Herschel Greer Stadium
A view of Greer down the right field line
|Full name||Herschel Greer Stadium|
|Location||534 Chestnut Street
Nashville, TN 37203
|Broke ground||August 1977|
|Opened||April 26, 1978|
|Owner||Nashville Metro Government|
|Operator||Nashville Sounds Baseball Club|
|Construction cost||$1.1 million
($3.98 million in 2014 dollars)
|Architect||Stoll-Reed Architects Inc.|
|General contractor||J. B. Regen|
|Capacity||10,300 (permanent seating)
15,000 (plus standing room)
|Field size||Left Field: 327 feet (100 m)
Left-Center: 375 feet (114 m)
Center Field: 400 feet (120 m)
Right-Center: 375 feet (114 m)
Right Field: 327 feet (100 m)
|Nashville Sounds (PCL) (1978–present)
Nashville Xpress (SL) (1993–1994)
Herschel Greer Stadium is a minor league baseball park located in Nashville, Tennessee, on the grounds of Fort Negley, an American Civil War fortification, approximately two miles (3 km) south of downtown. Opened in 1978, the stadium was posthumously named for Herschel Lynn Greer, a prominent Nashville businessman and the first president of the Nashville Vols minor league baseball team. It is home to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and can seat 10,300 people.
The stadium is best recognized by its distinctive guitar-shaped scoreboard, which displays the line score across the neck. It has been the site of three minor league all-star games, eight no-hit games, including one perfect game, and a 24-inning game which tied the record for the longest game in PCL history. In 1993 and 1994, it also served as the home ballpark for the Double-A Southern League's Nashville Xpress.
Since the early 2000s, the Sounds have attempted to secure agreements with the city for a new ballpark to replace Greer, an aging stadium that was not meant to last longer than 30 years. The subject of numerous upgrades and repairs to maintain its functionality, Greer is one of the oldest stadiums used by a Triple-A team, and it now falls well below professional baseball's standards for a stadium at that class level. The Sounds plan to leave Greer for First Tennessee Park at the beginning of the 2015 season. Greer's fate beyond that point is not yet known.
When Larry Schmittou decided to bring professional baseball back to Nashville in the late 1970s, he knew he would have to build a new ballpark for his team. He negotiated a lease with the city for a plot of land at the foot of St. Cloud Hill on the grounds of Fort Negley, an American Civil War fortification, approximately two miles (three km) south of downtown. The city was prepared to lease him the land, but Schmittou would be responsible for building the stadium and paying the property taxes.
The projected construction cost of the stadium was between $300,000 and $500,000; but the actual cost was over $1 million. Schmittou looked to local suppliers to donate construction materials, took out a $30,000 loan from a bank, and even mortgaged his own home to help pay for the ballpark. Country music star Conway Twitty helped Schmittou bring in fellow stars Jerry Reed, Richard Sterban, and Cal Smith as well as other members of the Nashville community as team shareholders. The stadium was posthumously named for Herschel Lynn Greer, a prominent Nashville businessman and the first president of the Nashville Vols baseball team, whose family donated $25,000 for stadium construction.
The home opener for Greer's first tenants, the Southern League's Nashville Sounds, Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, was scheduled for April 25, 1978. Construction was underway, but Schmittou knew the ballpark would not be ready by that date. The team requested to open the season with road games and had to swap a series with the Chattanooga Lookouts in order to have more time to complete the stadium. Even with this extra time, the ballpark was still behind schedule. The sod, which arrived late, was laid and rolled the day before the scheduled opening game with the help of an estimated group of 50 fans who heard an announcement on local radio stations by general manager Farrell Owens inviting them to a "sod party".
The Sounds' home opener, scheduled for April 25, was rained out and pushed back to April 26. After playing their first ten games away from home, and with tractors and grading machines still preparing the field on game day, the Sounds played their first home game at Herschel Greer Stadium on April 26, 1978. The 12–4 victory against the Savannah Braves was witnessed by a sellout crowd of 8,156 spectators. Southern League president Billy Hitchcock was on hand to witness the event, and Conway Twitty threw out the first pitch.
