Looking Back: Gene Menees Was A Sounds Fan Favorite

By Bill Traughber / Baseball Historian / Nashville Sounds | August 12, 2013 5:30 AM ET

"Now batting-Number 10-Second baseman-Genooooooooooo Meneeeeeeeeeeees!"

Chuck Morgan provided that familiar and memorable part of Nashville Sounds history, as the first Sounds public address announcer. He had a unique style of announcing a player's names that echoed across the outfield in Herschel Greer Stadium. Gene Menees' name was the most fun to hear as he approached the plate to take his turn at bat.

"Chuck is the one that dreamed that up," Menees said with a laugh. "I wish I could sit here and take credit for it, but I have no idea where he came up with that. It's pretty good if you get a hit. If you strikeout it's not very good at all. I run into people occasionally that still remember it.

"They might not know it was Chuck who said it, but they certainly remember the way it was put out. At that time it was good, nice and everyone related to it. It was part of the mystique of Greer Stadium."

Menees never achieved his goal of playing baseball in the major leagues. He was able to play college and professional baseball in Nashville-his hometown. The former second baseman graduated from Madison (Nashville) High School and Jackson State Community College before accepting a baseball scholarship from Vanderbilt head baseball coach Larry Schmittou.

Before joining the Sounds in their inaugural season (1978), Menees was drafted into the Padres organization and spent his first professional season (1975) with Walla Walla of the Northwest League. He batted .276 in 70 games while being ranked second in walks (70) and led the second basemen in fielding percentage (.964). Menees split time in 1976 with Reno (California League) and Amarillo (Texas League). He batted .352 in Reno and .312 with Amarillo.

At the 1976 Winter Professional Draft the New York Mets, from the Padres, selected Menees. In 1977 he played for Jackson (Miss.) of the Texas League where he led all second basemen in fielding (.984) while batting .270.

By this time Schmittou was making plans to bring professional baseball back to Nashville with a Double-A franchise in the Southern League and a new stadium. Menees would be part of those plans.

"I can't tell you 100 percent, but I can probably tell you 98 percent that if it had not been for Larry Schmittou, I would not have signed with the Sounds," said Menees who was named All-SEC his senior year at Vanderbilt. "It was ironic I was in Jackson, Miss. in 1977 with the Jackson Mets of the Texas League. I came out of the locker room; it was sometime in June. Coach Schmittou was there with his assistant coaches Ken Huggins and Roy Carter.

"All three were standing outside the locker room. I said, 'what are you guys doing here?' They were down there for a tournament or something in Oxford. He said he was bringing baseball back to Nashville and let's get a bite to eat. They were looking at Jackson Stadium to see how they wanted to build Greer Stadium."

In the spring of 1977, Menees was in the Mets organization's spring training camp when he was released. Menees was not ready to quit baseball. He went home and sent letters containing his background and statistics to all major league teams except the Mets.

Menees received one offer. Schmittou asked Menees if he was ready to play baseball. The Nashville Sounds (Reds affiliate) were in place and the season a month old at this time. Schmittou arranged for Menees to fly to Orlando where the Sounds were playing and a contract was signed.

"As I look back, I wish I had sat back and soaked it in," Menees said about retuning to Nashville. "It was a big thrill to play professional baseball in my hometown. Then to top that off with the new organization, new stadium and the big crowds was unbelievable. Because at that time minor league baseball did not draw consistently well.

"To be able to be paid in a game that I grew up playing and only the bases were farther apart was an unbelievable feeling. Then in 1979, when we won the Southern League championship, was a greater feeling because we did it in front of family. My dad was a good amateur baseball player around Nashville and as a kid I would go watch him play. It was probably as big of a thrill for my dad, as it was for me, to see me play at a level he dreamed he could have played."

During the 1978 season Menees batted .276 (116-for-421) in 116 games. He collected 22 doubles, 34 RBI's, 17 stolen bases and five home runs. Menees also led the Southern League's second basemen in fielding (.973) and was selected to the Southern League All-Star game.

The Sounds first manager was Chuck Goggin. The team finished in ninth place with a 64-77 record. In 1979, veteran baseball man George Scherger replaced Goggin. Scherger had been with the Cincinnati Reds coaching staff the previous nine seasons. He had been involved in professional baseball as a player and manager since 1940.

Menees was asked to reminisce about some of his Sounds' teammates.

"Paul Householder at that time had about as much talent as any player I played with," said Menees. "He had a great arm and could switch hit. He could hit with power from both sides with good speed. Paul had the talent to make to the big leagues as he did.

"Eddie Milner was a great center fielder and went into the big leagues. He had some personal problems that ended his career earlier than his talent should have allowed. We had pitchers like Bill Dawley, Bruce Berenyi and Jay Howell who found success in the big leagues."

The Sounds won their first league championship in 1979 beating the Memphis Chicks in the Western Finals two games to one. They beat Columbus three games to one to win the Southern League championship.

"We didn't start out very well that year," Menees said about the 1979 season. "In April and May we were just an average baseball team. We just started playing where things meshed together. We did not have as good of players as Memphis. The Memphis Chicks had Tim Wallach, Bill Gullickson and Tim Raines.

"They had guys that went on to have outstanding major league careers. We had a bunch of pretty good players, but we didn't have great outstanding players that would spend 10 or 12 years in the big leagues. We did have some guys to go on to the big leagues that had success.

Goggin was just 33 years old when he piloted the Sounds inaugural season. He was connected to professional baseball since 1964 and played a few seasons with the Pirates, Braves and Red Sox. Goggin also served time in Vietnam where he received several accommodations for bravery.

Scherger was 58 years old when he managed the Sounds. He spent 14 years in the Dodgers farm system, 10 of those as a player-coach. He had managed 18 years in the minor leagues beginning at age 26 under Branch Rickey. He joined the Reds coaching staff in 1970.

"Chuck Goggin treated me as fair as anybody," said Menees. "I signed late when Chuck was the manager. He basically told me to do your job and produce. Chuck gave me an opportunity to play. For that I will always be grateful. In all fairness to Chuck, we didn't have the team in 1978 as we did in 1979.

"When George Scherger joined us in 1979, he brought so much experience. He was Sparky's (Anderson) bench coach when they were going through the "Big Red Machine" years in the 1970s with Cincinnati. You can call it chemistry, you can call it meshing together, but we jelled as team."

When the New York Yankees became the Sounds major league affiliate in 1980, Menees continued in the Reds organization. He would play two years in Indianapolis, which was Triple-A. After the 1981 season he was asked to be a player-coach, but felt his baseball career was near an end.

Said Menees, "At that time I was 29 and 29 in Triple-A and that might not seem too old. But in that time and age if you have not made it to the big leagues it's probably about time as they say to go home and get a real job. I was married, had one child and my wife was expecting our second. So I figured it was time to come home and do what most married men do is get a job and support the family."

Today, Menees is the Assistant Executive Director of the Tennessee Sports Secondary Athletic Association (TSSAA) where he has worked for the past 20 years. At the end of his baseball career, Menees taught and coached baseball for several years at Donelson Christian Academy and Davidson Academy.

Menees has also been a basketball official for over 20 years starting in junior pro, middle school, varsity high school and college. On the college level he began officiating junior college games, NAIA, OVC, Trans South, Conference USA and Sun Belt Conferences.

"When I first started officiating basketball games I thought it was great because I was a runner and I was getting paid to run," joked Menees. "Whether you are working junior pro or college, they are still going to yell at you."

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

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

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