The very mention of the words, “Sulphur Dell”, usually brings a smile across the faces of Nashville’s baseball fans – and beyond. Behind those smiles, I can see the memories coming into folks’ minds. Tucked away are things they remember about the old ballpark, special memories which include their father, family, or friends who they joined more than once to take in a game.
Below are some of the words sent to me by fans who share a great love, not only of Sulphur Dell but a love of the game of baseball. If you have one like theirs, won’t you use the Comment option below to send it to me?
Jim Davis, Merced, California
While visiting Nashville as a member of the University of Hawaii basketball team (we played Tennessee State) in mid-January of 1963, I ventured down to Sulphur Dell to see if I could get inside and have a look. I was raised on minor league baseball in Los Angeles and made it sort of a hobby to see as many minor league ballparks and take photos if possible. To my delight on that chilly winter day, Sulphur Dell was indeed open so I got to see the unique park I had heard about.
Not only do I remember the short fence in right field and the railroad tracks behind it (I seem to recall an announcer in a game from there, broadcast on a major league national network. There were no games that day so they carried a minor league game from the Dell describing a home run to right that landed on an eastbound train as saying, “That ball may make it all the way to Chattanooga!”).
That day in 1963 as I was looking around the Dell I ran into a man in a suit who said he was a reporter and was covering the opening of season ticket sales for the Vols. He asked me a few questions and the next day in his ticket sales story he tacked a few sentences on about “this young man wearing a University of Hawaii blazer who was checking out Sulphur Dell.” When I read your story on the death of Fred Russell I wondered if it could have been him. I wish I could find my copy of that article!”
Annette Levy Ratkin, Nashville, Tennessee
“I was a fan of the Vols from June 1936 on (the first game I ever saw was when first baseman Jimmy Wasdell got his jaw broken by a pitched ball in 1936). We went to many a game on Saturday, riding the bus to the ballpark and getting in free because it was children’s day, buying a Pepsol and scorecard. I still have cinders in my knee from the time I slipped and fell in the cinder parking lot. The first time I saw another ballpark (Memphis), I wondered why it had a level right field!”
Jim Lindsey, Columbia, Tennessee
“I remember my dad, Eldon Lindsey, pitched in our beloved ‘Dell’ in or around ’38 to ’41, then was traded to Knoxville and pitched against the Vols at least once. I do know he pitched a shutout in ‘The Dell’ and this was most unusual; I think another one was not pitched for about 10 years. He was also a good hitter and hit a home run while pitching for the Vols. I was born in 1940 and my birth certificate says, “Father’s Occupation, Baseball Player”! I loved Sulphur Dell and still have the vivid memory of the tantalizing smell of the hotdogs roasting!”
George Zepp, Tennessean
“The name stuck with the locals, just as baseball had four decades earlier. (The irony that didn’t go unnoticed was that this ”dell” — the term for a tree-lined valley — was largely a coal-smoke-filled, flooding lowland. Part of it was even used as a city dump, its fires often sending out acrid fumes.) Many in the early days used the streetcar to get to and from games. A line of parked streetcars awaited the ”wild scramble” of fans after the last out…seats in the initial grandstand were slatted wood with armrests.”
Fred Sadler, Goodlettsville, Tennessee
“I remember…Rod Kanehl, who went from the Vols in ’61 to the Mets in ’62. We were playing another Southern Association team and the catcher went out to the mound to talk with the pitcher and Rod was on third base. When the catcher got to the mound, Rod ran for home and scored. The catcher had failed to call time out!”
Marlin Keel, Nashville, Tennessee
“Everything about Sulphur Dell was special. It was a treat to come early to a game and watch the teams take infield. One day, I edged over near the third-base dugout and asked one of the coaches if he had an old baseball he did not want, and he gave me one! I always thought it was a shameful desecration when events, other than baseball, were held at Sulphur Dell. It was meant as a haven for the playing of baseball and nothing else.”
Ernie Leonard, Nashville, Tennessee
“I remember the spirit of Sulphur Dell, even in its dying days. The crowds were sparse, the old stadium needed a good facelift, but the magic of the game and the exciting feeling of another game, another pitch, and the crack of the bat never lost its allure.
For a few fans, a sportswriter named George Leonard (my Dad), and an 8-year-old kid, every game was exciting. I learned about scoring a game, how to run a scoreboard, and how to catch a foul ball at the Dell. For me, the stadium has many fond memories. I have a great photo of my Dad in the press box, hammering out another story on an old “Royal” typewriter, as he views the field below. My Dad was in his element at the Park, and so was I!”
Jane Woodruff McIntyre, Nashville, Tennessee
“I remember…my dad took me there from the time I was barely able to talk. I remember our having many good times, and that time together gave us a bond that I will not ever forget. Daddy used to say to folks that I was “his boy.” I loved sports, especially baseball, so much that if I could have pursued my career of choice, I would have become a sports announcer.
I have the metal frames of some of the seats from Sulphur Dell at my house, and just yesterday I told some fifth grade students about Sulphur Dell and my love of baseball and sports in general.’
Lou Vodopya, Nashville, Tennessee
“I remember sitting on the ‘dump’ on the Vols’ opening day, 1948. There were 4,000 others like me covering the whole dump and part of the left-field area next to the stands because there were over 12,000 people there. The Tennessean ran a full-width picture the next day showing the crowd all the way around the outfield. I don’t remember who we were playing that day, but we won. Charlie Gilbert hit 2 homers and Charlie Workman hit 1. Gilbert later had one of the greatest starts of any player with 7 homers in the first 4 games, 2-2-1-2. He and Workman had a Mantle/Maris kind of a season until he faded at the last. Workman ended up with 52 homers and led the league. Gilbert had 42. Elwood ‘Footsie’ Grantham had 33. ‘Footsie’, the colorful left fielder, also set a league record for strikeouts with over 220. I’ll always remember seeing several of those first game homers going over our heads and the screen as we sat out on the ‘dump’. There was no place like Sulphur Dell!”
George Leonard, Nashville Banner, October 8, 1963
“…the Vol board will consider offers for the park until Dec. 10, 1964. If none has been received by then it was recommended that the land be disposed of ‘to the highest and best bidder and that the land be held until an acceptable offer is received.’
By ‘acceptable’, the committee said it meant ‘enough to pay the stockholders and all debts.
Three weeks ago the board surrendered Nashville’s franchise in the South Atlantic League following the club’s poorest attendance in history. That action was approved by the stockholders. Of the 50,000 shares of stock, 36,694 were represented at the meeting.”
Gail Boguskie Wilson, Goodlettsville, Tennessee
“As a little girl I remember my father, Buster Boguskie, playing at the Dell. I remember, Willie White, the trainer, carrying me around the park and telling everyone I was his “God-child”. I remember the smell of hot dogs and popcorn, the railroad tracks out front, playing with the turn-style when you first came in, and waiting in the car after the game for my dad. I wish I could go back to that time and be able to go through the park just one more time. Wouldn’t it be great if it were still standing!”
© 2021 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved
Remember all the games I attended with my grandfather in the 1950s. Often we would sit with the team owner. Have a signed ball from 1957 when Jim O’Toole was star pitcher.
I remember being there on a COLD April night in 1963 with two of my brothers and two neighbor friends who were also brothers.
We had a green wool army blanket snugged up around us to help knock off the evening cold.
A reporter for the Nashville Banner-Jack Corn, came by and asked if he could take our picture.
Of course we obliged him.
The next night our photo was in the Nashville Banner.
The caption read:
Here are five of the brave souls who weathered the freezing temp at the Dell last night.
It gave our names along with the neat pic.
WHAT A THRILL!!