Tag Archives: @sabr

“Bittersweet Goodbye: The Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series”

A new book, “Bittersweet Goodbye: The Black Barons, the Grays, and the 1948 Negro League World Series (The SABR Digital Library) (Volume 50)” has been published and is now available. I am fortunate to be a contributing writer to this publication.

Released at SABR’s 20th annual Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference last week in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, all available copies of “Bittersweet Goodbye” quickly sold out at that event.

1948 is often considered by many the last, great season of the Negro Leagues. Jackie Robinson’s signing with Brooklyn in 1946, then becoming a member of the Dodgers in 1947, was the impetus that ended segregation in the majors. The popularity of the Negro Leagues began to diminish, as all eyes turned to Robinson and his successes on and off the field.

Edited by Frederick C. Bush and Bill Nowlin and associate editors Carl Riechers and Len Levin, this book includes biographies on the owners, managers, and players from the Homestead Grays and Birmingham Black Barons, and describes the detail of the final playoffs between the two teams to determine a final Negro World Series champion.

It also includes information on the two East-West All-Star Games, the Negro National League and Negro American League playoffs, along with the World Series.

Nashville-born Jim Zapp was a member of the Black Barons that season, along with 17-year-old Willie Mays.

Some of these biographies and histories are written by close friends. Friends of Rickwood members Jeb Stewart and Clarence “Skip” Watkins, both knowledgable resources for Birmingham baseball history, and friend and fellow Grantland Rice-Fred Russell (Nashville) SABR chapter member Peggy Gripshover, are included.

My biography is on Grays pitcher Bill “Willie” Pope. Born in Birmingham, his father moved the family to Pennsylvania where Willie played baseball and boxed, and ultimately became a strong, competitive right-handed thrower in the Pittsburgh area sandlots. His professional career took him to Pittsburgh and Homestead in the Negro Leagues, then to organized baseball in Canada at Farnham and St. Hyacinthe, Colorado Springs (Colorado) and Charleston (West Virginia), and winter ball in Mexico.

Standing 6’4” and weighing 247 pounds, his ultimate dream was to play for the Chicago White Sox. That opportunity passed him by, but his season with the magical Homestead Grays would be his legacy.

“Bittersweet Goodbye” is available from Amazon by clicking here.

Or, if you area  member of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), it may be downloaded for free here at SABR’s Digital Library.

Not a SABR member? I encourage you to consider joining! An annual SABR membership is $65 (which works out to about $5 a month), with discounts available for three-year rates and for anyone under the age of 30 or over 65. Family memberships are also available. More information is here.

I hope you will enjoy reading about Willie Pope, Willie Mays, Jim Zapp, and many others who deserve our thanks for being the final bastions of Negro League history.

Note: Previous contributions to SABR publications include biographies on Sam Narron, published in “Sweet ’60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates” (SABR, 2013); Hank Schenz, published in “The Team That Time Won’t Forget: The 1951 New York Giants” (SABR, 2015); John Mitchell, published in “The 1986 New York Mets: There Was More Than Game Six” (SABR, 2016); and R. A. Dickey, published in “Overcoming Adversity: The Tony Conigliaro Award” (SABR, 2017).

A biography on Jack Scott in “20 Game Losers” is to be published soon. Profiles on former major league players Jim Turner, Charlie Mitchell, Sherman Kennedy, Bobby Durnbaugh, Jerry Bell, and Buddy Gilbert are ongoing, as well as Nashville Old Timers board member bios published here.

I continue to publish here and update www.sulphurdell.com on a regular basis.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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14th Annual Southern Association Conference at Rickwood Field

scan0001Yesterday, I attended the 14th annual Southern Association Conference in Birmingham, and want to take this time to encourage you to be a part of this event next year. The Rickwood Field SABR chapter put on quite a conference, led by David Brewer and Clarence Watkins; but the opportunity to visit Rickwood Field is great in itself – it is truly one of America’s historic ballparks.

