Category Archives: Nashville Vols

From the Giants to the Reds: Nashville Changes Affiliations

On September 22, 1954, Nashville General Manager Larry Gilbert announced that the New York Giants’ affiliation with the Vols would end. With the three-year agreement fulfilled, a new affiliation was agreed to between the Vols and Cincinnati Reds to begin in 1955.

The Giants agreement brought exciting players to Sulphur Dell:

  • Dusty Rhodes hit .347 for Nashville in 1952.
  • Jack Harshman converted from a slugging outfielder who hit 47 home runs in 1951 to a pitcher with a 23-7 record in 1953.
  • Bob Lennon hit 64 home runs in 1954.

During those seasons, Nashville did not experience the high attendance numbers hoped for. Not only did the club finish sixth (1952), second (1953), and tied for sixth (1954), but it was determined that losses in the last season of the agreement Nashville lost between $40,000 and $50,000.[1]

In the first season of the Giants hookup, attendance fell by 17% over 1951, with 113,193 fans entering the turnstiles. In 1952, there was an increase of 32% to 149,578, but in 1954, even with Lennon’s outstanding Southern Association season, attendance dropped to 89,470, a whopping 40% and almost 25,000 less than the first year of the Giants contract.

“After the headaches we had this year,” Gilbert told Nashville Tennessean correspondent Gus Manning. “I want to get things straight-away soon as possible. I have been working on 1955 plans since back in August and hope to be able to announce them shortly. I feel certain Nashville fans will like our new arrangements when they are completed.[2]

Gilbert traveled to Cincinnati to complete the deal on September 25 and was pleased with the Reds’ promise to supply Nashville with its players.

“I think it is the best agreement we have had with a major league club since I have been in Nashville as far as getting players,” the Nashville general manager told Tennessean sportswriter Raymond Johnson over the phone. “We need players badly, and Cincinnati has an abundance of them.”[3]

Nashville previously worked with the Reds for four seasons beginning in 1935 when Larry MacPhail was general manager. Before the Giants arrangement, the Vols had a working agreement with the Chicago Cubs.[4]

Gate receipts did not change much in 1955 when the Nashville club began showing real financial problems. By May, Larry Gilbert was frustrated and sold his 1/2 interest in the Vols, returning to his hometown, New Orleans.

It was not as if the Reds agreement had a detrimental effect. Great future Cincinnati players made their way through Nashville: catcher Johnny Edwards, pitchers Jim O’Toole, Jim Maloney, and Claude Osteen, and outfielder Buddy Gilbert. It became an era in which today’s Nashville fans have the most vivid memories of the old ballpark and the teams that played there.

It was just that those fans did not always show up. The ball club averaged just under 118,000 fans throughout six seasons.

The Nashville Vols club was on its last legs, but fans who still have memories of the ballpark usually remember the Reds years. Those fans became Cincinnati fans through the radio broadcasts and were able to stay in reasonable contact with the players who brought exciting baseball skills to Sulphur Dell.


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[1] George K. Leonard, “Vols Sever Giants Tieup,” Nashville Banner, September 22, 1954: 24.

[2] Gus Manning, “5 Vols Players Sent to Minneapolis Club,” Nashville Tennessean, September 23, 1954: 26.

[3] Raymond Johnson, “Nashvols, in Surprise Move, to Work with Cincinnati,” Nashville Tennessean, September 26, 1954: 27.

[4] Johnson.

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Filed under History, Larry Gilbert, Nashville Vols, Southern Association