Initially, Greer was capable of seating 7,200 spectators, but was expanded to 8,800 by the end of the inaugural season. Theater-type seats with back support and armrests accounted for 3,000 of the stadium's seats; bleacher seats made up the remainder. The press box included two radio broadcast booths and an organ booth. There were locker rooms for two teams, which each accommodated 25 people, as well as a locker room for umpires. The field measured 330 feet (100 m) down the left and right field lines, 375 feet (114 m) to left- and right-center fields, and 405 feet (123 m) to center field. Eight lighting grids atop steel poles 100 feet (30 m) high provided illumination for night games. Amenities for customers at the park included two men's and women's restrooms and seven concession stands.
With the addition of 5,000 permanent seats, Greer's seating capacity was increased to 13,000 for the 1979 season. Improvements to the playing field included new irrigation and drainage systems which raised the field 5 feet (1.5 m) above its previous elevation. Prior to the 1981 season, Greer underwent a number of renovations including the addition of over 1,200 box seats and over 1,000 new general admission seats. Two wooden general admission seating areas were replaced by 2,000 contoured seats. The original backstop which consisted of several steel poles was upgraded to a steel cable system, eliminating most of the poles. Other stadium upgrades included two new dugouts, three entrance and exit ramps, a new sound system, doubling the size of the reader panel on the scoreboard, and enlarging the ticket booth.
From February through mid-summer 1984, major renovations and additions were made to the stadium. A full service restaurant, The Hall of Fame Stadium Club, and a mini-roof, to cover the last five rows of the reserved seating section and the main concourse, were built. A new press box included accommodations for members of the media, 2 separate booths for home and visiting radio broadcasts, and 2 separate booths for home and visiting television broadcasts. Ten sky boxes were built adjacent the press box; by 1989, the number of sky boxes had increased to 18.
Renovations continued in 1985 with the addition of 1,200 box seats, which replaced some of the reserved grandstand seating, as well as more seating past the right field foul pole. A 4-line scoreboard 10 feet (3.0 m) high replaced the stadium's original, which was relocated to far left field to serve as an out-of-town scoreboard, providing scores for American League, National League, and American Association baseball games.
Schmittou wanted "to put Nashville in contention for a future major league team." Along with this goal, the need for more seating, and a desire to make Greer a more attractive ballpark, significant renovations began after the 1987 season. The number of box seats was increased by 40%, the clubhouse and umpire facilities were upgraded, and the dugouts were entirely rebuilt. The new dugouts took up slightly more room than the previous ones, resulting in a minor contraction of the field's dimensions: 327 feet (100 m) down the left and right field lines, 371 feet (113 m) to left and right-center fields, and 400 feet (120 m) to center field. The stadium's main concourse entrance was redesigned to incorporate the stonemasonry of the adjacent Fort Negley. This expansion brought Greer's total seating capacity up to 18,000.
Greer's distinctive guitar-shaped scoreboard was installed behind the left-center field wall prior to the 1993 season. Another addition in 1993 was that of a second team to play at Greer. From 1993 to 1994, the ballpark simultaneously served as the home field for the Sounds and the Nashville Xpress, the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins which played in the Southern League. This came about when Charlotte, North Carolina acquired a Triple-A expansion franchise in 1993, leaving the city's Double-A team, the Charlotte Knights, without a home. Sounds President Larry Schmittou offered Greer Stadium as a temporary home for the team. In order to accommodate another club at Greer, the Xpress scheduled its home games during the Sounds' road trips. This marked the first time since the New York Mets and Yankees shared Shea Stadium in 1975 that two teams shared a facility. Baseball America ranked the dual Nashville teams as number one on its list of the "top ten happenings in minor league baseball." In 1995, the Xpress relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina and became the Port City Roosters.