To be able to hear presentations about baseball in the South, among friends in a casual setting, was great. To wax poetic: Baseball was literally “in the air”.  Attendees came from Mobile, Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Atlanta; we heard presentations about baseball in Montgomery (and pitcher Roy “Goat” Walker), Selma, the Southern Association, and vintage player A. T. Pearsall, but sidebar conversations were ongoing beyond.

An added treat was lunch with former Montgomery Rebels player and minor league manager Ted Brazell. One could literally hear and feel the passion Ted has with his love of the game of baseball. It was inspiring.

More than anything, the friendships rekindled and friendships made were more than worth the trip. The date could change, but put the first Saturday of March, 2018 on your calendar. You won’t be disappointed.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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A Vintage Original: Base Ball’s Michael Thurmon

MThurmon_FBWhen I first spoke with Michael  Thurmon two years ago, he was involved in the forming of a local vintage baseball league. He did not hold back his enthusiasm in explaining the foundation of the new venture: mid-19th Century rules would be in play.

He even invited me to participate, but it took just one practice for me to come to grips with my no longer having “baseball legs”. I decided to become an observer and not a participant, but I became one of many who hardly knew what was in store for Michael’s vision.

I had seen the Vintage Game played in 2007 while attending my first SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) convention in St. Louis. The game was an exhibition played in a park along the Mississippi River. Impressed at first glance, as the game proceeded I became even more impressed by the caliber of play, the comradery between the participants, and the dedication exhibited by the members of each team.

Like me, Michael first viewed the vintage game being played in St. Louis in 2007, different field, different teams.

“It was a game between the St. Louis Perfectos and the something-or-another somebodies. My brother had read about it and so we took my niece to see a game. It was almost majestic-like.

“We walked up a little hill and there were all these bearded guys wearing funny uniforms and not wearing gloves and they were playing base ball! I was in love.”

Born in Dyersburg, Michael is a Product Manager/Business Systems Analyst for a healthcare software company. He and his wife Kelly live in Nashville with their daughter Alex along with a dog and cat. He credits Kelly for her support in his love of baseball.

His introduction to baseball came from his grandfather who had a pitcher’s mound and home plate in his backyard and often took Michael to local ball fields for countless hours of batting and fielding practice. Besides, the local community college’s baseball field was next to the Thurmon home and he could watch all the games he wanted.

His next influence came from a friendship based on a mutual interest: the Vintage Game.

“In the fall of 2012, I met Trapper Haskins. He had played vintage base ball in Michigan and we decided to give it one more shot at starting a league. Thankfully, it happened! We had a lot of blank stares at first, but we have hit a good cadence now and most people have at least heard about what we are doing.”

In handing the 2015 reins of Commissioner to Trapper, a member of the Franklin Farriers, the journey will continue in good hands. Michael will assume a new role as Executive Director, and continue as a member of the Nashville Maroons (view his letter to the TAOVBB members here).

I have seen the exuberance grow beyond what I viewed at that exhibition beneath the Gateway Arch and what I saw at that first practice with the Maroons. Those involved with the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball have displayed a deeper love and appreciation of baseball, and in doing so have given a glimpse of how baseball was played when it was known as the “Gentleman’s Game”.

In two years participation has increased from 30 to 120 “ballists” (1860’s lingo for “player”) in the league that claims the motto “No Spittin’, No Swearin’, No Gloves” (Vintage Baseball Returns). But that’s not all: exhibition games with teams from Boston, Indianapolis, and Norwood, Ohio were played this past season, and so much positive attention has been placed on what the organization is doing that it will host the national Vintage Base Ball Association’s 2015 Convention to be held March 27 – 29 in Franklin.

With expansion taking place again next season, Michael expects a promising future for the league.

“In 2015, we are adding two expansion teams in Chattanooga which will bring us to 10 teams in the league. We want to spend this year focusing on the league and making sure we are set up for success as we continue to grow.

“A personal mantra of mine is “what was good enough to get us here is not good enough to keep us here.” So I can assure you, we won’t become complacent. We will continue to strive towards bettering the league by focusing on our members and on the fans.”

It is important that baseball purists understand the Vintage Game as the forerunner of baseball as it is played on the sandlots and professional fields. This view of baseball’s foundation is quite incredible.

