Looking Back: Sounds First Games In 1978

By Bill Traughber / Baseball Historian / Nashville Sounds | June 3, 2013 4:30 AM

On September 8, 1963, the Nashville Vols entered into a season-ending seven-inning doubleheader with Lynchburg. The Vols won the first game 6-3 while the second game was tied 1-1 going into extra innings.

Nashville Vols batter Charlie Teuscher would lead off the last of the eighth inning. Teuscher, after showing his anguish on a called strike by the umpire, promptly lifted the next pitch over the famous short right field screen. The home run would end the game and not known at the time, ended professional baseball in Nashville.

Only 921 fans attended the games bringing the season total to a mere 54, 435. This was the lowest total in the 103-year history of the Vols. Rumors persisted all season long that this could be the final season for the Vols. The Sulphur Dell ballpark was empty during the 1962 season then Nashville joined the Sally League in 1963. Sulphur Dell, the oldest ballpark in the country was demolished in 1969.

It would be 15 years later that professional baseball would return to Nashville. In 1978 the Nashville Sounds came into existence. This was due the force of former Vanderbilt baseball coach Larry Schmittou that became president and part owner of the Sounds. Former David Lipscomb baseball player Farrell Owens was the general manager. Other part owners were Conway Twitty, Jerry Reed, Walter Nipper and the Reese Smith family.

The Sounds were members of the Double-A Southern League and the major league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The Sounds were assigned to the Western Division with Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Montgomery. Eastern Division teams were Columbus, Jacksonville, Orlando, Savannah and Charlotte. The previous year the franchise was located in Three Rivers (Canada) also Double-A.

The Sounds played their first historic game on April 15, 1978 in Memphis. The game was played in Tim McCarver Stadium home of the Memphis Chicks. Over 9, 197 fans jammed into the 5,500-seat stadium for opening day.

Chuck Goggin was the Sounds manager and his first lineup included: Steve Hughes, SS; Randy Davidson, 2B; Don Lyle, DH; Tim Doerr, 3B; George Weicker, 1B; Tony Moretto, RF; Mickey Duval, CF; Mark Miller, C; Duane Walker, RF and Bill Dawley, P.

The Memphis fans were happy as their Chicks defeated the Sounds, 4-2. Nashville fell behind 1-0 after the opening inning, but tied the game in the third on Duval's RBI double scoring Hughes. In the sixth frame, Weicker delivered a single plating Duval for a Sounds 2-1 lead.

Memphis rallied for three unearned runs in their half of the sixth with their bullpen shutting out the Sounds to close the game. Dawley took the loss for the Sounds while former Vanderbilt pitcher Scott Sanderson, in his second season of professional baseball, secured the Chicks victory. The 9,197 fans broke a Memphis attendance record.

The next day behind the strong pitching of starter Bruce Berenyi and reliever Doug Corbett, Nashville shutout the Chicks, 3-0. Berenyi pitched the first six innings recording three hits, eight strikeouts while walking one batter. Corbett retired nine straight batters including four K's to pick up a save. The historic victory gave the Sounds their first win before 2, 465 Memphis fans.

In the third inning, the Sounds scored two runs off an RBI double by Miller and a sacrifice fly by Davidson. The final tally came in the fifth on a Moretto double. Miller and Lyle each recorded two of the Sounds total nine hits. In 17 innings the Sounds' pitching had allowed just one earned run.

The Sounds returned home for their inaugural home game on April 26 to face the Savannah Braves. Nashville's home was Herschel Greer Stadium, named for the longtime supporter to the city's amateur baseball tradition. Greer was also president of the old Nashville Vols, Inc.

The Sounds entered the game in third place behind Knoxville and Memphis with a 5-4 record. A Nashville crowd of 8,156 witnessed the historic night. The original scheduled opening game was rained out the previous night. Also making their first appearance were the lovely Soundettes.

It was considered a miracle that the field was ready for play. The team requested to open the season on the road and had to swap a series with Chattanooga in order to have enough time to complete the stadium and the field. Even though the Sounds opened the season on the road, Greer Stadium was not ready. The sod had been laid the day before thanks to 50 fans that volunteered to lay the sod for a "sod party." And on game day tractors and grading machines were still at work.

The home faithful were not disappointed. Joe Griffin led a 16-hit Sounds outburst driving in five runs with four hits in a Sounds 12-4 victory. Moretto and Duval added three hits apiece for the Sounds. Berenyi picked up the win after pitching five innings. Larry Rothschild gave up three runs in a third of an inning for the Sounds. Corbett came on to retire eleven Braves in a row to record the save.

"The field was playable although it was not 100 percent," Goggin said after the game. "I think Savannah got a couple of bad hops and we took advantage of them. We were really fired up and swinging the bats."

Southern League President Billy Hitchcock was on hand to welcome baseball back to the Music City. The start of the game was delayed for 30 minutes due to traffic problems at the stadium.

"After seeing the baseball stadium in the condition it was in when we got here late Monday night, it's amazing, really incredible that it was in such good condition on the infield," said Davidson. "That grounds crew did a super job getting the sod down. The fans were really sensational, and I'm glad we could win this one for them. I hope it brings them back."

It was reported that the concession and souvenir stands were virtually sold out by the time the game was over at 11 pm. William Lazenby and his 16-year-old son Robert, were credited with being the first paying fans through the turnstile. The Sounds finished the season with a 64-77 record in ninth place of the league standings.

"I used to spend a lot of time watching the old Vols play down at Sulphur Dell," said Lazenby. "I've been waiting ever since that last Vol's game for the day that this kind of entertainment came back to Nashville, and I'm glad the wait is over. I used to play on a church league softball team and we had our games down here at Ft. Negley. I even remember when they built the Ft. Negley Park. I've been out here every night since they started building this park to watch how it went along."

Traughber's Tidbit: The Sounds first radio broadcaster was Monte Hale with Jay Colley and Ty Coppinger providing the color commentary. Chuck Morgan was Nashville's first stadium PA announcer.

Tidbit Two: The Nashville Sounds led all of minor league baseball in attendance in 1978 with 380, 159 fans.

If you have any comments or suggestions, click here to contact Bill Traughber.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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