Nashville Stars Baseball Club

INSPIRATION

Our story starts long before Nashville was illuminated by the glitz, glamour and bright neon of Broadway. Back in the 1940s, Nashville was a different place—a city rooted both in its rich tradition of music and its thriving baseball scene.

Shortly after World War II, Ted Acklen, then the owner of the Del Morocco Club in downtown Nashville, founded the Del Morocco Stars baseball team out of his love for the game; next, William “Sou” Bridgeforth sponsored a team of his own, the New Era Giants. But in 1949, a small step in Nashville’s baseball history would eventually pave the way for our mission to bring Major League Baseball to the Music City: the Del Morocco Stars and the New Era Giants combined forces. Under Bridgeforth’s guidance, the Nashville Stars were born.

In just a short span of time, the Negro League franchise left a blueprint for baseball in Nashville, one that sparked the interest of John Loar, Music City Baseball’s Managing Director. Loar wanted to learn more about the Stars. He understood that the team was an integral part of Nashville’s history. Better yet, he understood that the legacies of these players, stars in their own regard, must be upheld, honored and brought to life.

In 2018, Loar approached Skip Nipper, a Nashville baseball historian, after reading his book Baseball in Nashville. Loar wanted to learn more about the history of baseball in Tennessee. He wanted to identify a story that could be connected to a future expansion franchise. But as Nipper revealed, the Stars’ history is largely unknown.

“I was familiar with the Nashville Stars through my research,” Nipper said. “I knew the team played in 1950 and 1951, but beyond that, there was very little information about the team due to the lack of media coverage and it was likely that the club was simply a ‘barnstorming’ team.”

Over several meetings with Loar and a lunch meeting with Dale Robble, Nipper shared his knowledge of Negro League Baseball, but the idea remained vague, the brand had not yet been identified—that is, until one photo that brought the story to life.

Nipper came across a small picture in his collection. One small anecdote—a photograph on a cardboard broadside used to advertise games—would put a face to the Nashville Stars. Pictured in the photograph are four of Nashville’s heroes, the four Stars who have brought our idea to life: Frank Russell, Jim Zapp, Sidney Bunch and Wilbur Adkisson.

Circa 1951. The Nashville Stars:
Frank Russell – Sydney Bunch – Jim Zapp – Wilbur “Willie” Adkission

Meet the orignal Nashville Stars
Play Video

Introduction to the original Nashville Stars

Jim Zapp Signed “Nashville Stars” Baseball:
Courtesy of Dale Robble Memorabilia Collection.

Loar took this anecdote in stride. He brought the photo—and the idea—to the heart of Nashville’s present-day baseball culture: Vanderbilt head baseball coach Tim Corbin. Not only did the two-time National Championship winner welcome the idea with open arms; not only did Corbin, a recent inductee to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, agree to become a baseball advisor for Music City Baseball, but he also thought the idea of revitalizing Nashville’s Negro League Baseball legacy was a necessity—so he brought the idea to his friend, boss, and Vanderbilt icon: athletic director David Williams.

Williams, known affectionately as “The Goldfather” for his remarkable 16-year tenure as Vanderbilt’s athletic director, saw the importance of our mission. Williams was a trailblazer in his own regard; the first Black athletic director in the Southeastern Conference had a history of breaking down barriers, whether it was bringing Vanderbilt its first four National Championships, reuniting Vanderbilt with trailblazer Perry Wallace or trying to push social change on campus.

Williams wanted in. On the eve of his passing, he uttered a quote that has since driven our mission: “This opportunity,” he said to Loar on a phone call, “is much bigger than the game of baseball.”

We’re going to bat for Nashville. Through our efforts to bring an MLB franchise to the Music City, one appropriately named after the trailblazers that played for the Nashville Stars, we’re hoping to preserve their gilded legacies.

