The Tennessean from Nashville, Tennessee on December 12, 2002 · Page 14
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The Tennessean from Nashville, Tennessee · Page 14

Nashville, Tennessee
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Page 14
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R) 6C Thursday, December 12, 2002 THE TENNESSEAN Notebook Time changes Selis mind about Rose There were standing ovations at World Series games and chants of "Pete! Pete!" at Cooper-stown. But time itself 13 long years might have done more to change Bud Selig's mind about even talking to Pete Rose and possibly ending the hit king's lifetime ban from baseball. The negotiations between Rose and the commissioner have been going on for more than a year, according to the Associated Press. The talks, which had been secret until this week, became public following a meeting between Rose and Selig last month in Milwaukee. According to the Associated Press, the sides appeared to be working their way toward a deal in recent weeks, but no agreement had been reached to end the ban, which Rose agreed to in August 1989 following an investigation of his gambling. Selig wants Rose to admit he bet on baseball as part of any agreement, and Rose has been pushed to make the admission by Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt. At the meeting last month, Schmidt was among those in attendance. Selig had long opposed an end to the ban but allowed talks to start around the time of the 2001 World Series, according to the Associated Press, which added that the passage of time had softened Selig's stance. Reinstatement would make Rose eligible for the Hall of Fame, and that mere possibility angered Hall member Bob Feller, a fellow Ohioan who has been vocal in his opposition to ending the ban. "It's a publicity stunt by him and his people," Feller said yesterday. "I'm tired of talking about it. I'm fed up. He's history." In addition to becoming eligible for the Hall ballot, an end to the ban would allow the ex-Cincinnati manager to work for a team. Braves plans: The road between Atlanta and New York has been strictly a one-way route for baseball free agents this winter, but that could change. The Braves are interested in third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, who wasn't offered arbitration by the Mets, and veteran left-handed reliever Mike Stanton, who was cut loose when the Yankees didn't offer arbitration. Meanwhile, the Braves are expected to be a strong suitor for one of Montreal's young aces, Bartolo Colon and Javier Vazquez, when they're shopped during the winter meetings that begin tomorrow in Nashville. The Braves have lost three veteran free-agent pitchers, including New York-bound lefties Tom Glavine (to the Mets) and Chris Hammond (Yankees). Torre blames owners: Joe Torre knows the Yankees' payroll is likely to go down next year, and the New York manager said baseball's new labor agreement is clearly the cause. Under the labor deal, the Yankees estimate they will pay $55 million in revenue sharing and luxury tax next year, up from about $33 million they gave other teams this year. New York's payroll was about $135 million this season, by far the highest in the major leagues, and owner George Stein-brenner wants it to go down. "It's going to be something less than what we had, I guess. It was aimed at George, and they're going to get their pound of flesh," Torre said. Cubs sign Mfler: The Chicago Cubs, who recently traded catcher Todd Hundley, signed another catcher, Damian Miller, to a two-year, $5.7 million deal. The Ail-Star was acquired last month in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Eligible for arbitration, he could have gotten a raise from the $2.7 million he ' made last year. Brewers sign Clayton: Shortstop Royce Clayton and the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to a one-year contract that guarantees him $1 .75 million. If he is a regular starter, he could earn up to $6 million over two years. The Chicago White Sox released Clayton in September after he batted .251 with seven homers and 35 RBI in 1 12 games. Gulen agrees: Outfielder Jose Guillen agreed to a $500,000, one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds, avoiding salary arbitration. Bkie Jays, Myers agree: Catcher Greg Myers and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to an $300,000, one-year contract. Myers, 35, hit .222 with six homers and 21 RBI in 65 games with Oakland last season. Erickson rehab: Baltimore pitcher Scott Erickson has a torn labmm in his right shoulder and will undergo rehabilitation. NEWS SERVICES P On the Web You can find more on Major League Baseball's winter meetings In Nashville, including a Web gallery of photos, at terinessean.comsports. The Tennessean oiiiicls NFL, NHL arrival key turning point By MAURICE PATTON Staff II riler Baseball has Men in Nashville, and there's a question as to whether it will be able to get up. Through the first half of the franchise's 25-year existence, the Nashville Sounds' attendance accomplishments were envied throughout the minor leagues. The team topped the 500,000 mark on six occasions, setting a Southern League record in their third year (575,676) that still stands 22 years later and drawing a team-record 605022 in 1990. Times have been lean since then, as the Greer Stadium turnstiles haven't broken the 400,000 plateau once in the past nine seasons. With Nashville set to play host to the baseball winter meetings for the fourth time, the Sounds' current standing on the city's sports landscape has diminished drastically from the first time the meetings were held here in 1983. Why the recent slide? Theories vary, but Sounds founding president and general manager Larry Schmittou didn't hesitate when asked why he sold the team following the 1996 season. 