While the efforts to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville is somewhat new, the Nashville Stars’ name has been around for decades.
The Stars were a part of the Negro Leagues in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The origins of some of the teams date back to the late 1800’s, although there wasn’t an official league until 1920 with the formation of the Negro National League. It was created for Black players and other minorities who could not play in other professional baseball leagues.
“Nashville has always had great Black baseball history,” said Bob Kendrick, who is the president of the Negro League Baseball Museum and is also a board member of Music City Baseball. “The Nashville stars are little known and quite frankly there wasn’t a whole lot of information on the Stars, but their presence in Nashville was significant.”
It was significant because of what players had to endure during the time of segregation in baseball for years.
“They had no idea that they were making history,” said Kendrick. “They really didn’t care about making history, they just wanted to play ball.”
An early photo of the Nashville Stars shows four players: Frank Russell, Sidney Bunch Jr., Jim Zapp, and Willie Adkisson. Another photo shows the Nashville Stars team bus, which was featured in a book called “Daddy’s Scrapbook” by Harriet Kimbro-Hamilton.
Overall, not much has been published about the Stars team.
“When the Nashville Stars were in town in the early 50’s, nobody was writing about it,” said local baseball historian Skip Nipper. “The newspapers weren’t covering it sadly because segregation was so prevalent in not only Nashville, but other southern cities. Nobody was keeping an account of the games.”
The Negro Leagues dissipated in the 1950’s after baseball started to integrate. However, their impact on the game was tremendous.
“These courageous athletes forged a glorious history in the midst of an inglorious time in American history, and never cried about the social circumstances,” said Kendrick. “They went out and did something about it. ‘You won’t let me play with you, then I’ll just create a league of my own.’ When you stop to think about it, that is the “American Way.” So, while America was trying to prevent them from sharing in the joys of her so-called national pastime, it was indeed the American spirit that allowed them to persevere and prevail.”
Videography Credits: Jason Myers Photography