Tag Archives: Russ Meers

“Rogue” Poffenberger Gains Split, Wins No. 15

On July 11 ,1940, Boots Poffenberger wins his 15th game as he holds Atlanta to three hits in the second game of a double header win 1-0 at Sulphur Dell, giving Nashville a split after the Vols loss to the Crackers 9-8 in the opener. Both games are seven inning affairs.

By the way of the win, Nashville (50-29) holds on to the Southern Association lead over Atlanta (51-34).

In the first game, Vols pitchers Leo Twardy, Russ Meers, and Johnny Sain are unable to hold Atlanta, allowing a total of 17 hits. Oris Hockett has two doubles and a homer, his eighth, and drives in five runs for Nashville as Johnny Mihalic adds two doubles. Bob Boken’s 20-game hitting streak is halted when he fails to get a hit in the first game.

In the second game, Mihalic hits two more doubles and scores the game’s lone run on a single down the right field line by Arnold Moser.

Known for his heavy drinking and poor training habits during two seasons with the Detroit Tigers (1937-38) and three games with Brooklyn in 1939, Nashville manager Larry Gilbert took a chance on the temperamental Poffenberger. After his splendid 1940 season (26-9), he would face manager Gilbert’s ire the next season.

Boots’ win total would be a league record that would never be matched, but he gained notoriety in 1941 by throwing at an umpire from the mound. Gilbert, declaring the right-hander would never appear in a Nashville uniform again, shipped Poffenberger to San Diego. He never regained his form and retired after spending 1947 in Hagerstown near his home of Williamsport, Maryland.


Anniston Star


Baton Rouge Advocate

Nashville Tennessean


© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Durable Johnny Sain

Citing concealments and corruption, on January 14, 1940 Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis declared free agency to 91 players under contract to the Detroit Tigers. One of them was Johnny Sain.  On June 30th Nashville manager Larry Gilbert signed Sain to pitch for the Vols, and Sain finished the season with an 8-4 record.

The next season, on June 25, 1941 he is tagged with the loss in both games of a double header as New Orleans slams the Vols 6-5 and 4-3. Relieving starter Russ Meers in the ninth inning of the first game with the score tied 5-5 (Meers had struck out thirteen), Sain gives up a home run to Pelican outfielder Tom Winsett in the eleventh. Sain starts the second game but is replaced by Leo Twardy in the seventh inning after loading the bases with the winning run.  Twardy could not hold the score for Sain. Sain finished the 1941 season with a 6-12 record.

Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain

In March of 1942 he signed a major league contract with the Boston Braves, ending the season 4-7.  After receiving his draft notice mid-year, he reported for duty in November and became a flight instructor during World War II before his discharge in 1945.

For the next five seasons Sain won a total of 95 games for the Braves, and led the National League in wins in 1948 with 24 during Boston’s pennant-winning season.

Sain became one-half of the famous Boston Braves pitching duo immortalized in a poem by Boston Post sports editor Gerald V. Hern, published on September 14, 1948 during the Braves pennant drive of that season:

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

Sain was chosen to three All Star games and was selected National League Pitcher of the Year in 1948 by The Sporting News.

Finishing his career with the New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics, Sain became a pitching coach for the Athletics, Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves.  Sain coached the pitchers of five of the American League’s ten pennant-winning teams during the 1960s.

Johnny Sain passed away in Downers Grove, Illinois on November 7, 2006.

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1940 Nashville Vols

In conjunction with its 100th Anniversary Celebration in 2001, Minor League Baseball named the 1940 Nashville Vols as the 47th best minor league team of all time.

Nashville_Vols_1940_2Included on the roster were Cletus “Boots” Poffenburger, Tom Drake, John Milhalic, Oris Hockett, Gus Dugas, George Jeffcoat, Ace Adams, Russ Meers, Dick Culler, Charley “Greek” George, Mickey Rocco, Robert Boken, Arnold Moser, Johnny Sain, Tommy Tatum, Marv Felderman, and Leo Twardy.

After leading the league from opening day until season’s end, Larry Gilbert’s team won 101 games.  The team’s batting average totaled .311 for the year, Boots Poffenberger won 26 games, and reliever Ace Adams stuck out 122 rival batters.

George Jeffcoat struck out 18 Chattanooga Lookouts on September 10, 1940 in a Shaughnessy Playoff game for Nashville at the end of the season.  The Vols beat Houston of the Texas League four games to one in the Dixie Series.

Ironically, the team roster stayed intact for the entire season.

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