Over $200,000 was spent on renovations in the fall and winter before the 1995 season. The home clubhouse and weight room were remodeled, aisles behind the dugouts were resurfaced to reduce slippery areas, and the entire playing field was re-sodded. This was the first replacement and upgrading of the field since the original sod was laid in 1978. First, all of the old grass was stripped from the field. Then, the grounds crew installed a new drainage system. Four trenches were dug and laid with 2,500 feet (760 m) of drainage pipe to carry water away from the field and beyond the center field wall. A layer of gravel was laid over the pipe, and a 4-to-6-inch (10 to 15 cm) layer of sand was placed above the gravel. After raising the level of the infield dirt and brick warning track to the same height of the new field, 100,000 square feet (9,300 m²) of Tifton 419 Bermuda Grass was installed on the field and edged into a baseball diamond configuration.
In the 2000s decade, following the construction of newer, relatively luxurious minor league ballparks, Greer has fallen below standards set for Triple-A stadiums by professional baseball. The aging stadium was not meant to last longer than 30 years, and has been the subject of many renovations to meet Triple-A standards. The Sounds had originally planned on leaving Greer for a new ballpark in the early 2000s decade. Opening day at the proposed new venue was repeatedly pushed back, eventually to as late as 2008. After years of the Sounds lobbying for a new park and threatening to leave town (either for the suburbs or a new city altogether), the Nashville Metro Council approved a new stadium on February 7, 2006. It was to be called First Tennessee Field and was planned for construction on the west bank of the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville, just 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Greer. However, the Sounds and private developers Struever Brothers, Eccles, & Rouse were unable to finalize financing and design plans for the new stadium by the April 15, 2007, deadline set by the Metro Council. As a result, the First Tennessee Field construction project was canceled.
Prior to the 2008 season, more than $1 million in upgrades and repairs were made to the stadium. The improvements, which included a new clubhouse, improved field lighting, and improvements to restrooms, walkways, and seating, were made in order to keep the stadium functional for another three to five years.
MFP Baseball, which purchased the Sounds in early 2009, invested over $2 million to make repairs and upgrades to the aging stadium's playing field, restrooms, concession stands, scoreboard, sound system, and seating. The infield was re-sodded and leveled, protective railing was installed along the edge of the field, and the backstop netting was replaced. The entire concourse and guitar scoreboard were repainted, broken seats were replaced, and Sluggers Sports Bar & Grill was remodeled. A permanent concert stage and a family fun zone were constructed by the concourse entrance.
In late 2013, the Sounds and the Nashville Metropolitan Government reached an agreement to build a new $37 million downtown ballpark in the same area as Sulphur Dell, the city's first ballpark. Construction on First Tennessee Park is tentatively scheduled to be completed in time for the start of the 2015 season. What will happen to Greer once the Sounds move to their new stadium is yet to be determined.
The Southern League All-Star Game was held twice at Greer Stadium, once in 1979 and again in 1983. In 1979, the All-Star team competed against the major league Atlanta Braves. The All-Stars defeated the Braves by a score of five to two. When the game returned to Nashville in 1983, the All-Star squad played against the hosting Nashville Sounds. The Sounds lost to the All-Stars by a score of three runs to two.
Greer played host to the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 14, 1994. Before a crowd of 11,601, and live television and radio audiences, the team of National League-affiliated (NL) All-Stars defeated the team of American League-affiliated (AL) All-Stars by a score of eight runs to five. Brad Woodall (NL – Richmond Braves) was the winning pitcher, Gary Buckels (NL – Louisville Redbirds) earned a save, and Kirt Ojala (AL – Columbus Clippers) was the losing pitcher. The "Stars of Stars," or Most Valuable Players, were Luis Lopez (International League – Richmond), Paul Faries (PCL – Phoenix Firebirds), and Ray Durham (American Association – Nashville).
