, it’s not about an All-America award or other accolades, it’s about my experiences,” said Dickey.  “Sometimes you are not as bad as you feel nor are you as good as you might think you are.  It is more important to have a purpose, be it in faith or in baseball, but in all things to have joy in it.

“I try to glean wisdom from a game and apply it to my life.”

R. A. was the 18th player taken in the 1996 draft, the first-round pick of the Texas Rangers, and was prepared to sign a contract with the team.  The signing was to have taken place before a Rangers home game in Arlington, Texas, where Dickey was set to throw out the first ball.

Just before finalizing the contract, his agent informed him that Rangers general manager Doug Melvin was backing off of the $900,000 signing bonus that had been agreed to.

During a routine physical examination it had been discovered that a tendon was missing in his throwing arm, and Melvin was not sure that he wanted to sign Dickey at all.  After being named Freshman of the Year by Baseball Digest during his first full season at the University of Tennessee and collecting a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the news regarding his arm caught him off-guard.

Dickey’s choices were to return to the Knoxville and rejoin the baseball team or continue to pursue a professional career, but on the eve of stepping back on the UT campus he was told that the Rangers were still interested.  However, the signing bonus would be reduced to $75,000. Dickey signed with the Rangers on September 12 and his professional career began.

“One cannot predict what is going to happen.  Often we may need to make adjustments,” said Dickey.

Little did he know how many turns his career would take.

The 6’2″, 215-lb. right-hander spent time in the minor leagues with Oklahoma, Frisco, Charlotte, and Tulsa.  For 2007 he signed a AAA contract with the Milwaukee, where ironically Doug Melvin was the general manager. Dickey joined the Brewers affiliate Nashville Sounds and finished 13-6.

Having recently turned to mastering the knuckleball, Dickey told the banquet attendees, “Be ready to re-invent yourself.”

His knuckleball – combined with his persistence – worked. With the Seattle Mariners for 2008 and Minnesota Twins in 2009, R. A. signed with the New York Mets in 2010 and threw a one-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies on August 13, 2010. His ERA for the season was 2.84. Agreeing to a two-year contract with the Mets beginning in 2011, his record 8-13 but his ERA was a respectable 3.28.

R. A. had a dream season in 2012, setting a New York Mets record for consecutive scoreless innings (44 1/3), led the National League in starts (33), innings pitched (233 2/3), and strikeouts (230). Named to the National League All Star team, he finished the year with a 2.73 ERA.

Named winner of the prestigious 2012 National League Cy Young Award, he became the first knuckleballer in the history of Major League Baseball to capture the award.

Dickey was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2013 season where he finished 14-13 and won the pitcher’s American League Gold Glove Award.

R. A. will be speaking at Lipscomb University’s “Forehand & Friends” event Wednesday, January 8th at 11:30 in the Hall of Fame Room of Allen Arena.  Cost is $10 including lunch.  RSVP via email paul.nance@lipscomb.edu.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Tommy Bridges: From Gordonsville to Detroit

Tommy Bridges, whose major league career spanned 16 season all with the Detroit Tigers, was born in Gordonsville, Tennessee on December 28, 1906. A pitcher who finished with a 194-138 lifetime record, Bridges also had a 50-36 lifetime minor league record with five teams in six seasons.

Upon joining Detroit in 1930, the first batter he faced was Babe Ruth who grounded out on Bridges’ first major league pitch; Bridges then proceeded to strike out Lou Gehrig. On August 5, 1932 Bridges came within one out of pitching a perfect game.TBridges

In 1934 he  gave up Ruth’s 700th lifetime home run.

A six-time All Star selection, his 23 wins and 175 strikeouts led the league in 1936, and led by his well-known curveball. Bridges was named the No. 2 sports hero of 1935 in a nationwide poll behind Notre Dame football player Andy Pilney.

Bridges played in the 1934, 1935, 1940, and 1945 World Series for Detroit. He became a scout and coach for the Cincinnati Reds in 1951 and was later a scout for the Tigers and the New York Mets.

Bridges passed away in Nashville, Tennessee in 1968 at the age of 61 and is buried in Ridgewood Cemetery in Carthage, Tennessee.

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“Hot Rod” Kanehl: Nashville to New York

Rod “Hot Rod” Kanehl passed away on this date, December 14, 2004 in Palm Springs, California.  Born in Wichita, Kansas, he was an all-around player who hustled on every play.

He was determined to play in the major leagues, and his dream came true when he made the expansion New York Mets roster in 1962, Owned by the New York Yankees, he was drafted by the expansion Mets club on November 27, 1961 in the minor league draft.

KanehlRodKanehl played for the Nashville Vols in 1960 and 1961. On July 17, 1960, he proved that his head was in the game in the nightcap of a double header as he stole home with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Little Rock. pitcher. Travelers catcher Don ’Stumpy’ Williams failed to ask for time out before a conference at the mound to settle down pitcher Frank Mankovitch, and Kanehl took advantage.  Vols manager Jim Turner stated that in his 38 years in Organized Ball he had never seen such a play. Kanehl’s last year in the minors was 1961, as he hit .304 for Nashville.

Although on July 6, 1962 he would become the first Mets player to hit a grand slam, in 1960 in Nashville he would not hit his first home run until August 7th. A favorite of Mets manager Casey Stengel, Kanehl was the only former Mets player who was present at the funeral of Stengel in 1975.

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