Thanks to Michael Thurmon, Trapper Haskins, and all Tennessee “ballists” for that.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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2014 Area “Hot Stove” Baseball Events

stoveNow we can put the year 2013 behind us. As a New York Yankee fan, it’s really easy to do to! Looking forward to the 2014 season is one thing, but there are many opportunities to be a part of “Hot Stove League” baseball through the rest of the winter. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to their team’s spring training camp in only a few weeks, but in the meantime one can partake of one or more of these opportunities:

Thursday, January 23, 2014: The Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association will hold their 76th annual banquet at the Millennium Maxwell House. Former New York Yankees second baseman and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson will be the speaker.  The doors open at 5:30 PM with the banquet starting at 6:30 PM (CT). Tickets are $50.00 each; email me if you need more information: skip@sulphurdell.com

Saturday, January 25, 2014: Fifth annual SABR Day. Our local Grantland Rice-Fred Russell (Nashville) chapter will meet at Shelby Park in east Nashville in the “Junie” McBride Old Timers board room from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (CT). The Old Timers Nashville Amatueur Baseball Hall of Fame is displayed there. More information to follow. Guests are always welcome at SABR chapter events.

Saturday, January 25, 2014: Fifth annual SABR Day. The East Tennessee Chapter will also be meeting at 10 AM (ET) at the Knoxville Lawson McGhee Library in Knoxville. Email Bryan Stepherson: steverson@charter.net or Mark Aubrey: mark.aubrey@gmail.com for more information. Once again, guests are welcome.

Thursday, February 6, 2014: 13th annual American Baseball Foundation Lead Off Dinner, Birmingham, Alabama. Roger Clemens, seven-time Cy Young award winner, is speaker. Tickets are $150.00 each and more information may be found here:  http://www.americanbaseballfoundation.com/lead-off-dinner/

Saturday, March 1, 2014: 11th annual Southern Association Conference will be held in Atlanta. Presentations will consist mainly of Atlanta’s long and memorable tenure in the Southern Association although other topics related to baseball in Atlanta and the South may be included. Should you wish to be considered as a presenter, send a brief synopsis to David Brewer:  david@rickwood.com.

Friday, April 4, 2014: The 19th Annual Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture will be held at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.  The luncheon speaker is former Kansas City Royals star Willie Wilson. Additional information will be updated soon here:  http://www.mtsu.edu/english/BBConf/

Opening Day is right around the corner, too.  In 2014 there are many opportunities to enjoy the Game! Here’s a list of area minor league teams’ games to kick off the home season:

Thursday, April 3, 2014:

Bowling Green Hot Rods vs. South Bend Silver Hawks, 7:05 PM (CT)

Chattanooga Lookouts vs. Jackson Generals, time TBA (ET)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014:

Birmingham Barons vs. Jacksonville Suns, 7:05 PM (CT)

Huntsville Stars vs. Pensacola Blue Wahoos, time TBA (CT)

Jackson Generals vs. Mississippi Braves, 7:05 PM (CT)

Tennessee Smokies vs. Chattanooga Lookouts, 7:05 PM (ET)

Thursday, April 10, 2014:

Louisville Bats vs. Columbus Clippers, 6:35 (ET)

Friday, April 11, 2014:

Memphis Redbirds Opening Day vs. Iowa Cubs, 7:05 PM (CT)

Nashville Sounds Opening Day vs. Omaha Storm Chasers, 7:05 PM (CT)

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It Ain’t Over – More Baseball!

More BaseballEven though the 2013 baseball season is over and the Boston Red Sox have been crowned World Series Champions, there are several upcoming baseball events in our area:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

East Tennessee SABR Chapter meeting at the Lawson McGhee branch of the Knox County Public Library (downtown Knoxville) from 10 AM to 11:30 AM.

Guests are always welcome at SABR chapter events. For more information email Bryan Steverson: steverson@charter.net

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Doris Kearns Goodwin will be in Nashville discussing her latest book, “The Bully Pulpit”.  The event takes place at Montgomery Bell Academy at 6:15 PM.

