Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Too Hot for Base Ball

Summer is coming soon. That means the temperature will be rising. Some things don't change.

Press and Messenger (Knoxville) - June 30, 1875

image from

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Holstons first game?

Adam Alfrey, co-captain of the modern day Knoxville Holstons that play as part of the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball, transcribed the following story on the team's website.

The Knoxville Whig - May 8, 1867
I think that Adam correctly says that to date this is "the the earliest reference to the Holston Base Ball Club playing a match in Knoxville...".

The club itself is mentioned the week before in a story about a Base Ball Convention that was held in Chattanooga.  It was published in the Nashville Union and Dispatch on May 3, 1867.

Keep up the good work, Adam.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

1982 Strohs & WOKI Beer Night

As time allows I've been slipping some "This Day in Smokies' History" to Mick Gillispie and Justin Rocke for their radio broadcasts of the Smokies games. I thought I'd feature this one here.

The end of April, 1982, saw the Smokies Blue Jays in first place in the Western Division of the Southern League.  Promotions are always a part of minor league play, so why not partner with Strohs and radio station WOKI and celebrate baseball and beer?

The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 27, 1982

Really, what could go wrong?  Fortunately, nothing like that.  The Blue Jays beat the Savannah Braves, 5-4.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 29, 1982

DH Vernon Ramie, who finished the season with a .285 BA, homered that night.  Verne never made it out of the minors.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 29, 1982

I guess the promotion worked, as there were 867 fans in attendance.  That's up 707 from the night before when they beat Savannah 19-5.

The Blue Jays went on to finish the regular season with a 73-71 record, just behind Nashville Sounds (77-67).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Knoxville Reds photo - mid 1880s

The Knoxville Sunday Journal - April 26, 1936
     The Knoxville Reds, more than 50 years ago, was one of the most famous baseball teams ever to play in the South, at that time.  Standing, left to right: Link Houk, James Waters, Dave Thomas, Lon Fiske, Please McClung.  Seated: Deadrick McClung, Guy McCaffry, Dutch Roth, Joe Wilson, Hugh Rogers.
     Joe Wilson, who recently retired as chief of traffic police, tells with pride of their trips and victories over the state and through the south.  The members of the team paid their own expenses, the uniforms were made at home and that shield so proudly displayed was hand-embroidered by a fond mother or sweetheart.
     One of the big games was played at Cleveland, Tenn., for a grand prize of $75 and Knoxville won.  "That was a mountain in those days," says Captain Wilson, "and we thought we were mighty lucky."  The greatest victory was the defeat of the Cincinnati Shamrocks.  Admission was charged for that game, a custom which not usual.  Captain Wilson would not divulge anything about the heart secrets of this handsome group, except to admit that his wife did come to see him play, but the girls never followed the team out of town, as is the custom for the football games of today.

    Charles Pleasant "Pleas" McClung was born ca. 1864.  Deadrick McClung was born ca. 1867.  If these men were about 21 years old in the photo, it would have been taken roughly in 1885-1889, which matches up with the line in the newspaper article, "The Knoxville Reds, more than 50 years ago...".

    Steve Cotham, the McClung Collection Manager, has graciously given me permission to reproduce some baseball images from their digital site on this blog.

    image N-0401 "Unidentified baseball team.  'R' on uniforms."
    from The Thompson Photograph Collection
    part of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

    Just to make things a bit easier, I've added names to the photo.

    So, this victory over the Shamrocks of Cincinnati?  They came to town in early August.

    Knoxville Daily Journal - August 8, 1890
    It could have been the game of August 8, 1890 to which Captain Wilson was referring.

    Knoxville Daily Journal - August 9, 1890

    From the tabulated score, it would appear that only Deadrick McClung, Pease McClung, and Guy McCaffry from the photo were involved in the game against the Shamrocks.

    But a bit more research reveals that the Reds beat the Shamrocks on the 6th of August as well, 4-1 in six innings.  Rain stopped the continuation of that game.

    The unusual custom of charging admission for the game?  Well, they did it just the month before when the Louisville Deppens came to town.