Major league exhibitions
On April 16, 1981, the New York Yankees made a stop in Nashville to play an exhibition game against the Sounds. The 10–1 Yankees victory was played in front of a standing-room only crowd of 17,318 spectators. Some Yankees present at the game included owner George Steinbrenner, coach Yogi Berra, and players Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Lou Piniella, Bobby Murcer, Goose Gossage, Tommy John, and Johnny Oates. The Yankees returned for another game against the Sounds on April 28, 1983. Former Sound Don Mattingly, as well as Yankees manager Billy Martin and pitcher Goose Gossage were in attendance. The Sounds, who trailed the Yankees, 4–0, going into the bottom of the ninth inning, scored five runs to beat the Yankees, 5–4, before a crowd of 13,641.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays played an exhibition game at Greer on April 3, 1983. Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander was in attendance to watch the teams, which included players Ozzie Smith, George Hendrick, Rafael Santana, Keith Hernandez, Alfredo Griffin, former Sounds outfielder Willie McGee, and manager Bobby Cox. The Blue Jays defeated the Cardinals, 7–6, before a crowd of 13,742. On April 4–5, 1987, the Cincinnati Reds (managed by Pete Rose) and Montreal Expos played a two-game exhibition series at Greer. The first game ended with an 8–8 tie in the eleventh inning, but the Reds defeated the Expos, by a score of 5–3, in the second game of the series.
Three major league exhibitions were to take place at Greer prior to the 1988 season. On April 1, the Cincinnati Reds were scheduled to play against the Chicago White Sox, but the game was rained out. The White Sox were defeated by the Cleveland Indians, 8–6, on April 2. On April 3, the Pittsburgh Pirates won over the Indians by a score of 3–2. The Cincinnati Reds visited Nashville to play against the Sounds on April 23, 1990. A crowd of 14,012 witnessed the Reds defeat Nashville, 3–0. The Reds returned April 6, 1991, to face the Cleveland Indians, resulting in a 4–3 Cincinnati victory in 10 innings.
In March 1996, Greer hosted eight major league teams competing in five games in what was billed as the Nashville Baseball Classic. On March 28, the Chicago White Sox defeated the Texas Rangers by a score of 4–3. The Cleveland Indians won over the St. Louis Cardinals, 9-3, in a second game played the same day. March 29's doubleheader saw the White Sox defeat the Montreal Expos, 9–5, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7–4. On March 31, the Expos won over the Kansas City Royals, 3–1.
No-hitters and perfect games
Greer Stadium has been the setting for eight no-hit games, including one perfect game. The first took place on May 16, 1981, when Jeff Cornell, of the visiting Jacksonville Suns, pitched a 4–0 no-hit game against the Sounds. The second no-hitter at Greer was Jim Deshaies' 5–1 win over the Columbus Astros on May 4, 1984. In the second inning, Deshaies walked three batters and hit another, accounting for the only Astros run of the game, part of a seven-inning doubleheader. The third, a 6–0 win over the Oklahoma City 89ers, was thrown by Nashville's Bryan Kelly on July 17, 1985.
In a rare occurrence, the Sounds and the Indianapolis Indians exchanged no-hitters on back-to-back nights (August 6 and August 7, 1988). First, Indianapolis' Randy Johnson and Pat Pacillo combined for a no-hit loss against the Sounds, a 1–0 Nashville win. Nashville won when Lenny Harris walked to first base, stole second base and third base, and then came home, scoring on a groundout. The next night, Nashville's Jack Armstrong registered a no-hit game against the Indians, a 4–0 Sounds victory. This was the first time in American Association history that teams played in back-to-back no-hit games.
On April 7, 2003, John Wasdin tossed a perfect game at Greer in a 4–0 win over the Albuquerque Isotopes. This was only the second nine-inning perfect complete game in the 100-year history of the PCL. Wasdin threw 100 pitches, striking out 15 batters. Later in the year, on August 2, Colorado Springs Sky Sox pitchers Chris Gissell (7 innings pitched (IP)) and Jesús Sánchez (2 IP) combined for a no-hit 3–0 win against Nashville. The most recent no-hit effort at Greer took place on July 15, 2006, when Nashville pitchers Carlos Villanueva (6 IP), Mike Meyers (2 IP), and Alec Zumwalt (1 IP) combined on a 2–0 win over the Memphis Redbirds.
