Tag Archives: Vols

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under History

Sulphur Dell: A Brief History

“Sulphur Springs Bottom” was the name given to Nashville’s recreational area after the city became Tennessee’s capitol. Although base-ball had been played in the city as early as the 1850s, during the Civil War the area was where Union soldiers first taught Nashville citizens how to play the style of their “northern game”. In 1870 the area was referred to as Athletic Park, and in 1885 it became the home of Nashville’s first professional baseball team, the Americans in the newly-formed Southern League.

Located north of downtown and bordered by Fourth Ave., Fifth Ave., Jackson St., and a railroad spur, the park was so named because a natural sulphur spring was nearby. Residents would fill empty containers with the odorous liquid to use for medicinal purposes, or just take a drink right from the spring.

Grantland Rice re-named the ballpark “Sulphur Dell” in 1908 while working as a newspaper reporter in Nashville. He also held a contest to determine a team name for the Nashville Baseball Club; the name “Volunteers” won, and was often shortened to “Vols”.

The original configuration of the ballpark faced the south toward the State Capitol. After the 1926 season a new steel and concrete grandstand was built and the field reconfigured so that the sun would no longer be in the batter’s eyes as he faced the pitcher looking northward. The center fielder faced home plate to the south in the new “turned-around Sulphur Dell”.

Beginning in 1927 Sulphur Dell had these unusual outfield dimensions due to the shape of the city block in which the ballpark was located: Left Field, 334′; Center Field, 421′; and Right Field, 262′.

The distance from the grandstands to first base was only 42 feet, and to third base was 26 feet. But that was not all: the playing surface was below street level and there was an embankment around the entire outfield that was part of the playing field. The embankment in left field began at 301 feet from home plate, but the right field embankment began at 224 feet from home plate, rising at a 45-degree angle towards the fence, ending at 262 feet. Full View

The right fielder, if standing at the base of the fence, was 22 1/2 feet above the infield!

The outfield fence was made of wood and was 16 feet high. The fence ran from the right field foul pole to a point 186 feet toward center field; there the fence was capped by a screen that added an additional 30 feet of height but decreased to 22 1/2 feet high midway to center field. In later years the screen height remained the same, but a second tier of signage was added in right field.

In its 100-year existence, Nashville’s professional baseball teams called Sulphur Dell “home”: the Americans, Seraphs, Tigers, Vols, and Negro League Elite Giants all played at the famous ballpark. The Nashville Vols played their final game at Sulphur Dell on September 8, 1963 as a member of the South Atlantic League after 61 years in the Southern Association from 1901 through 1961.

Sulphur Dell was completely demolished in 1969.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under History

The Twins to the (Short-lived) Rescue

In 1961 the Southern Association was on its last leg. The failure to integrate (except for a token appearance by Nat Peeples in two games for the Atlanta Crackers at Mobile in 1954 – but that’s another story) spelled doom for the 60-year-old league.  Major League clubs would not feed players down to a league which was not integrated.

Nashville was on its last leg as a team in the storied Southern Association, too.  In an attempt to keep the franchise going, a corporation had been formed in the fall of 1958 to acquire the floundering Nashville club to keep professional baseball alive. Vols, Inc. was formed and 4,876 shares were sold at $5.00 each to build the treasury and pay T. L. Murray for his ownership in the Nashville Vols and the ballpark, Sulphur Dell. Curiously, Murray bought shares in Vols, Inc., too.

New York Yankees pitching coach and Nashvillian Jim Turner was coaxed to become general manager and field manager of the Vols for the 1960 season to replace Dick Sisler.  Both managers were considered to be the saviors of local baseball, but neither was successful. Sisler left for Seattle after three years at the helm and Turner was brought in to become the next hero to save baseball in the city. When club attendance and field performance failed, Turner bailed and became the Cincinnati Reds pitching coach beginning in 1961.

The Nashville franchise was on the brink of extinction when Vols, Inc. directors agreed to a working agreement with the Minnesota Twins. Recently relocated to Minneapolis-St. Paul from Washington, the Twins organization agreed to provide the following for Nashville’s club:

  • Spring training in Fernandina Beach, Florida alongside the TwinsTwins
  • To pay spring training expenses for Nashville’s players, including housing, food, and instruction
  • To pay all above $500.00 a month in salaries of optioned players
  • To pay all above $650.00 a month in salaries of players assigned outright to the Vols
  • To pay part of the unnamed field manager’s salary, as long as the Twins assign him from within their organization

Doom was inevitable even before the season began, however. New Orleans was not a member of the league for the first time since the Southern Association was formed in 1901 and Macon had been brought in to replace the Pelicans. Attendance continued to decline across the league and at the end of the season the Southern Association folded.

The decline in attendance, the failure to integrate, and the hesitation of major league teams to participate more equitably in the paying of players and minor league expenses all contributed to the dissolution of the storied league at the end of the 1961 season.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized