One of the first professional baseball teams in the city was the Nashville Seraphs in 1895. The Seraphs were members of the original Southern League (1885-99). Nashville also fielded teams in 1885-86 (Americans), 1887 (Blues), and 1893-94 (Tigers).
Seraphs' games were played at Athletic Park, which later became Sulphur Dell. Exhibition games were played in the preseason against major league teams, local athletic clubs and Vanderbilt University.
An ad was located in an old Nashville newspaper announcing an April exhibition game with Nashville vs. Ted Sullivan's Wild Texas Steers. Admission prices included: Ladies-Opera Grand Stand 50 cents, Smokers-Grand Stand 40 cents, Bleachers 25 cents. Ladies accompanied by gentlemen, admitted to Grand Stand free on Fridays.
One of these major league teams that stopped in Nashville for an April three-game series was the Cleveland Spiders. The Spiders were members of the 12-team National League. The American League would not be established until 1901.
One of the players on the Spiders roster was a 28-year old future Baseball Hall of Fame member and the all-time winningest pitcher-Cy Young. Young was entering his sixth season with Cleveland and already was unbelievable. He recorded these victory totals in 1890 (9-6), 1891 (27-22), 1892 (36-12), 1893 (34-16) and 1894 (26-21).
Leading Nashville was player-manager George Stallings, who had a brief major league career as a player with Brooklyn (1890) and Philadelphia (1897) of the National League. Stallings had a successful 13-year managing career with four different teams sprinkled between 1897 and 1920. He led the Boston Braves to the 1914 World Series championship.
The Nashville American reported on the third game of this April series, which Young pitched:
The "Spiders" suffered another defeat at the hands of the locals at Athletic Park yesterday afternoon. A good-sized crowd of "fans" witnessed the performance. The game was the best played here this season, being hotly contested from start to finish. The feature was Moran's pitching and hitting, while Trost fairly captured the "fans" by stealing a run off the visitors.
The Cleveland boys put up a great game of ball, but could not find Moran's curves at proper times. Again their mascot "Rastus," failed to wield his power over the umpire; in fact, he seemed to be pulling his left finger for the home boys. Young's pitching was deserving, and the support he received was above average.
Sam Moran was the Seraphs ace pitcher. He would compile a 22-12 record with 34 starts that season. Mike Trost was the Seraphs catcher that batted .288 (79-for-274) in 1895.
The American continued:
In the second inning Moran hit a hot one to left field, as it was doubtful as to whether it was a fair or foul ball. The umpire called it a fair ball and Moran made a home run. Sweeney, who was on first, scored also.
In the third inning the Cleveland's made two runs. Young got first on a hot liner to right field and Zimmer hit to centre field for three bags. Young scored.
In the seventh Moran found Young's curve for a home run. He knocked the sphere over the right field fence and Stallings cried "watch it over."
Nashville won the meaningless exhibition game, 4-3. Young went the distance and took the loss while giving up nine hits. He was 3-for-4 as a batter with the one run scored. Young also added his name of baseball greats to have played on Nashville's historic ball field.
Cleveland finished the 1895 season in second place (84-46) with manager Patsy Tebeau. Young led the league with a 35-10 record in 47 games and 370 innings.
Young pitched for St. Louis in 1899-1900 before he joined the Boston Red Sox of the newly formed American League. He pitched for the Red Sox for nine seasons then finished his career with Cleveland (1909-11) and Boston Braves (1911).
In 22 seasons, Young's record was an astonishing 511-315 for a .619 percentage. He appeared in 906 career games with a lifetime 2.63 ERA. Young pitched 7,356 innings with 750 complete games and 76 shutouts. He also had five 30-win seasons and his 315 defeats is also a record. Denny McLain is the last 30-game winner in the major leagues with his 31-6 feat in 1968.
Young was a charter member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. The award for the most outstanding pitcher in the National and American League is named for Cy Young. Young died in Newcomerstown, Ohio in 1955 at age 88.
The Seraphs won a controversial league title over Atlanta. Several disputed games were excluded while some researchers give the pennant to Atlanta. The Nashville newspapers document the hearings involved in determining the champion and they report Nashville was declared the winners.
Nashville's franchise folded after that 1895 championship season. The Southern League folded in 1899 and the Nashville Vols would be charter members of the newly-formed Southern Association in 1901. The Vols remained in the association until 1961 when the league folded. The Vols became members of the SALLY League in 1963, the final season for the club.
Traughber's Tidbit: This newspaper article was found in a Nashville newspaper in April 1911. "Baseball on Skates at Hippodrome:" Baseball on skates is the latest attraction, which the fertile mind of Manager Bordeiser has evolved to entertain the large crowds which nightly flock to the Hippodrome. The game will be pulled off next Tuesday night, and the two teams are practicing daily for the contest, which will be one of the most novel ones ever witnessed in the city. As every fan knows it is a difficult matter to play baseball on terra firms, but when it comes to being handicapped by a pair of skates one naturally concludes that the task is something fierce. However, the boys are being quite proficient in chasing flies and circling the bases on the ball-bearing little wheels, and will no doubt give a most entertaining exhibition next Tuesday night.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.