Tag Archives: Tennessee Vintage Baseball

Pure Base Ball: Tennessee’s Vintage Game

The 2017 Tennessee Association of Vintage Baseball season recently concluded. Twelve teams from the four corners of middle and east Tennessee competed brilliantly during the regular season, then gathered at Franklin’s Carnton Plantation to compete for the season’s championship playoffs.

The Mountain City Club of Chattanooga suffered no losses in capturing the league’s pennant, but the Stewarts Creek Scouts won out in the two-day tournament to take the cherished prize, the Sulphur Dell Cup.

Playing according to the rules of 1864[1], the “bound rule” is in effect, calling for a batter (striker) to be called out when a fielder catches a ball on the first hop. Of course, catching the ball on the fly also terminates the striker, but no gloves are worn. “No Spittin’, No Swearin’, No Gloves!” is often the expressed slogan.

The organization was established in 2012 “to entertain and educate our communities by recreating the civility of 19th century base ball.”[2] Two teams began the inaugural season, but soon the “Gentleman’s Game” was transformed with the addition of female players to become a “Lady and Gentleman’s Game”, and additional clubs were soon added.

But don’t believe these ballists are putting on a show. These folks play to win; even though civility stands tall, players do their best to compete. There are plenty of wrenched knees, jammed fingers, and bruises to prove it.

And I can attest to it, too.

A spectator of this league for five years, this season I was proud to have been accepted as an umpire, an arbiter. Disputed plays on the field are first settled by the players involved, and if no mutual conclusion can be reached, the captains of the two clubs are called on for a decision. If they cannot agree, the umpire renders a decision based on what he saw, and often what spectators, or “cranks”, may have seen.

In all my years of baseball, whether as a player, and observer, a fan, or a curious bystander, this was by far my most enjoyable. Sure, I rendered some unpopular decisions. I tell the captains before each game that if indecision goes from the players, to them, and then to me, someone is not going to be happy with my judgment.

But these ladies and gentlemen are just that: ladies and gentlemen, and it is refreshing, it is invigorating, and it is exhilarating. I cannot express it much beyond that; to be around strangers who have become friends in the common good of base ball places us all in a better time and place. No wonder they play it – they love it so much.

A two-day event this past weekend at The Hermitage’s Harvest Festival included six games that included two visiting ball clubs, the Bluegrass Barons from Kentucky and the Indianapolis Blues. The Stewarts Creek Scouts joined the Rag-tags and the Hog & Hominy Nine, made up of players chosen from the local league’s teams, and challenged these visiting clubs to worthy matches.

I expected good manners and courteous play, and both were exemplified in common spirit. The Blues and Barons were quality opponents, but I was truly touched by the visiting players as much as the hosting teams, how they held fast to the very soul of competitive play. It is truly a common bond among all.

It is this awareness of the purity of The Game that calls them out to compete, yet to hold on to their values.

Before each game I try to remind them how much base ball gives them by reciting a blessing: “May the way you play this glorious game, be the life you also choose to claim”.

From what I have learned about them, I believe they already knew that.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Rules and Regulations Adopted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BASE-BALL PLAYERS Held in New York December 9, 1863. Amended February 7, 2016 by the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball for the 2016 season of play. From the leagues’ website. See footnote below.

[2] http://tennesseevintagebaseball.com/about-us/, retrieved October 3, 2017.

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Nashville Baseball Documentary: A Work in Progress

Over a year ago I was approached by Joshua Maxwell about my interest in producing a documentary about Nashville baseball history, centered on the city’s historic ballpark, Sulphur Dell. He had produced “The Kitty League: Hometown Heroes” in 2015, an excellent documentary about the heroes of the class D minor league that spanned four states, and their very unique stories from as far back as the early 1900s.

We agreed to co-produce, combining his skills in the techniques of audio and video recording with my love for research and collecting.

A Kickstarter campaign was begun to allow Joshua to purchase the appropriate equipment and assorted needs to get the project off on the right foot. 45 backers pledged $5,790, along with our own support, to help bring this project to life.

Since then, we have accumulated over nine hours of video footage from interviews, Nashville Sounds and Tennessee Vintage Baseball game footage, and scoured image files at Metro Archives and Tennessee State Library & Archives along with personal collections.

We had been hopeful of premiering our collaboration last year, but there was so much more to do. Besides, producing a film to fit in an hour time  slot was a bit overwhelming, so we decided to postpone our project until July, 2017.

We have learned that mid-summer is not the best time to release a baseball movie.

We are asking for your patience once again, as it is imperative that the quality of our documentary is well-worth the telling of the story. Our investors and fans have been very patient, but today we are announcing that in April, 2018, our joint effort will be released.

Be looking for continued updates here, and should anyone have information deemed important to include, please email me at skip@sulphurdell.com or Joshua at westkyvideo@gmail.com.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Battlefield to Ball Field: The Championship of Tennessee

Turning back the clock to see “what once was” will be on full exhibit today on an historic battlefield. But this battle will not take place with rifle and cannon, nor will life be exhausted from bodies who give their all.

Yes, there may be some who will call themselves “exhausted”, but it will be from playing a game of ball, and how appropriate that Franklin’s Carnton Plantation is the venue. Another battle took place nearby over 150 years ago as Union soldiers encountered Confederates. Then it served as a field hospital, but today it stands as a field of fair play.

The pride and conviction will result in winning a prize, but not from winning a war. The exhibit will be one of participating gentlemen and gentle women, not one of bloody battle.

Logo-With-BannersAnd today a Tennessee Vintage Baseball championship will be won.

Yesterday the first contests took place to determine semi-finalists for today’s matches.  The Highland Rim Distillers will face off with the Nashville Maroons, and the Lightfoot Club of Chattanooga will play the Oak Hill Travellers at noon with the winners to clash in the final game at 2:30 pm.

Lessons learned from the Civil War have resulted in an understanding of how brother fought against brother, family against family. How fitting a tribute to those lessons that contests such as these can take place, for today’s baseball has its foundations in the conflict of States.

With Nashville and all of Tennessee so firmly entrenched in that history, now we can reaffirm its importance through today’s matches and resolve to the gentleness and serenity of another kind of battle field: a ball field.

The prize is the Sulphur Dell Cup, another tribute to an earlier time. When Yankees taught their Northern Game to southern citizens, when ball games took place between those in blue and those in grey, to the birthplace of Nashville baseball at Sulphur Springs Bottom to today’s historic site, we should honor the players and spectators alike.

In so doing, we give you the cheer of our heartiest “Hurrah”!

Post Script: The Oak Hill Travellers won by a score of 23-14 over the Nashville Maroons to take the Sulphur Dell Cup

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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