Ms. Goodwin was featured in interviews on Ken Burns’ PBS Special, “Baseball” and as author of “Wait Till Next Year” about her family’s love for the Brooklyn Dodgers when she was a young girl.

For more information: http://www.parnassusbooks.net

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association will hold their 76th annual banquet at the Millennium Maxwell House. Former New York Yankees second baseman and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson will be the speaker.

Tickets are $50.00 each; for more information email:  info@otbaseball.com

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fifth annual SABR Day – the local Grantland Rice-Fred Russell chapter will meet at Shelby Park in east Nashville in the “Junie” McBride Old Timers board room from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM. The Old Timers Nashville Amatueur Baseball Hall of Fame is displayed there.

Guests welcome! Email Skip Nipper for more information:  skip@sulphurdell.com

Friday, February 6, 2014

The 13th annual American Baseball Foundation’s banquet with MLB pitching great Roger Clemens as the featured speaker.  The event will be held at The Club in Birmingham, Alabama. Individual tickets are $150.00 each.

For more information:  http://www.rickwood.com

Friday, April 4, 2014

The 19th Annual Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture will be held at MTSU in Murfreesboro. The luncheon speaker is former Kansas City Royals star Willie Wilson.

2014 information posted soon:  http://www.mtsu.edu/english/BBConf/

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The Spooky Side of Baseball in Nashville

A few days ago I received a “retweet” on my twitter account (@mrsulphurdell.com) from Michael Thurman (@taovbb_commish) about a @sabr project from the Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Undoubtedly, there a more than a few former baseball players interred there, and from time-to-time those who are interested visit the grave sites of ball players.

Michael suggested that I should organize something like that. He is the commissioner of the inaugural Tennessee Vintage Baseball Association that was founded earlier this year, and whose guidance has produced a successful vintage baseball league with new teams being added for 2014.

His interest in local baseball history helps to keep him abreast of why and how the game was played, not only in the old days but even today.

baseball_graveI’m pretty sure that he meant that I should lead a project about the burial sites of former players here in Nashville and not in Brooklyn. I did need to know, however, what former players were buried in Nashville before hoping that the project is a worthy one and not too weird.

After a little research I have come up with the following list (according to http://www.baseball-reference.com); there are 32 former professional ballplayers buried in Nashville:

Bill McTigue Calvary Cemetery
Charlie Harding Calvary Cemetery
Johnny Gill Calvary Cemetery
Tiny Graham Calvary Cemetery
Hardin Cathey Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery
Ben Harris Mount Olivet Cemetery
Claude Jonnard Mount Olivet Cemetery
George Archie Mount Olivet Cemetery
Johnny Beazley Mount Olivet Cemetery
Johnny Gooch Mount Olivet Cemetery
Slim Embrey Mount Olivet Cemetery
Axel Lindstrom Nashville National Cemetery
Bob Schultz Nashville National Cemetery
Ed Cole Nashville National Cemetery
Vito Tamulis Nashville National Cemetery
Fred Toney Spring Hill Cemetery
Henry Schmidt Spring Hill Cemetery
Mickey Kreitner Spring Hill Cemetery
Ray Hamrick Spring Hill Cemetery
Red Lucas Spring Hill Cemetery
Tom Rogers Spring Hill Cemetery
Tony Jacobs Spring Hill Cemetery
Bill Schwartz Woodlawn Memorial Park
Dick Sisler Woodlawn Memorial Park
Dory Dean Woodlawn Memorial Park
Harley Boss Woodlawn Memorial Park
Jay Partridge Woodlawn Memorial Park
Jim Kirby Woodlawn Memorial Park
Jim Turner Woodlawn Memorial Park
John Mihalic Woodlawn Memorial Park
Kerby Farrell Woodlawn Memorial Park
Slick Castleman Woodlawn Memorial Park

Sadly, the list does not include former Negro League players.  Let me see who else I can add to the list. In the meantime, if you would be interested in following along a special project like this, please email me at skip@sulphurdell.com and include “Cemetery” in the subject line.

WIth Halloween just ahead of us, it could be a spooky baseball event!

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