'Titans. I knew what would happen," he said. "I saw it during their personal seat license push. We lost season-ticket holders because they had to make a choice: Do I get Titans PSLs or Sounds season tickets?" The 1998 arrival of the NFL's Tennessee Titans and the NHL's Nashville Predators removed the focus from the Sounds as the proverbial only game in town, professionally speaking. All of the team's struggles can't be tied to the arrival of major league athletics, but the climate definitely has cooled toward minor league baseball since. "When it was initially brought to Nashville, this was the premier sports franchise in town," Sounds Chief Operating OfficerGeneral Manager Glenn Yaeger said. "Now, if people want to see the highest level of competition, they go to see aseball: Sulphur Dell hosted I.II.IJII M I. .H.I..I........ r While Fenway has its Green Monster in left field, Sulphur Dell had "the dump" in right. The fence was just 262 feet away from home plate, and it sat at the top of a hill. The slope started at 235 feet, rising at a 45-degree angle to a 10-foot plateau at the top before a seven-foot fence and a screen that made the clearance about 25 feet. Schmittou remembers right fielders trying to camp out on a ledge carved out midway up the hill. "If you could pop them over that fence, they called it a Sulphur Dell swing," McCord said. "At another ballpark, it would be a pop fly." The short field and hill wreaked all kinds of havoc. Predictably, pitchers came to know Sulphur Dell as "Sulphur Hell." But to their benefit, hard line drives off the wall sometimes came back to the second baseman fast enough that he could throw a slow runner out at first. When major league teams on their way home from spring training stopped in Nashville for games against the Vols. McBride said the best right fielders often got shitted to left for a day. Babe Ruth and the Yankees passed through town, and McBride said Ruth didn't want anything to do with the dump. Schmittou's dad told him that Ruth had said he "wouldn't play on anything a cow couldn't graze on." In fait right fielders at the park were often called "mountain goats." But even being a regular mountain goat didn't mean the odd configuration didn't present problems. McBride remembers a Vols outfielder named Phil Weintraub bungling one ball three times. "I le came down the dump and tried to field it and it rolled through his legs and went up the dump to the top," McBride said. "Me went up after it and dropped it again and it rolled dowa Tlien he threw high to third base, into the grandstands. Three errors on one balL" Another right fielder for the home team, Johnny Liptak, struggled to throw from the dump. Those guys would fall, and throwing downhill they could never be accurate," Sc hmittou said. "Johnny Liptak once threw one all the way over the bleachers and on to 5th Avenue." takes you behind slide has been Minor league baseball is struaalina Sounds are looking to other cities to improve their situation here. the Titans or the Predators. "We need to appeal to more than just the 20-25 percent of our market that is the baseball purists." Yaeger Ls finding it tough to appeal to more than just the hardest of the hardcore fans right now, as Greer Stadium remains a substandard facility by Class AAA guidelines, lacking the bells and whistles of other structures in other cities notably, AutoZone Park in Memphis, a longtime Nashville rival. "Memphis's numbers at their old stadium were not much different from ours at Greer," said Yaeger, referring to Tim McCarver Stadium, where the Redbirds played before moving to AutoZone in 2000. "I'm encouraged, looking at what downtown stadiums have meant to other franchises." Branch Rickey 111 president of the 16-team Pacific Coast League which includes the Sounds and the Redbirds has been associated with Nashville professionally since his reign as president of the now-defunct American Associatioa "1 don't think minor league baseball has yet put its best foot forward in Nashville," Rickey said. "I -J' 3A"" SULPHUR DELL Ndfr.vme's first (1835) and last (1963) pro Cession al base-ball was played in the Athletic Park which formerly occupied thii block. Traditionally baseball was introduced in N.uhville in 362 by soldiers of the Union; dtwy of occupation who played the game here. I This low-lying area, originally called Sulphur! Spring Bottom, was first called "Sulphur Deli" i by local sports writer. GrantJand Rice. In 1963 this was the oldest playing grounds still; in use in professional baseball. . ! This plaque, while slightly outdated, aio uw ouipnur ueu Danparx in downtown Nashville. McBride said on hot summer days, fans would scheme to get a drink. "They'd light hot dog wrappers on fire in the bleachers, and start shouting," he said. The (grounds workers) would see a little smoke and come with the hose they used on the infield. They'd sprinkle the fire and people would get a little drink of water." Sulphur 