Tim Corbin
Vanderbilt University
Head Baseball Coach
Two-time National Championship
Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
Tim Corbin
David Williams
1948-2019
Vanderbilt University
Vice Chancellor, Athletics Director, General Counsel and Secretary

Southeastern Conference
Athletics Director
David Williams

IDENTITY

Much like the booming music industry, in the 19th century, Nashville’s baseball scene recognized no boundaries. Athletic Park was Nashville’s baseball home for both white and Black teams. In fact, the stadium, eventually renamed “Sulphur Dell” in 1908, became a hotbed for Negro League baseball after its formation in 1920. Before the Nashville Stars, it was the Nashville Vols—and when the Vols were on the road, the stadium was made available to other Negro League teams such as the Chicago American Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants, New York Cuban Stars and more.

Over the years, Sulphur Dell hosted some of the biggest names in baseball history. For Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and more, Sulphur Dell was a baseball oasis. Nashville was a baseball oasis.

Nashville’s Sulphur Dell, June 1962:
Satchel Paige and Goose Tatum

Nashville Stars Base Ball Club Bus:
Anita Jones Conway, daughter of umpire and bus driver Shannon Jones, leans out of window while her dad takes this historic photo. Shannon Jones would eventually become Nashville’s first Black policemen.

Sulphur Dell was a crucial home base for the players. But in truth, it meant just as much to many local Nashvillians. The city would rally around baseball. Many citizens would do everything in their power to ensure baseball is thriving. Take Shannon Jones, a former umpire at Sulphur Dell, as a prime example. In addition to his officiating duties, Jones would drive Nashville Stars players to road games as far as Calgary, Regina and Saskatchewan, Canada, because he knew the players would be treated very well. Jones just wanted to see them succeed. He wanted baseball to be accessible to everyone in Nashville.

“Dad told me to get on the bus,” Shannon’s daughter Anita Jones Conway said. “He wanted to take a picture of me on the bus. That’s the picture with me leaning out of the window.”

That very bus is how Jones shuttled players to away games. Jones, who eventually became one of the first Black policemen in Nashville, was an extremely well-respected figure—one that set out to use baseball as a tool to promote change.

“During the Civil Rights movement, daddy worked with people in the old city hall,” LaVerne Jones Gray said. “He was connected to Mayor Ben West and others within the leadership of the city of Nashville. Daddy was able to get on the police department with his relationship with Mayor West; when West was leaving, he asked daddy to go to become a park policeman.”

“He taught us never to stop,” Clarence Jones said of his father. “Keep going, reach for the stars, never ever give up, just go forward. We can live on hope!”

Jones wanted his children to reach for the stars. And through his courage, he uplifted not just his children, but all of Nashville.

As we reach for the stars, we will continue to honor the legacy set forth by Nashville’s greatest heroes.

SUPPORT

At Music City Baseball, our mission overlaps with that of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO. We recognize the heroism of the Negro League Baseball players; we understand that They Played for Us.

That’s why Music City Baseball has formed a strong partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. We believe in the mission of the Museum. We want to honor the Negro Leagues for its contributions to baseball and to American society. In turn, the Museum supports our mission and believes that Nashville can support a Major League Baseball franchise.

“This partnership allows us to share our baseball history,” Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum said. “The story of the Nashville Stars of the Negro Leagues is as much a civil rights story as a baseball story. The players had no idea they were making history. They just wanted to play ball. The NLBM endorses and supports the efforts of Music City Baseball to secure a Major League Baseball franchise.”

Bob Kendrick NLBM
Play Video
Bob Kendrick
President
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Kansas City, MO
SEC ESPN Bob Kendrick Interview
Play Video
SEC ESPN Bob Kendrick Interview
2019 Vanderbilt Fall Classic
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

SPECIAL THANKS

Music City Baseball, our board of directors, advisors, investors, and supporters would like to express our gratitude for all of the time, research, and effort that historian Skip Nipper has put into bringing the story of the Nashville Stars back to life. His extraordinary commitment to honoring their legacy has infused our efforts with a deeper understanding of not only the Stars, but the history of the game of baseball.

