Tag Archives: SALLY League

1962 Savannah and Charlotte Experiment at Sulphur Dell Foiled

July 3, 1962 – A meeting of the executive committee of Vols, Inc., held to make plans for a regular season, three-game series between South Atlantic League rivals Savannah and Charlotte at Sulphur Dell ,proves fruitless.

Savannah had been seeing low ticket sales due to the boycott of Negro fans who protested segregated seating arrangements, and club owner Bill Ackerman was hopeful to gauge fan interest for baseball returning to Nashville. However, in a conference call with SALLY league president Sam Smith, he related that Ackerman had decided not to pursue the matter.

Officials of Vols, Inc. had been receptive, as long as funds currently in the corporate treasury were not used, and under the following conditions:

        • Nashville would provide the ballpark, lights, water, and bathroom facilities at no charge.
        • Vols, Inc. would retain all concession profits.
        • The Savannah ball club would be allowed $2,000 in expense and all profits beyond that would be split 50-50 with the Nashville ownership group

Jack Norman, chairman of the board, said Vols, Inc. will remain open to discussions with Savannah. Joe Sadler, president, announced that he had been in contact with former Nashville general manager Bill Harbour about the possible transfer of the Portsmouth (Virginia) franchise in the South Atlantic League to Sulphur Dell for 1963.

The city is without professional baseball after the decline of the Southern Association the previous season; Nashville had been a member of the league during its entirety from 1901-1961.

Note: Due to continued failing attendance, Ackerman will move Savannah’s last eight home games to Lynchburg to gauge fan interest. The club will move to the Virginia city for the 1963 season.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Nashville Banner

Nashville Tennessean

Newspapers.com

baseball-reference.com

The Sporting News

 

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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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Bye Bye SALLY, Hello Emptiness

GoodBye.fwThe last day of professional baseball at Sulphur Dell was September 8, 1963 as the Vols faced the Lynchburg White Sox in a double header.  Nashville outfielder Charlie Teuscher belted three home runs as Nashville won by scores of 6-3 and 2-1.

A total of 971 fans attended the two games that day, innocent witnesses to what would be the beginning of the end for Sulphur Dell.

Two years prior the Southern Association disbanded. Nashville had been a stalwart member of the league since its inception in 1900, fielding a team each year from 1901-1961. The legendary league silently refrained from allowing Negro players, and with integration on due course in the majors the Southern did not take a stand on reform.

Nashville experienced rapid attendance depletion between 1947 (when organized baseball was integrated) until 1960 when the death knell began to sound for the league. The rumblings of change were heard a few years before.

On August 29, 1960 Gabe Paul, Cincinnati vice-president and general manager, announced that the Reds six-year working agreement would not be renewed with Nashville.  His reason was quite clear.

“(The Southern Association) does not allow the use of Negro players.”

Nashville’s ownership and the directors of the Southern Association must not have heard quite clearly enough, as they continued another season under the same miserable whispers of the status quo.

The Minnesota Twins agreed to replace the Reds as major league affiliate for 1961, but that failed to revive the team or fan attendance as a mere 64,460 bothered to show up for the season. Diminishing upkeep on Sulphur Dell was taking its toll, too.

At a board meeting held in Charlotte in January of 1962 the directors announced that the league would officially suspend operations on February 15. There was to be no baseball in Nashville in 1962.

A resurrection took place in 1963, however, as the up and coming South Atlantic (SALLY) League accepted Chattanooga and Nashville as new franchises. The directors of Vols, Inc., a public corporation formed in 1959 to keep the club solvent, hired a new general manager and gave the ballpark a face lift.

Formerly a general manager with the Washington Senators, Ed Doherty was brought on board to revive the franchise. His hiring seemed to be just the thing the ball club needed as he salvaged a limited working agreement with the Los Angeles Angels.

The team was integrated, which was a remarkable feat. The SALLY league had no expressed rule against integration, and on the first day of the season on April 19 in Knoxville, Eddie Crawford stepped to the plate to become the first African-American to appear in a Vols uniform. Four batters later, Henry Mitchell would join Crawford as the second in that distinction. The squad included future major leaguers Aubrey Gatewood, Duke Sims, and Marv Staehle.

Even though season ticket sales were the worst in the history of the club, Doherty predicted a crowd of 7,000 for Nashville’s opening day, and on April 25 a Sulphur Dell home crowd of 7,987 saw the Macon Peaches win over the Vols 15-4. It was the largest turnout for opening day since 1948.

Success was fleeting, as interest waned once again and by season’s end the team had drawn less than 53,000. Nearly 15% of season attendance had viewed the first game of the home season.

And the team was not very good, finishing with a record of 53-86 and in last place 27 ½ games behind the pennant-winning Macon Peaches.

With three home runs on the final day of pro ball at Sulphur Dell Charlie Teuscher may have brought visions of towering home runs by Bob Lennon, Charlie Gilbert, Chuck Workman, and Jay Partridge. But a week later and with a deficit of almost $22,000 for the season, the directors of Vols, Inc. surrendered their South Atlantic League franchise. There was no dissenting vote.

Board chairman Jack Norman assigned a committee to look into the feasibility of retaining Sulphur Dell, but it was the last hurrah for the famous park. Amateur baseball was played at Sulphur Dell in 1964, and in 1965 it became a speedway before being converted into an automobile tow-in lot for Metro Nashville.

The storied ballpark was demolished in 1969, leaving the recollections of fans and players to honor the historic hallowed grounds of Sulphur Dell.

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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