Tag Archives: Tennessean

MLB in Nashville? Nope

Jesse Spector, national baseball writer for Sporting News, published an online article on July 11, 2017, regarding potential cities for MLB expansion:

Eight cities that make sense for MLB expansion.

In his view, eight cities should be on target: Montreal, Charlotte, Portland, San Juan, Las Vegas, Mexico City, San Antonio, and Nashville.

Nashville? Here we go again. Hasn’t this story been written repeatedly?

I realize it is pure conjecture, but I think we have a long way to go, way down the road. We have no organized movement, no one with big bucks to step up to the plate (pun intended), and no place to play. So how can Nashville be on the list?

Sure, there could be an opportunity for a team to move, but the most logical choices are the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays. Both are in talks to build new stadiums. The Marlins are for sale for $1 billion. Know anyone who wants to buy them and move the franchise to Nashville?

And what would an expansion team cost? More than that.

Music City has only been a “big” city for a very short time, having just recently passed Memphis with Tennessee’s largest population, but there is always the chance of a crash as the growth has happened so fast. MLB would never take a chance on that in the short-term.

Since Atlanta, St. Louis, and Cincinnati are within 4 1/2 hours driving distance, it is doubtful MLB would want to dilute those fan bases. With those three cities being in the National League, Nashville could only become an American League city at that.

One never knows which cities are on the radar for team relocation or expansion unless it is heard straight from the commissioner. He did that yesterday during a press conference in Miami at the 2017 All Star Game:

MLB expansion won’t happen right away but Rob Manfred has three cities in mind

Montreal, Charlotte, and Mexico City top MLB commissioner Manfred’s list. Nashville? Not mentioned…

Lastly, The Tennessean published a story by USA Today’s Getahn Ward about another important subject: the cost of residing in our fair city, which now takes a salary of $70,150 to live in Nashville today:

Nashville ranked nation’s hottest single-family housing market

Nashville ranks as the No. 1 single-family housing market, according to the source in the article; the other the top five cities include Orlando, Fla., and Fort Worth, Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.

Key words: “single-family”. Which means, “on a budget”. To take it a step further, which single families are taking the crew to a major league game right now? According to statista.com, the average price of a ticket to an MLB game is $31.00. People on a budget certainly are not; according to baseball-reference.com, attendance is declining.

Remember, the NFL Tennessee Titans and NHL Nashville Predators are already here, battling for the same pro sports bucks versus each other. That’s without taking into consideration another potential major sports franchise, Major League Soccer, which would make ticket sales even more competitive.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the New York Yankees come to Nashville for a regular-season game, but I’m afraid it won’t happen in my lifetime.

Here’s my advice for lovers of professional baseball in Nashville: go watch the Nashville Sounds at First Tennessee Park. They are here, and now. For a while.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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“Volunteers” the Pick

Team nicknames are commonplace today, but in the early days of baseball it was not so. Cities claimed their teams by including the name of the leagues they played in, such as New York Americans, St. Louis Nationals, and so on.

Tongue-in-cheek references by sports writers often caught on. “Trolley Dodgers”, for one, stood for exactly what it sounds like. It was shortened to “Dodgers” for the Brooklyn team in the National League and was carried with them to Los Angeles.

Nashville’s baseball team had an early name, “Americans”, but the team did not play in any sort of league with that name. The local newspaper, The Daily American, claimed the team’s name as it gave the most thorough coverage of Nashville’s first professional team in the newly-formed Southern League.

The Southern League failed and re-organized throughout the remainder of the 19th Century and names for resurrected Nashville clubs included “Seraphs”, “Blues”, and “Tigers”.

When the Southern Association began play in 1901, nicknames were not widely used except when sports writers used references in a variety of manners. Newt Fisher became manager and local scribes would call the team the “Fishermen”. Under Johnny Dobbs tutelage the club was given the moniker the “Dobbers”. When service clubs were formed to boost local commerce, the team was often known as “Boosters” due to the support of those organizations.

One flippant remark to the quality of the team’s performance in 1907 was “Hustlers”. Apparently, there was lack of it.

As ball club ownership in other cities began to appease the fan base by adding an official team name, Nashville management did not seem to notice the importance. After all, some clubs used more than one.

If management would not approve it, at least writers and fans could settle in on one name that was unofficial. In 1908 the three local newspapers held a contest among fans to give the Nashville club an official name. Nashville’s three newspapers, American, Banner, and Tennessean, accepted mail-in votes from readers during the month of February, sent to Nashville manager Bill Bernhard, choosing from three agreed upon selections: Lime Rocks, Rocks, and Volunteers.