    Curious to see what the Shamrocks looked like?  Here's a photo of them from a few years before they came to Knoxville.

    1886 Cincinnati Shamrocks
    image from Lelands' November 2009 Auction Catalog

    1936 newspaper clipping from the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection
    clear image of the Knoxville Reds from the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection
    1890 newspaper clippings from
    Shamrocks photo from

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    On this day - April 17, 1940

    There are several "This Day in Baseball History" and "On This Day" type of posts / blogs / twitter feeds. One of those that I follow is my fellow baseball historian, Skip Nipper (twitter feed: mrsulphurdell).   Skip shares his extensive knowledge of Nashville area baseball, frequently with an "on this date" post.

    I'll do that today.  Back in 1940, the Southern Association had just started their games for the season.  The Nashville Vols were playing host to the Smokies.

    Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge) - April 18, 1940

    The Daily Herald
    , of Biloxi, indicated that the tie game would be completed at a later date.

    The Daily Herald (Biloxi) - April 18, 1940

    And this is how the teams stacked up that opening week.
    The Daily Herald (Biloxi) - April 18, 1940

    With the opening of the season comes pomp and fanfare. Earlier in the month the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Tennessee's governor, Prentice Cooper, had been asked by both Memphis and Nashville to throw out the first ball.  Another dignitary that was asked to take part in the opening day ceremonies was Sgt. Alvin C. York.

    Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 5, 1940

    I have not discovered if either of these men participated in the festivities in Nashville.  Time to talk with Skip.  But on another day.  Today he's celebrating the opening of Nashville's new ballpark.

    images from

    Thursday, April 9, 2015

    More Coca Cola Boys

    Two years ago I wrote about the Coca Cola Stars of Knoxville.  I found another mention of their team and that they were victorious in three games.

    This tidbit comes from The Nashville Globe.  It is from the "Harriman Notes" section.

    The Nashville Globe - July 1, 1910
    At this point, I know nothing more about them.  Hopefully someday some more information on the team will be found.

    Monday, March 30, 2015

    Knoxville's first two no hitters

    Fellow SABR member Chuck McGill has been collecting info on minor league no-hitters.  He's added over 500 no-nos to those already known about and published in the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball.  Last week The Sporting News published a nice story about his work.

    He's made his spreadsheet available to others.  I grabbed it and extracted the games that Knoxville / Tennessee was involved with.  I'll look at the first two known no hitters.

    On August 22, 1912, Finis Wilson threw one against the Johnson City Soldiers.  This was Fin's second season playing for the Knoxville Reds of the young Appalachian League.

    Tulsa World - August 23, 1912

    Richmond Times Dispatch - August 23, 1912

    The article in the New Orleans Item has the game scores reversed but does share that Fin Wilson pitched both ends of that double header.
    New Orleans Item - August 23, 1912
    Just a few years later Fin would be pitching for the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League.  He went 1-9 with a 4.03 ERA.

    The shortstop Morley was Bill Morley.  The 1913 season he played two games for the Washington Senators of the American League.

    It was almost a full ten years before another no hitter was tossed by Knoxville.  By this time the team had changed its name from the Reds to the Pioneers.

    According to McGill's spreadsheet the second no hitter was tossed by "Red" Stoner on July 7, 1923 against the Kingsport Indians.    McGill's spreadsheet has the score listed as ?-0. 

    The SABR Minor League Committee newsletter for the Spring of 2007 was seeking the info.

    Beating the Bushes (SABR Minor League Committee newsletter) - Spring, 2007
    I have not yet been able to locate a description of the game, but I did find a score for it.

    Macon Telegraph - July 8, 1923

    Not much is known about Mr. Stoner, except that he went 17-6 for the Pioneers that season.

    And that he was sold to the New York Giants in August.

    Trenton Evening Times - August 23, 1923

    Times-Picayune - September 13, 1923

    Apparently the big baseball news coming out of Knoxville at the time of Stoner's no hitter was that Frank Kane was released from the team.
    Richmond Times Dispatch - July 8, 1923
    Less is known about Frank Kane than is known about "Red" Stoner.  As usual, more research is needed.

    Newspaper article images from