1 VII was a major attraction for the city, especially when the likes of Rut h, Ted Williams and Bob Feller passed through town with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians. McBride said he saw that trio, as well as Walter Johnson when he managed the Washington Senators and Negro League greats like Paige and Josh Gibson. McBride had graduated to working at Sulphur I VII instead of sneaking in when I lall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner was in the visitor's dugout as a Pittsburgh Pirates coach. "He had the biggest hands I'd ever seen," McBride said. When Ruth played left field in an exhibition game, he left his glove in the field while the Yanks were at bat, as was the custom of the time. "Someone stole it," said Mc Bride, who was 13 or 14. They made an announcement that it was his favorite and that he'd trade for the scenes for Major ''1S to survive in Nashviiio anrf tho FILE with multiple pro franchises for a way think in the last 12 months, there have been signs that Nashville has glimpses of what that 'best foot' could be, and it's being explored. "I don't think Triple-A baseball is in a strong position, long-term, without a new facility. It's certainly an awkward situation when all your peers are continuing to improve and some making giant leaps, like Memphis and you stay the same. Whether it improves depends on how many people catch the vision, and their commitment to making that vision a reality." Is that vision being blurred by the glare of the Coliseum and Gay-lord Entertainment Center? That depends on who you ask. "I think people have many other choices," Schmittou said. "There's far, far more competition for the entertainment dollar than maybe a city like Nashville can absorb. It's not just the Titans and the Predators; you've got Vanderbilt, the raceway, others. It's tough to support them all "Then, look at the coverage of the Sounds), the way the media plays them, regardless of what they -N -.1 94 Is all that remains to commemo- FILE it if someone brought it back, and someone did." McBride also saw Ruth blast a homer over the dump that bounced off the Atlantic Ice Company behind right field and bounced back into the park. Working as a bat boy, a ball boy or helper with the immense outfield scoreboard, McBride said he made 75 cents a game, which "during the depression was pretty good money." McBride has as many stories about players for the home team as well as the visitors. When the St. Louis Cardin;ils came to Nashville the spring after winning a World Series, Vols left fielder Stanley Keyes hit two home runs. I Ie drew an intentional walk in the ninth inning of the tic game before Pepper Martin won the game for the Girds in the 10th inning with a home run that dipped the top of tlie left centerfield fence and bounc ed (nit of tlie park. Another Negro leaguer who lives in Nashville, Sidney Bunch, said his friend, George Zapp, hit Sulphur ivll's most impressive home run. "Zapp hit the longest ball that was ever hit out of there, white or black," Bunch Mid " Aaron hit one out of there for the Indianapolis Clowns, bit it was noth League Baseball's titanic do. Through no fault of their own, they've been pushed down the totem pole by the media" Counters Yaeger "I truly believe we don't compete with the Titans and Predators due to the pricing of the tickets and the time we play. We certainly compete with them for the funding of a new stadium. "I think media coverage is more a function of our being in the PCL I think we get great coverage here. I think the interest level is there. When we're winning and the media has adequate time to put things in, I think the coverage is there." The team's past and current leadership recognize the importance of a new stadium although Schmittou acknowledges it might not be the cure-all for baseball in Nashville. "If you don't have the nice, new stadiums, it's tough to attract the better major league tie-ins," Schmittou said. "If you do have them, then after the honeymoon wears off, it's tough to keep up the revenues and continue to get the return on your investment. "So ownership is kinda caught in the middle: If we don't get it, how do we make the best of the situation we're in? And if we do get it, how do we pay for it?" Yaeger points to Indianapolis where the Class AAA Indians coexist in a downtown park with the NFL's Colts and NBAs Pacers as Nashville's inspiratioa "That's a very good model," he said. "There are cities comparable to Nashville where all three are very successful. "Two things need to happen here: One, we need a new stadium, and two, the community needs to embrace minor league basebalL But without a new stadium, getting the community to embrace it Ls a major process. I think within the last six months, there has been a heightened awareness and value being placed on this franchise in the community, in the mayor's office and among business leaders. "We're making some progress." Maurice Patton covers the Sounds for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 259-8018 or legends On the Web Do you have Sulphur Dell Stories to share? Nashvillian Skip Nipper has created a Vteb site to share information, stories and pictures. Check it out at and e-mail him at ing like Zapp's. It was between 550 and 600 feet and it was still carrying when it went over. It landed on 4th and Jefferson near the bar-beque pit behind center