Skip Nipper Origin Video
Play Video

In this clip of a June 2020 video episode of “Skip’s Corner”, Nashville Baseball Historian, Skip Nipper reflects on how the modern recognition of “The Stars” was first discussed and recognized as the cornerstone to this effort.

“This partnership with Music City Baseball literally brings the history of the Nashville Stars of the Negro Leagues back to life,” said Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “This is one of the most important partnerships in the Museum’s history.

We have always wanted a strategic alliance with a Major League Baseball partner. This allows the history of the Negro Leagues to be seen on a much broader scale,” added Kendrick.

Bob Kendrick
BOB KENDRICK
President, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Music City Baseball Board
Alberto Gonzales, Chairman
Lee Barfield
Bob Kendrick
Stacey Garrett Koju
John Loar
Amish Purohit
Nancy Schultz
Steve Smith
Dave Stewart
Baseball Advisors
Tony LaRussa
Dave Stewart
Dave Dombrowski
Tim Corbin
R. A. Dickey
Farrell Owens
Walter Schultz
Barry Zito
Community Advisors
Eddie Hamilton
Rosetta Miller-Perry
Susan Vanderbilt
Ray Waters
Gail Williams
Music Industry Advisors
Kix Brooks
Kane Brown
Eric Church
Luke Combs
Mike Dungan
Larry Gatlin
Mickey Guyton
Lon Helton
Steve Hodges
Strategic Advisors
Lew Conner
Bill Freeman
Darrell Freeman
Aubrey Harwell
Joel Katz
Brad Margolis
Dianne Neal
William Thomas
Jeri Thompson
Malcolm Turner

OVER 150 YEARS OF NASHVILLE BASEBALL

Nashville Baseball Timeline © 2018 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

April 20, 1866

Organized Baseball Arrives

Cumberland Base Ball Club of Nashville is organized. John Dickins is elected president.
April 20, 1866

May 5, 1866

Big Win

Rock City Base Ball Club loses to the Cumberlands, 66-15.
May 5, 1866

October 10, 1884

Paid Players

Nashville first game using paid players, the Nashville Americans host Cincinnati’s Union League club, losing 3-1.
October 10, 1884

November 7, 1884

Land Lease

Nashville’s American Base Ball Association signs a five-year lease for use of land owned by Sulphur Spring Company.
November 7, 1884

October 20, 1900

Southern Association

Southern Association is organized with Nashville as one of eight teams.
October 20, 1900

February 19, 1907

Standard Giants

A meeting is held at the residence of J. W. White to organize the Standard Giants Base Ball club
February 19, 1907

January 14, 1908

Sulphur Dell

Sportswriter Grantland Rice calls Athletic Park “Sulphur Spring Dell”, soon shortens it to “Sulphur Dell”
January 14, 1908

July 20, 1910

Wigs & Baseball

Nashville Standard Giants, local Negro club, wins an exhibition game at Sulphur Dell over the Broncho Bloomer Girls, a negro team of St. Louis, 8-3. Bloomer Girls teams often including male players dressed with wigs; only four women took part in the game.
July 20, 1910

May 12, 1913

Manhattan Stars

Local negro club, Manhattan Stars, loses to Louisville Cubs at Sulphur Dell, 11-6.
May 12, 1913

September 1, 1916

Fourth Southern Pennant

Nashville wins fourth Southern Association pennant by beating Little Rock at Sulphur Dell, 2-1.
September 1, 1916

April 7, 1927

Babe Ruth and Yankees

65th General Assembly of Tennessee adjourns early to see Babe Ruth and New York Yankees play the St. Louis Cardinals at Sulphur Dell. Cardinals beat the Yankees, 10-8.
April 7, 1927

June 20, 1931

Nashville Volunteers

Fay L. Murray, part-owner of the American Association Minneapolis Millers, and Jimmy Hamilton purchase the Nashville Volunteers.
June 20, 1931

April 12, 1932

Attendance Record

Attendance for opening day is 14,502. Seating capacity is 8,000 in the grandstands, and the outfield is lined off with rope to accommodate the crowd. It is the largest crowd to see a game at Sulphur Dell.
April 12, 1932

