Deaths and Doubleheaders Did Not Deter Larry Gilbert’s 1941 Nashville Vols

On September 4, 1928, the Boston Braves played the first of nine consecutive doubleheaders, setting a baseball record. The 1941 Nashville Vols came within two of tying it by playing seven consecutive twin tilts.

It had been a remarkable first two years for Larry Gilbert in Nashville. His inaugural team in 1939 won the league playoffs and barely lost in the Dixie Series to Ft. Worth, four games to three. The 1940 team won the first game of the season and remained at the top of league standings the entire year, and everything else fell into place.

Three outfielders batted no less than .336, the starting lineup remained intact during the entire year, and pitcher Cletus “Boots” Poffenberger stayed out of trouble enough to lead the league with a 26-9 record.

Nashville captured the Southern Association regular-season pennant over second-place Atlanta by 9 ½ games and finished 101-47. Breezing through the league playoffs by shutting out Chattanooga three games to none, and trouncing Atlanta four games to two to take the Southern Association Shaughnessy Playoffs title, Nashville won the Dixie Series by thumping Texas League champion Houston four games to one.

In 2001 the 1940 team was honored as the 47th best minor league team of all time in celebration of the 100th season of Minor League Baseball. It had been a dream season, but the new year brought new challenges.[1]

Gilbert’s leadership had given Nashville consecutive Dixie Playoff appearances, and all eyes were on repeating in 1941. The challenges began early.

Beloved team owner Fay Murray passed away just before spring training, and Gilbert was facing a completely revamped lineup. Injuries to key players Gus Dugas, Les Fleming, and John Mihalic in the early going created doubt for repeated success. Adding to the disorder, pitcher “Boots” Poffenberger was suspended by the league for throwing a ball at an umpire on June 24.

In August personal tragedy occurred for Larry Gilbert in the death of one of his sons, Larry Gilbert, Jr., an event that would contribute to the string of doubleheaders played by the Vols.

On July 27, before a Sunday doubleheader versus Chattanooga, a ceremony was held honoring Gilbert as “Outstanding Minor League Manager” of 1940 by The Sporting News. Gilbert addressed the fans by saying, “but for injuries to some of our key players this season, I feel confident that we would have been up there battling Atlanta for the pennant”.[2]

As the season headed into August Nashville was in second place, a full 16 games behind league-leading Atlanta. Yet Gilbert had the mettle to pilot his charges to hang on to a second-place regular-season finish as Les Fleming led the league with a .414 season batting average.

Nashville won the Southern Association Shaughnessy Playoffs, beating the New Orleans Pelicans three games to one and ousting the Atlanta Crackers four games to three. In the Dixie Series, Nashville had little trouble taking the Texas League champion Dallas Rebels in four straight games.

It was the Vols’ second straight Dixie title, another remarkable year for Larry Gilbert and the Vols. But included in the year’s turmoil was a multitude of rainouts that resulted in an unkind twin-bill schedule to end the season. It came close to the doubleheader record set by the Braves with nine.

The brutal series of doubleheaders began on August 17 and ended on September 7 at the season’s end. Fourteen doubleheaders were played during the last twenty-two days of the regular season, including seven twin tilts in a row:

Gilbert’s Volunteers met on- and off-field challenges in 1941, and under his leadership, his players were not deterred from meeting his expectations – including brutal doubleheaders.

© 2021 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.


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[1] “Top 100 Teams,” Minor League Baseball website,, accessed April 14, 2021.

[2] “Nashville Pilot Honored,” The Sporting News, August 7, 1941, 11.

© 2021 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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