Grantland Rice was sports editor of the Tennessean at the time and his personal choice was “Volunteers”. The proximity of the State Capitol to the recently named ballpark, Sulphur Dell (Rice gave it that name in a January 14 column six weeks prior) and his premise that the name suggested courage, gave him reason to support the name.

On February 29, Rice announced in a Tennessean sports page headline, “Volunteers Wins Out in Fan Vote”. His column validated that 950 votes were cast for “Volunteers”, far-outdistancing the other choices.

He even states the name will stick, “…no matter who the manager or owner may be.”

The name did stick: Nashville remained a member of the Southern association from until it closed up shop after the 1961 season. For those 54 years the team was known as “Volunteers”, often shortened to “Vols”. Even the ownership group that had been formed in 1959 took on “Vols, Inc.” for the name of the new corporation. The club was revived for one additional season in 1963 as a member of the South Atlantic League.

When fans failed to support the team, the team folded; the Nashville Vols would be no more.

Tennessean 02-29-1908 Grantland Rice Names Volunteers Vols

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Author’s note: Much of the information included in this article comes from John A. Simpson’s excellent book, “The Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie”: The Nashville Vols, Their 1908 Season, and the Championship Game. It is a wonderful account which provides as a resource for Nashville’s baseball history beginning in the 1800s up to an incredible season posted by the Volunteers. It is available from Amazon and other sources. You may read my review from an earlier post here: https://262downright.com/2015/04/10/from-my-bookshelf-the-greatest-game-ever-played-in-dixie/

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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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New Friends, Old Friends, and Ballpark Notes

SD OutsideApril 17, 2015 will always be a special memory for me; so many great things happened that day. Some were expected, many were not, but with the opening of First Tennessee Park near the site of the Sulphur Dell ballpark all were a dream come true.

Here are a few observations, special memories, and special people who were there. I’ll remember these for a long time:

  • Carol Yochem, president, Middle Tennessee Region, First Tennessee Bank. We were able to speak for a few minutes before the ribbon cutting. It was our second meeting; the first was at the unveiling of the new ballpark concept. Carol, thank you for your kind words in person and in your Tennessee Voices column of Friday’s Tennessean, and thank you for being the driving force behind our beautiful new ballpark.
  • My wife Sheila, my son Chris and grandson Brody, my father Virgil and brother Jim. We were able to attend Opening Day together. These are the special people in my life who have supported my research and writing for many years. Thanks for being there to share wonderful memories.
  • Dave Ammenheuser, Tennessean Sports Columnist. We were able to hear stories from Nashville Vols Buddy Gilbert, Larry Taylor, Roy Pardue, and Bobby Durnbaugh. Wasn’t that one of the best baseball moments? You are a true professional, but your recent friendship means more than a walk off grand slam homer over the Sulphur Dell right-field fence.
  • Farrell Owens, Andy Lane, and Eddie Dempsey. Friends extraordinaire, it was great to relive stories of baseball history with you while we were navigating the new ballpark.
  • Toby Compton. You have become the reliable face of the Nashville Sports Authority. Your ability to alleviate concerns for building costs and traffic issues has been top-notch.
  • Ushers and operations staff at First Tennessee Park. When the ushers wipe the seats off before letting fans sit in them, that’s a professional service that was missed at Greer Stadium. Food and beverage service? You bet it was.
  • Thomas Trotter and the grounds crew. These guys do not get enough accolades. Yes, it was a new field, but Thomas and his team were able to perfect it for their specifications. It was perfect.
  • Media coverage. The number of reporters and cameras along “media row” on the third base concourse gave credence to the importance of this historic event.
  • Families and friends of Nashville Vols players Bobby Durnbaugh, Larry Taylor, Buddy Gilbert, and Roy Pardue. Getting these guys to the ballpark to share their stories are nearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How great was it to see these Sulphur Dell idols together?
  • Sulphur Dell marquee. Not the original but a great testament to what once was, no doubt. Just thinking about the memories that are stirred by seeing this iconic marker. Wow.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.


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Coming Home to Sulphur Dell

Right_Field_MainI am fortunate to have worked with sports columnist Dave Ammenheuser and staff at the Tennessean on a very special project, “Coming home to Sulphur Dell“. Available in both print and online, this 9-inning (part) series looks at Nashville’s baseball history since the 1860s. I have learned so much from the pros: sports writer Mike Organ, photo journalist John Partipilo, and visual coach Karen Mitchell all made this possible for me to have some part in it.

I am grateful for that. Please take a look at their handiwork by clicking on the link above; it is an amazing project that tells about Nashville’s baseball history; be sure to return each day to view a new chapter.

