Friday the 13th proved to be lucky for the Vols and one fan, but a dark curtain hung over the festivities with homage paid to a league umpire between games at the Nashville-Atlanta doubleheader on July 13, 1956.
It was “Car Night” at Sulphur Dell, perhaps an ill-gotten promotion for the evening. Nashville won both games by identical 4-3 scores, the opening win halting a Vols’ five-game losing streak. Still, before the second game began, the crowd stood for a moment of silence in memory of 30-year-old umpire Grady Holcombe, who had died earlier in the day from injuries in an automobile accident a month prior. Holcombe was riding with other umpires in a car driven by Bob Ross on June 5 en route from Chattanooga to New Orleans when the accident occurred. Recently Holcombe had been transferred from an Atlanta hospital to one in Memphis where he passed away.
Vols pitcher Jerry Davis, the only lefty in the Southern Association to have two wins over the Crackers this season, allowed six hits in the opener. Nashville left 16 men on base in the second game, but it was the Vols’ second baseman, Larry Taylor, who became the hero in the closing game. With two out and the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Taylor hit the right-field wall with a smash off the first pitch from reliever Fred Vogel, driving in the winning run.
Nashville’s two wins moved the club into second place in league standings, 3 ½ games behind Birmingham, who will be hosting next week’s All-Star game.
Between games, Bobby Durnbaugh received a wristwatch from local businessman Harold Shyer in honor of the infielder being named “Most Popular Vol” for June. Cincinnati Reds farm director Bill McKechnie, Jr. was on hand for the two seven-inning games. Nearly all of the 5,357 fans attending the games stuck around to learn the lucky fan was Charles Smothers of 2004 Roseberry Lane, selected as the winner of the automobile given by the Nashville ball club.
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