|1||May 16, 1981||Jeff Cornell||Jacksonville Suns†||Nashville Sounds||4–0|
|2||May 4, 1984||Jim Deshaies||Columbus Astros||Nashville Sounds†||1–5|
|3||July 17, 1985||Bryan Kelly||Oklahoma City 89ers||Nashville Sounds†||0–6|
|4||August 6, 1988||Randy Johnson
|Indianapolis Indians‡||Nashville Sounds||0–1|
|5||August 7, 1988||Jack Armstrong||Indianapolis Indians||Nashville Sounds†||0–4|
|6||April 7, 2003||John Wasdin||Albuquerque Isotopes||Nashville Sounds†||0–4|
|7||August 2, 2003||Chris Gissell
|Colorado Springs Sky Sox†||Nashville Sounds||3–0|
|8||July 15, 2006||Carlos Villanueva
|Memphis Redbirds||Nashville Sounds†||0–2|
|(†) Pitched a no-hitter and won • (‡) Pitched a no-hitter and lost|
Other notable events
On May 5–6, 2006, Greer was the site of a game which tied the record for the longest game, in terms of innings played, in PCL history. The Sounds and the New Orleans Zephyrs competed in a 24-inning game, played over the course of two days, which lasted a total of eight hours and seven minutes. New Orleans defeated Nashville by a score of five runs to four. The record was originally set on June 8, 1909 in a game between the San Francisco Seals and Oakland Oaks. A few years later, on September 10, 1911, the record was tied by a contest between the Sacramento Solons and Portland Beavers. Seven PCL records were broken in the game, and three were tied.
In the early 1980s, Greer Stadium served as the home field for the Father Ryan High School football team. Father Ryan returned to playing at Greer from 2006 through 2008, before moving to a new school athletic complex for the 2009 season. Depending on the Sounds' schedule, some of the school's home games were held at the visiting school's field (with Father Ryan designated as the home team) or at other unused local high school fields. In the football configuration, the field runs along the first base line.
Until the 2011 opening of E. S. Rose Park, the Belmont Bruins baseball team played the majority of its season at Greer. When the Sounds' home schedule prohibited its use, Belmont's games were played at Nashville's Shelby Park.
Greer has been the site of the City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge since 1991. Two teams of country music stars participate in the game, from which proceeds go toward research and treatment of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Past participants include Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans, Montgomery Gentry, and Phil Vassar. As of the 2008 event, more than $1.5 million has been raised.
From 2001 to 2011, Greer was home to the Jeff Fisher & Friends Charity Softball Game. Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and players from the team, past and present, competed in order to benefit local charities. Titans participants included Vince Young, Steve McNair, Eddie George, Frank Wycheck, Rob Bironas, and Keith Bulluck, among others. Tomáš Vokoun and head coach Barry Trotz of the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators have also taken part.
In 2002, the music video for Steve Earle's "Some Dreams", a song featured in the motion picture The Rookie, was filmed at Greer. The video, intercut with clips from the film, shows Earle and his band performing the song on the empty ballpark's field.
Greer's distinctive guitar-shaped scoreboard was manufactured by the Fairtron Corporation and installed by the Joslin Sign Company prior to the 1993 season. It is painted black with red, yellow, and white trim, and is located behind the outfield wall in left-center field.
The line score is displayed on the guitar's neck, while the ball/strike/out count, the batter's uniform number, and the hit/error indicator are all situated on the headstock. Six small advertising signs represent the tuning keys. The body of the guitar currently features only an LED display board for displaying messages. Initially, the scoreboard featured two matrix message boards: a low-resolution color board on the left which featured advertising and animations, and a white-light monochromatic board on the right, which primarily featured statistical information and other text-based messages. The monochrome board was replaced by an orange-tinted LED display board in 2009 which served both purposes, while the color board was deactivated and covered with advertising signage. The Greer Stadium scoreboard has never had the ability to display video or any kind of high-resolution images. Between the two boards are an analog clock and a current temperature display. As of 2014, the temperature display is no longer active. Around the boards are four large spaces for advertising; the two on top are static, and the two on bottom rotate between three images each (the rotating spaces have been covered with static signage since 2009). High-tension nets cover the electronic sections to protect them from home run balls. Above the board is a circular advertising space. This space originally displayed the team's guitar-swinger logo, and at times has displayed other Sounds logos. Originally, when a home run was hit, the guitar-swinger logo would light up and perimeter lights around the entire scoreboard would begin flashing; it was also capable of shooting fireworks after each Sounds home run. By the mid-2000s, the scoreboard had fallen into a state of disrepair and obsolescence, and was only marginally functional. Many of the lights were no longer able to be lit, and replacement parts were becoming hard to find. When MFP Baseball purchased the team in late 2008, the organization made minor renovations to the scoreboard, rendering it once again fully functional, although not to its original specifications. It was also repainted black, red, yellow, and white over its original red, white, and blue color scheme to reflect the team's present colors.