With the opening of Nashville’s new, long-awaited ballpark for the Sounds, this story is a celebration of those who played, watched, and dreamed at Sulphur Dell and Greer Stadium.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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The Sulphur Dell Jack Norman Knew

JackNormanFamous attorney Jack Norman retired from practicing law in 1981 but often wrote articles in both the Tennessean and Nashville Banner about his memories of his hometown. Born in Nashville in 1904, his “The Passing of the Nashville I Knew” appeared on a regular basis in the Banner and led to the publication of “The Nashville I Knew” (Norman, Sr., Jack. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1984).

Fred Russell wrote in the Foreword, “Jack Norman looked back over the years, his zest for life undiminished and reasoned that Nashville was just about the best place on earth, with some of the most vibrating chords of remembrance.”

Each chapter of Norman’s book is written in snapshots of Nashville life that few would remember today; Nashville citizens with an attachment to his descriptions are long-gone. His recollections follow one-after-another as if each step he ever took had a memory attached to it, and he relates each one in rapid-fire recall.

On page 25 and continuing through page 27 in a section with the heading, “Old Sulphur Dell”, our friend Jack reminisces as if the ballpark still existed at the time of his writing.

The “pass-gate”, rightfield dump, batboy Mickey Kreitner and players are all there. Sports writers “Blinkey” Horn and Ralph McGill, managers Roy Ellam, Jimmy Hamilton, and Larry Gilbert, and club owner Fay Murray are all there, too, as is an entry about a man walking with two jugs of sulphur water from Morgan Park.

The most telling description of Sulphur Dell goes like this:

“What a great part the old park had played in the entertainment and pleasure of Nashville. How it had helped to relieve the strains and pressures of a young city.

“How its benefits were available to even those with small incomes. How clean and wholesome were its contributions. How satisfied we were with such simple things.

“As the deer and buffalo had gone there for the pleasure of sulphur and salt, Nashville had gone there for the pleasure and relaxation of our national pastime.”

Entertainment and pleasure; relieving the strains and pressures; benefits of those with small incomes; satisfaction with simple things; the pleasure and relaxation; our national pastime.”

These are things that wise Jack Norman knew about his Sulphur Dell. We must know them in our Sulphur Dell, too.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Don’t Just Build A New Stadium at Sulphur Dell

September 8th marks the fiftieth anniversary of the last game played at Sulphur Dell.  It was actually the last two games, as the Nashville Vols completed a season-ending doubleheader against Lynchburg, winning twice 6-3 and 2-1.

The seating capacity in the grandstands at Sulphur Dell was 7,000, but only 970 turned out to view the final games.

Left-handed hitter Charles Teuscher hit three home runs in both games to lead the Vols, with two of his round-trippers coming in the second game.  Larry Del Margo was the winning pitcher, his eighth win of the season.

“The last homer by Teuscher was a perfect epitaph to the famous Dell, ending it’s 103rd year as the city’s official host to baseball people from coast-to-coast.”, F. M. Williams wrote in the Tennessean.

In his “One Man’s Opinion” column in the morning’s Tennessean, Raymond Johnson quoted various fans about the demise of the team and beloved ballpark.  One of them, Charles Brasleton, said it best:

“If we expect ever again to have baseball, we must keep Sulphur Dell.”

But we did not keep it.

Known for its peculiar outfield hills and short right field fence, colorful and quirky Sulphur Dell sat silent to baseball games until finally being torn down in 1969.  The rubble of the demolished Andrew Jackson Hotel was used to fill the giant hole.

Nashville turned its back on one of the grand old ballparks in the United States.  Now we have a mayor with a vision to return Nashville to the glory of the early days.

Home plate at the new ballpark does not have to be placed in the precise location of the old ballpark.  The design of Sulphur Dell will never again be duplicated.

But we can relive our memories, love of baseball and Nashville, by bringing back the location of the ballpark to where history and tradition intended.  It is already an exciting opportunity for the rebirth of a neglected section of Nashville, but it will be even more exciting to finally see a ballpark that thousands of area baseball fans deserve.

We can never bring back old Sulphur Dell.  A new stadium for the Nashville Sounds will return some of that lost glory, but with the proposed library and archives in the plan it may also make sense to include a place for Nashville’s storied baseball history to be on display.

A museum where information may be made available to researchers, historians, and baseball fans could be a key draw.  Even here in the “Athens of the South”, a great learning center of the country, Nashville’s baseball traditions stretch from amateur teams to Negro Leagues to the majors and people want to read about it, see about it, and learn about it.

If this idea is not already on the minds of those who are planning the revitalization of the Sulphur Dell area, it should be.  If we do not hold on to some of the treasures of the past, they will be lost forever.

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