Herschel Greer Stadium, the former home of the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) has seen All-Star games, major league exhibition games, perfect games, and no-hitters, but it wasn’t enough to keep the 38-year-old ballpark open. The Sounds moved into First Tennessee Park following the 2014 season, and Greer Stadium has since fallen into disrepair.
On a recent trip to Nashville, a visit to the stadium revealed just how bad it has gotten over the years. The parking lots have thick, heavy, padlocked chains around the gates to keep everyone away from the area. The only way to get a really good look is to walk the trail at nearby Fort Negley. The concrete in the parking lot looks extremely weathered and the concrete grandstand is starting to crack in places.
Grass is growing up through the infield and the seats look faded. A faded spot on the grandstand reveals where a team logo used to be, and the famous guitar scoreboard looks like it will fall off the wall into the outfield any day now. The only reason the ballpark is still standing is because the city of Nashville doesn’t know what to do with it. It’s a sad sight to a ballpark that has seen its fair share of history.
Minor league baseball has been in Nashville for over 100 years. The first professional team was the Nashville Americans, who were charter members of the Southern League in 1885.
While the city hosted professional baseball intermittently during the 1800’s, it wasn’t long before a more permanent team was established when the Nashville Baseball Club was formed in 1901 and as one of the charter members of the Class B Southern Association. The club became a farm team for the Cleveland Indians in 1908 and the rest is history. The organization became known as the Nashville Vols and operated in Music City until 1963 where once again, financial problems caused the team to close up shop.
For 14 years, baseball operated elsewhere before Larry Schmittou, a successful baseball executive, joined forces with country music legends like Conway Twitty and Jerry Reed to build a new stadium and become shareholders in a newly-formed minor league team. Herschel-Greer Stadium opened in April 1978 and was named after the first Nashville Vols team president Herschel Lynn Greer.
It was a miracle opening day went as smoothly as it did. According to a 2005 article from Bill Traughber, the sod was laid the night before the game and tractors and grading machines were still at work on opening day. The game was delayed 30 minutes due to traffic problems around the stadium and the concession stands sold out before the end of the game. Despite the initial hiccups, the ballpark improved and the crowds came to watch quality baseball. The Nashville Sounds were a Double-A Southern League team up until the 1985 season, when it moved to Triple-A after Schmittou purchased the Evansville Triplets and moved them to Nashville. The Double-A franchise moved to Huntsville and became the Huntsville Stars.
For a brief time in the 1990’s, Greer Stadium was home to two minor league teams. The Southern League’s Nashville Xpress shared the ballpark with the Sounds for the 1993 and 1994 seasons, before moving to Wilmington, NC, their last temporary stop prior to becoming the Mobile BayBears in 1997.
Greer Stadium played host to multiple special events. It hosted two Southern League All-Star games, a Triple-A All-Star game, and exhibition games from several major league teams including the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, and Kansas City Royals. Eight no-hitters and one perfect game have been thrown at Greer Stadium and it was the setting for an epic two-day, 24-inning game where the Sounds did battle against the New Orleans Zephyrs and broke seven different Pacific Coast League records. It’s hosted celebrity softball games, high school football games, and has featured in music videos including Steve Earle’s “Some Dreams” video which was featured in the baseball movie The Rookie.
But sadly, all good things must come to an end and as the facility began to age, plans for a new ballpark were discussed. First Tennessee Park was built in downtown Nashville and opened in time for the 2015 season. Since then, Greer Stadium has remained vacant as the city of Nashville decides what to do with it. Ideas have been tossed around ranging from converting it to a professional soccer facility, a city park, a grocery store, an indoor tennis facility, and even being demolished.
So until then, Greer Stadium will be like the Fort Negley Civil War ruins next door to the ballpark: a site on the outskirts of Music City reminding Nashville of its past and awaiting its future.