The entire scoreboard measures 115.6 feet (35.2 m) across, 53 feet (16 m) high, and 2 feet (0.61 m) deep. Individual components of the guitar are as follows: 60-foot (18 m) body, 36-foot (11 m) neck, and 19.6-foot (6.0 m) tuning key section. It is installed approximately 80 feet (24 m) above the ground. It takes 243,155 watts to power its 8,179 total lamps, which are connected to 64,169 feet (19,559 m) of wire. The entire display weighs 35,825 pounds (16,250 kg).
Greer Stadium's guitar scoreboard will not be moved to First Tennessee Park. Instead, the Sounds organization is opting to install a larger, more modern version, capable of displaying high-definition video. The first design renderings of First Tennessee Park did not feature a guitar scoreboard. On April 22, 2014, at the announcement of First Tennessee's naming rights agreement, Sounds owner Frank Ward told The Tennessean: "The guitar scoreboard at Greer is staying at Greer. At some point in time we will share what our new scoreboard will look like, but it's too early in the process. We're trying to figure it out as we speak." Two months later, on June 20, 2014, Ward announced that a new guitar scoreboard would indeed be constructed, citing overwhelming demand from the community.
The stadium's original scoreboard was a black, non-descript, rectangular unit with a two line reader panel. In 1985, it was moved to beside the left field foul pole to make room for a new rectangular 4-line scoreboard 10 feet (3 m) high with a fully animated reader panel. The original unit was then used as an out-of-town scoreboard, displaying the scores of other baseball games. When the guitar display was installed in 1993, the original scoreboard was removed and replaced by the second scoreboard, which became the new out-of-town board. As of 2014, the out-of-town scoreboard is no longer in use, but remains installed in the park, although it has been used only as a support for additional signage since 2008.
Seating at the ballpark includes fixed stadium seats, general admission bleachers, some with contoured seats, and eighteen skyboxes located on the third floor. As of 2014, total seating capacity is 10,300. Games can be watched from one of four picnic areas—one behind home plate, one on the third base line, one in the third base stands, and one beyond the right field wall. A rentable hot tub deck is located in the right field corner. There is a concert stage and family fun zone located on The Plaza inside the concourse entrance.
Several concession stands and cart vendors are located on the concourse. The stadium is home to a full service restaurant, Sluggers Sports Bar and Grill, which is located on the fourth floor. Open during all Sounds home dates, games can be viewed from the restaurant via windows overlooking the field.
- Any thrown ball hitting any portion of the fence or screen behind home plate is in play.
- Any thrown ball hitting the dugout railing, netting, or foundation and rebounding onto the field is in play.
- Any fairly batted or thrown ball that goes into the dugout or dugout camera well or strikes equipment on the dugout steps is out of play.
- Any fairly batted or thrown ball stuck in the pads behind home plate or in foul territory is in play.
- Both bullpens are in play. Pitchers in the bullpen must allow opposing players to attempt to make a catch or play when the ball is in or near the bullpen.
- Players may lean on the tarp by the third base line, but may not use it as a source of elevation.
- Any batted ball hitting a foul pole above the fence line is a home run.
- Any ball striking the upper section (above the yellow line) of the two-tiered outfield wall on the fly is a home run, regardless of whether or not the ball re-enters the playing field.
- Any bouncing ball striking the upper section of the wall is a ground rule double, regardless of whether or not the ball re-enters the playing field
- Any ball hitting the center field batter's eye at any height remains in play.
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