Tag Archives: Roy Ellam

Extolling the Virtues of Nashville Baseball

“Cities may boom and fall, business may wax and wane, but as long as arms are strong and batting eyes are bright, baseball will be with us. The public-spirited citizens of Nashville do well to laud its commercial advantages, its low cost of living, its manufactures, its school and its colleges, its supremacy in all the tends to exalt and embellish modern, civilized life, for with all these things Nashville is abundantly blessed. But if these same citizens neglect to support its baseball team and keep the turn-style spinning, all this advertising and boosting will fall like sounding brass and tinkling symbals [sic] upon the ear of the baseball fan-and his name is legion.”

Press release from Mayor Megan Barry? Quote from Nashville Sounds co-owner Frank Ward? Passage from former mayor Karl Dean’s memoirs?

Not even close.

The paragraph above is an excerpt from a Tennessean article published in the sports section on February 24, 1916. Entitled “Baseball is Best Medium for Advertisement to City”, the comments by A. P. Foster, secretary of the Industrial Bureau, extol the virtue of Nashville’s professional baseball team and the impression it brings to the city.

Comparison is drawn to major league cities of the day: Detroit (with the famous Ty Cobb), Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. Each has its own successful baseball team, and those successes bring attention to the cities. The article continues Foster’s point:

“…nothing can do more than a winning baseball team to publish the name of Nashville abroad, and there is no other agency here that takes the name of Nashville into every daily paper in the entire country, every day for six solid months per annum.”

Of equal importance is to give fans a winning team. Foster confirms his impression of manager Roy Ellam and the ball club’s management. But that’s not all.

“It is impossible for a team to win, no matter how good its material, unless it is supported by the home fans. All loyal Nashville fans and others should consider it not only a pleasure and honor, but a duty to turn out in a body and attend the opening day of the baseball season in Nashville…

“…the officials of the Nashville Baseball Association have spared neither labor nor money to make the 1916 team a strong one, and they should be accorded the enthusiastic support and backing that they deserve.”

Foster’s praises, Ellam’s leadership, and the off- and on-field accomplishments of the Nashville Vols proved to work hand-in-hand.

Roy EllamThe effort to stock the team for a pennant run paid off as the club finished atop the Southern Association standings with an 84-54 record. It was Nashville’s fourth championship in the 16-year history of the league. Attendance would increase by just over 8,000, from 103,399 in 1915 to 111,418. With war looming on the horizon, that figure would be a season high until 1923 when Nashville would draw 160,000.

The regular season championship flag would not be hoisted in Sulphur Dell again for another 24 years. Through those years fan support waxed and waned at the triumphs and failures of the ball club.

Perhaps no one had a better grasp of the commercial impact of baseball of the day than did A. P. Foster in 1916.

Nashville Tennessean 02-24-1916 Baseball in Nashville

Nashville Tennessean, February 24, 1916

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Born Here, Played Here, Died Here: Nashville’s Dawson “Tiny” Graham

Dawson_CINREDBorn in Nashville on September 9, 1892, Dawson “Tiny” Graham had a frame that did not match his nickname. Graham stood 6’ 2” and his playing weight was 185.

The right-hander began his pro baseball career with the Appalachian League’s Cleveland Counts (and then the Morristown Jobbers when the team moved mid-season), hitting .370.[1] He was released by Morristown to the Roanoke Tigers of the Virginia League[2] in 1914 where he hit for a .295 average[3].

A first baseman, Graham was sold to the Cincinnati Reds by the Roanoke club on July 1, 1914. He was released by the Reds late in the season after playing in 25 games and batting .230 on only 14 hits in 61 plate appearances.

By April of 1915 Tiny was competing with Toronto veteran Tim Jordan for the Maple Leafs’ first base job[4]. Under manager Bill Clymer Graham had 146 hits in 506 plate appearances for a .289 average. The next season the Leafs made a managerial change, naming Joe Birmingham to lead the club and Graham increased his hit production to 164 and his batting average to .294.

Graham played for Toronto again in 1917, this time under the tutelage of future Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie, reporting from his home in Nashville “in excellent shape”[5]. However, Graham’s average slipped to .267 and in the spring of 1918 he was released to Chattanooga of the Southern Association.[6]

Hitting at a .275 clip did not please Chattanooga president Sammy “Strang” Nicklin, although Graham had enlisted in the Army on July 31st.  He was discharged on December 3 soon after World War I ended. Reporting in 1919, Graham sat out the beginning of spring training while Nicklin offered him to Texas League and International League teams. However, Graham was allowed to umpire the Lookouts’ first intra-squad game.

Eventually signing with Chattanooga he was unconditionally released mid-season, but was signed on July 12 by the Vols during a July series between Nashville and the Lookouts. First baseman Dick Kauffman had suddenly left the team, deciding he could make more money by playing with a semi-pro team in his home state of Pennsylvania.[7] Manager Roy Ellam immediately filled the void in the Vols’ infield by signing Graham.

His season average was .248 on 86 hits between the two Southern Association clubs.

In his nine seasons in the minors, Graham never hit for a higher average than he achieved during his first season, although in his last year he hit .316 for Oklahoma City. Graham retired from baseball after the 1921 season with a career .291 average.

Upon his death on December 29, 1962 he was buried in Calvary Cemetery in his hometown.[8]

(c) 2014 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1]Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 15, 2013

[2] Sporting Life, January 24, 914

[3] Baseball-reference.com

[4] Sporting Life, April 24, 1915

[5] Sporting Life, April 21, 1917

[6] The Sporting News, March 7, 1918

[7] Nashville Banner July 13, 1919

[8] Ancestry.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014

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Managing the Nashville Baseball Club, 1901-1961


Jim Turner

Nashville joined seven cities as a member of the Southern Association when it was formed beginning with the 1901 season. Newt Fisher was instrumental in bringing professional baseball back to his hometown as a team organizer, owner, and manager. Fisher led his team to the first two Southern Association championships.

Here is a list of Nashville managers during the league’s existence, from 1901 through 1961:

1901 – 1904   Newt Fisher

1905 – 1906   Mike Finn

1907                  Johnny Dobbs

1908 – 1910   Bill Bernhard

1911 – 1915     Bill Schwartz

1916 – 1920    Roy Ellam

1921                   Hub Perdue

1922                   Larry Doyle

1923 – 1928   Jimmy Hamilton

1928 – 1930   Clarence Rowland

1931 – 1932    Joe Klugman

1933 – 1934    Charles Dressen

1934 – 1937     Lance Richbourg

1935                   Frank Brazill

1935                   Johnny Butler

1938                  Charles Dressen

1939 – 1948    Larry Gilbert

1949                   Rollie Hemsley

1950 – 1951    Don Osborne

1952 – 1954    Hugh Poland

1955                   Joe Schultz

1956                   Ernie White

1957 – 1959    Dick Sisler

1960                   Jim Turner

1961                    Spencer Robbins

Larry Gilbert’s Vols won four regular season championships (1940-1943-1944-1948), Newt Fisher won two (1901-1902), and Bill Bernhard (1908), Roy Ellam (1916), and Rollie Hemlsey (1949) won one each.

© 2013 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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