April 7, 1934

Ruth and Gehrig

Charles Dressen’s Vols wins against the New York Yankees, 5-4, at Sulphur Dell. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are both 2 for 4
April 7, 1934

September 25, 1941

Dixie Playoff Champions

Nashville wins the Dixie Playoffs championship for the second consecutive season by beating the Dallas Rebels, 6-2. In winning four games to none, the Vols’ pitching staff has three complete games, with only one reliever used the entire series.
September 25, 1941

September 20, 1944

Southern Pennant

Nashville captures the Southern Association pennant with their 11-10 victory over the Chicks in Memphis.
September 20, 1944

March 8, 1945

Negro Southern League

An owners meeting of Negro Southern League teams is held in Nashville to adopt a schedule and constitution.
March 8, 1945

October 5, 1947

Nashville Cubs

Nashville Cubs take a double header win over the New York Black Yankees at Sulphur Dell, 6-4 and 3-2
October 5, 1947

September 7, 1949

Pennant #9

Pete Mallory wins a 2-1 decision at Mobile to secure Nashville’s ninth Southern Association pennant and fifth in the past ten years.
September 7, 1949

May 11, 1952

Hank Aaron

Indianapolis Clowns sensation, 18-year-old rookie shortstop Hank Aaron, plays in his first regular season game as a professional at Sulphur Dell. The Clowns win both games of the double header over the Philadelphia Stars, 5-2 and 2-1. Aaron’s Negro League experience would last only 14 games before he signs with the Boston Braves and is sent to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to begin his career in organized baseball.
May 11, 1952

April 4, 1954

Spring 1954

Before 12,006 fans at Sulphur Dell, Milwaukee Braves defeat Brooklyn Dodgers, 18-14. Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella pinch-hits and works the last inning behind the plate as Junior Gilliam anchors third and Jackie Robinson plays first base.
April 4, 1954

September 8, 1963

End Of An Era

In the last Nashville Vols game played at Sulphur Dell, Vols outfielder Charlie Teuscher belts three home runs as the Vols win over Lynchburg, 6-3 and 2-1.
September 8, 1963

September 20, 1977

Larry Schmittou

Larry Schmittou, president of the Nashville Baseball Club, and Cincinnati’s Sheldon “Chief” Bender, sign a working agreement for the local baseball team to become the AA affiliate of the Reds.
September 20, 1977

April 26, 1978

Nashville Sounds

Nashville Sounds play their first home game, a 12–4 victory, against the Savannah Braves in front of a Greer Stadium sellout crowd of 8,156 fans.
April 26, 1978

September 11, 1982

Southern League Champions

Sounds win a second Southern League championship by beating Jacksonville 5-3 in 13 innings. Brian Dayett slams a home run with Buck Showalter on base to gain the win for Nashville.
September 11, 1982

April 7, 2003

Perfect Game

Right-hander John Wasdin pitches the first perfect game in Nashville Sounds history in his first start of the season against the Albuquerque Isotopes. The 4–0 Sounds win was only the second nine-inning perfect game in Pacific Coast League history.
April 7, 2003

September 7, 2005

PCL Crown

Nashville captures the PCL crown with a 5-2 win over Tacoma, winning the series three games to none.
September 7, 2005

June 25, 2007

Perfection Repeat

Manny Parra tosses the second perfect game in Nashville Sounds history, only the third nine-inning perfect game in PCL history, against the Round Rock Express.
June 25, 2007

August 27, 2014

Farewell To Greer

Nashville plays the last game at Greer Stadium against Sacramento before a sell-out crowd of 11,067 fans, losing 13-8.
August 27, 2014

April 17, 2015

First Tennessee Park Opener

Opening night at Nashville’s new First Tennessee Park, as the Sounds win over Colorado Springs, 3-2. 10,459 fans are on hand.
April 17, 2015
SKIP NIPPER
Nashville Baseball Historian & Author