Larry Schmittou

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Larry Schmittou
Born (1940-07-19) July 19, 1940 (age 74)
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Alma mater Peabody College
Occupation Entrepreneur, Vanderbilt Commodores baseball coach, Minor League Baseball owner/executive, Vice President of Marketing for the Texas Rangers (MLB)
Spouse(s) Shirley (1959–present)[1]

Larry Schmittou (born July 19, 1940) is an American entrepreneur and former baseball executive and coach. He currently owns S&S Family Entertainment LLC, which operates a chain of bowling centers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

Schmittou was the head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores, Vanderbilt University's baseball team, from 1968 to 1978. From 1978 to 1996, he owned several minor league baseball teams, beginning with the Nashville Sounds. He served as the Vice President of Marketing for the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball club from 1983 to 1986. In 2006, Schmittou was elected to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nashville Sports Council in 2011.

Early life[edit]

Larry Schmittou was born on July 19, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee, to parents Egbert and Jane Ann.[2] He was named for Larry Gilbert, manager of the Nashville Vols minor league baseball team from 1939 to 1948.[3] Schmittou was the youngest of five children.[2]

When he was a junior in high school, Schmittou began coaching youth baseball team for 9 to 12-year-old children.[4] Concurrently, he pitched on the Cohn High School baseball team.[5] After graduating, he enrolled at Peabody College, which is known for its teacher education program and was later merged with Vanderbilt University.[6] He continued to coach three youth baseball teams and play in a city league while attending Peabody.[7] By the end of his sandlot coaching career, Schmittou had over 500 wins, 20 city championships, 8 state championships, and 6 of his teams went to national tournaments.[7]

Schmittou was a teacher in the Nashville public school system from 1961 to 1968. He was originally hired and assigned to teach at Haywood Elementary, but not wanting to teach at an elementary school without athletic programs, Schmittou instead accepted an offer to become the head coach of the football, basketball, and track teams at Bailey Junior High.[8] He remained at Bailey for three years before being hired as the head basketball coach at Goodlettsville High School.[9] Two-and-a-half years later, Schmittou left high school coaching for good. During this time, he had also worked for several years as a territorial scout for the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team.[10]

Vanderbilt Commodores coaching[edit]

In 1968, Schmittou became the head baseball coach and head football recruiter at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.[11] From 1971 to 1974, he led the team to win four consecutive Eastern Division Championships.[11] In 1973 and 1974, the teams also won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) title, and Schmittou earned the SEC Baseball Coach of the Year Award.[11] Through 11 years of coaching (1968–1978), Schmittou led his teams to a 306–252–1 (.548) overall record and a 98–98 (.500) SEC record.[11]

Minor league baseball[edit]

Greer's iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard, installed in 1993
The Nashville Sounds playing at Greer Stadium in 2008

Schmittou was inspired to get involved with minor league baseball when, in 1977, Chattanooga, Tennessee, acquired the Birmingham Barons, relocated the team, and renamed them the Chattanooga Lookouts.[12][13] He was told by multiple Major League Baseball teams that they would be willing to put a minor league affiliate in Nashville if he provided a suitable ballpark.[12]

After being told by a member of the Metro Board of Parks and Recreation that neither the Park Board or the city of Nashville would be willing to pay for such a park.[12] So, Schmittou, along with help from country music star Conway Twitty, put together a group of investors including other country stars Cal Smith, Larry Gatlin, Jerry Reed, and Richard Sterban (bass singer of the Oak Ridge Boys) in order to purchase a minor league baseball team.[14] The Metro Parks Board agreed to lease to Schmittou the site of Nashville's former softball fields on the grounds of Fort Negley, an American Civil War fortification, approximately two miles (3 km) south of downtown, for a period of 20 years as long he built a stadium with a minimum capacity of 6,500 at a cost of at least $400,000 within 10 years.[15] In the second ten years, he would be required to pay the city seven percent of the team's total revenue.[15]

The projected construction cost of the stadium was between $300,000 and $500,000;[16] but the actual cost was over $1 million.[16] 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.[16] The ballpark, Herschel Greer 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.[17]