field" When Buster Boguskie's career ended, in part because he tore up a knee, he went into the sporting g(Kds business and became a charter member of Nashville's Metro Council, a job he held for 30 years. He died in 200L leaving his children to reminisce on his behalf. "I'd roll down that hill in right field and play underneath the bleachers with the other kids," remembered Denny Boguskie, who lives in Clarksville. "It was just an exciting place." Larry Taylor, 72, played for the Vols for 3'a years when they were affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds. As a second basem;in, he said he nin himself to death chasing balls that came off the right field wall or screen in order to hold batters to singles. He doesn't rate Sulphur Dell as one of America's greatest parks but said it deserves status as one of its most distinct. I le went to spring training with the Reds in 1958, but the team was well stocked with utility infielders and he didn't make the club. He wound up a coach at Berry College in Georgia Taylor met his wife when he was set up on a blind date during a visit to Nashville, and the couple settled here permanently in 1973. Sulphur 1VII was leveled a few years before the Taylors got back. There was some nostalgia in that old ballpark." he said. "It brings back some good memories. It's unimaginable that a ballpark was ever there when you kxk at the space now. "I was glad I got to play there. I would have rather played in Cincinnati, but that's the way it goes." Paul Kuharaky H a stall wfflsr lor Th Tenrmssean He can be mached at 259 B0? or pokuhaamjl com, winter meetings Nashville baseball 1862: Union soldiers temporarily based here introduce the game to the local community. Home field is a place known as the Sulphur Springs Bottom, a half-mile north of today's state capital. 1885-86: Southern League is organized with the Nashville Americans as a charter team. 1887: Team becomes Nashville Blues. 1893-94: Nashville Tigers begin play in Southern League. 1895: Team becomes Nashville Seraphs. 1901: Southern Association formed with Nashville Volunteers, who play in the league at Sulphur Dell for 61 years. 1918: Nashville Standard Giants formed to play in a semi-pro Negro League. 1921: Nashville Standard Giants renamed Elite Giants and begin petitioning for the Negro major leagues. 1930: Elite Giants join the Negro National League, which folds one season later. 1932: Elite Giants join the Southern Negro League. 1933: The Negro National League was reincarnated, Elite Giants rejoin for two seasons. 1935: The Elite Giants move to Columbus, Ohio. 1960: The Southern Association disbands. 1963: The Nashville Vols are admitted to the Double-A South Atlantic League as a Cincinnati affiliate. The Vols have a disappointing inaugural season and the franchise folds. 1964: Sulphur Dell is razed and a parking lot built on the site. The only sign today of its former life as a well-loved baseball diamond is a historic marker. 1978: The Nashville Sounds are added as a Double-A Southern League expansion franchise thanks to owner and General Manager Larry Schmittou. They play as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. 1980: The Sounds change major league affiliation to the New York Yankees, Players such as Steve Balboni, Don Mattingly, Buck Showalter, Otis Nixon and Willie McGee help lead Nashville to first- or second-place finishes in their division from 1980-84. 1984: Nashville leads the Southern League in attendance for seventh consecutive year. 1985: The Triple-A Evansville Triplets of the American Association are purchased by Schmittou and moved to Nashville, becoming the Sounds. The former Sounds move to Huntsville and become the Stars. The Sounds become the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. 1987: The Sounds become the Triple-A affiliate of the Reds, with many members of the 1990 World Series champions playing in Nashville. 1988: Greer Stadium hosts back-to-back no-hitters in August, by Nashville's Jack Armstrong and Indianapolis' Randy Johnson. 1993: Nashville Sounds become the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. 1993: The signature, guitar-shaped scoreboard is added onto Greer Stadium. 1993: The Minnesota Twins' Double-A affiliate becomes homeless when a move from Charlotte to New Orleans is blocked. Schmittou offered use of Greer Stadium for a season with the Southern League, which is named the Nashville Xpress. Nashvillians get a baseball game nearly every day during the season. 1994: The Xpress returns for one more season, giving fans several opportunities to see Michael Jordan play with the ' Birmingham Barons. 1995: The Xpress moves to Wilmington, N.C. 1996: Al Gordon, who had success with previous expansion minor league teams like the Kane County Cougars, buys the Sounds with two other investors. He eventually buys out his partners. 1998: Nashville Sounds become the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 1998: The American Association is dissolved, and the Sounds move to the Pacific Coast League. 2000: Former Negro Leagues star Turkey Steams, a Nashville native, is selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously. 2002: Sounds management, led by General Manager Glenn Yaegw, begins a push to build a downtown stadium to replace Greer Stadium. Source, www neshnllmounds com T- 1

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