On April 16, 1969, another nail was hammered into the coffin of Sulphur Dell. With nearly a century of baseball tradition inside the steel-and-concrete grandstand that was called out by a famous marquee that boasted “Baseball’s Most Historic Ballpark Since1870”, the powers that be simply turned their backs on the grand old lady.
As early as 1955 Ted Murray and Larry Gilbert, co-owners of Nashville in the Southern Association, had confirmed that they faced the loss of their franchise, which had been a member of the league since its inception in 1901. Gilbert ultimately sold his share of the club to Murray and retired to New Orleans. It was the first noticeable event that spelled trouble for Sulphur Dell.
Last Game at Sulphur Dell
The last professional game was played at Sulphur Dell on September 8, 1963. With poor attendance of only 52,812 fans for the entire season and a deficit of almost $22,000, the franchise was surrendered to the South Atlantic League by the board of directors of Vols, Inc. on September 16.
The public corporation had been formed in 1957 to salvage the ball team and the ballpark from the previous owner, Ted Murray. Civic leaders sold tickets, promoted the team, and were successful in selling 4,876 shares at $5.00 each to purchase the club.
A valiant endeavor, they barely kept the club afloat.
In the end, there was not a dissenting vote by stockholders of Vols, Inc. after the 1963 season had ended, even though board chairman Jack Norman stated that he would assign a committee to look into the feasibility of retaining Sulphur Dell, which would mean a continuation of the corporation which owns the ballpark.
The committee was never formed.
Two years earlier, television, air-conditioning, the expansion of Nashville’s city limits, the hesitancy of the major league clubs to provide adequate talent to the teams in the minor leagues, and the fact that the Southern Association was not integrated, all contributed to the demise of the storied league.
The attempt to resurrect baseball in the South Atlantic League was a brave attempt but a miserable failure. Nashville fans had no problem with their hometown team playing in an integrated league, but they did not want to leave their evening television shows, their air-conditioned living rooms or dens, nor drive downtown to what was becoming an ignored part of the city.
The blame for Sulphur Dell no longer standing, the blame for no fans in the stands yelling for their favorite players, and the blame for the Nashville Vols no longer in existence is the deafening indifference of the 1960s.
Greer Stadium Abandoned in 2014
Then again, it was repeated when Herschel Greer Stadium, once the pride of the Nashville Sounds, was torn down over 50 years later, extending the apathy to the 21st Century. Proposals to create green space and a “field of dreams” complex for baseball, softball, and soccer were ignored, and now the area sits silent.
The politicians of today love to build and love to tear down. They were elated when ballparks were built, but silent when they are bulldozed. Could area youth have not enjoyed the base paths and outfield gardens to roam as ball teams had over the years?
Are kids just not worth investing in? Have we become indifferent to their voices? Where are they to play?
© 2021 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.