He called the team the Nashville Sounds. They were an expansion team in the Double-A Southern League and were affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds.[18] During the first year of play, the Sounds drew in 380,159 fans, leading the league in attendance.[19] The Sounds would be a major draw for years to come, drawing over 500,000 people from 1979 to 1982.[20] Their success has been attributed to Schmittou's business philosophy of selling tickets at low prices and making profits from souvenirs, concessions, etc.[21] In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded the Sporting News Double-A and Southern League "Executive of the Year" awards in 1978 and 1981 and the Triple-A Sporting News "Executive of the Year" award in 1989.[22] In 2006, Schmittou was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.[22] He was awarded the Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nashville Sports Council in 2011.[23]

In 1984, Schmittou and team owners arrived at terms to purchase the Evansville Triplets of the Triple-A American Association, and moved the franchise from Evansville, Indiana, to Nashville for the 1985 season.[24] Nashville's existing Southern League franchise was moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where it became the Huntsville Stars. The Triplets' legacy was retired, and the team was moved to Nashville. The Triple-A Sounds carried on the history of the Double-A team that preceded it. The Sounds joined the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1998. Schmittou tried, unsuccessfully, to land a National League franchise for Nashville when the league added two new teams in 1993.[25]

Schmittou also owned the Daytona Beach Islanders, Eugene Emeralds, Greensboro Hornets, Huntsville Stars, Salem Redbirds, Salt Lake City Gulls, Wichita Pilots/Wranglers, and Winston-Salem Spirits. By 1996, Schmittou had sold all of his baseball teams and retired from the professional baseball business.[26]

Strike & Spare Family Fun Center LLC[edit]

After leaving professional baseball, Schmittou formed Strike & Spare Family Fun Center LLC, which operates a chain of 16 bowling centers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, in August 2000.[27][28]

References[edit]

General
  • Woody, Larry (1996), Schmittou: A Grand Slam in Baseball, Business, And Life, Nashville: Eggmann Publishing Company, ISBN 1886371334 
Specific
  1. ^ "Woody". p. 78. 
  2. ^ a b "Woody". p. 15. 
  3. ^ "Woody". p. 18. 
  4. ^ "Woody". p. 25. 
  5. ^ "Woody". p. 16. 
  6. ^ "Woody". p. 27. 
  7. ^ a b "Woody". pp. 28–29. 
  8. ^ "Woody". p. 31. 
  9. ^ "Woody". p. 34. 
  10. ^ "Woody". p. 35. 
  11. ^ a b c d "2009 Vanderbilt Commodores Media Guide" (PDF). Vanderbilt University. 2009. p. 72. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c "Woody". pp. 60–63. 
  13. ^ "O'Neal". p. 157. 
  14. ^ "Woody". pp. 64–65. 
  15. ^ a b "Woody". p. 66. 
  16. ^ a b c Traughber, Bill (April 8, 2008). "Commodore History Corner: Q&A with Larry Schmittou". College Sports Television. Retrieved March 25, 2009. 
  17. ^ Nipper, Skip (2007). Baseball in Nashville. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-7385-4391-8. 
  18. ^ Weiss, Bill; Wright, Marshall. "Top 100 Teams". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  19. ^ "O'Neal". p. 159. 
  20. ^ "O'Neal". p. 285. 
  21. ^ "5 for 25: Stars in the Baseball America Universe". Baseball America. July 20, 2006. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b "Larry Schmittou". Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  23. ^ "13th Annual Pepsi Celebration of Champions Presented by Kroger Honors Greatest Achievements in Middle Tennessee Sports". Nashville Sports Council. March 9, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  24. ^ Schmittou, Larry (1985). "Message from the President". The Nashville Sounds 1985 Souvenir Program. p. 8. 
  25. ^ "Woody". pp. 122–126. 
  26. ^ "Woody". p. 98. 
  27. ^ "25 Emerging Companies". Nashville Post. December 1, 2002. Retrieved April 13, 2015. 
  28. ^ "SASTN LOCATIONS". Bing Maps. Microsoft. Retrieved April 13, 2015.