It was always a hot night in Sulphur Dell in the summer during baseball season. Larry Munson made me believe that I was in that hot wooden press box with him in that old salt lick that was now a minor league baseball park. My bed was on the back porch in west Nashville, not air conditioned, but at least screened. I had my Superhet radio tuned to WKDA for the game. Next to me were a quart of buttermilk and a box of Saltines.
Munson made every player a character to be remembered. He had stories and statistics and history that I remembered in exact detail. The boys of summer still past dreaming of going to the “the bigs“ were the likes of Elroy “Footsie‘’ Grantham, Bo “Buster“ Boguskie, Hal Jeffcoat, who actually made it to the Cubs as an outfielder and wound up as a pretty good pitcher. There was Charlie Workman, who could hit the the ball over the 267 foot fence with a 100ft screen onto the ice house behind right field, and Bama Ray who ran into the stands to help his wife when she had a seizure during a game. The list of talent was endless and Munson knew them all.
Only a few made it, but all were my idols. They were players for the Nashville Vols, today a little known and seldom remembered double A farm team of the Chicago Cubs.
You may think that they were unimportant and those careers didn’t matter much, but they one of the few ways that a poor Nashville boy got out of the weak life offered to him. Nope no TV. It wasn’t available. Movies? They cost 12 cents. That was 6 coke bottles, if you could find them and I looked. You could always sneak in after the last show started because the manager left the door open then.
I saw a lot of partial features, but enough to figure out what had happened before I got there.
When drive-ins came along, I had friends who just let me in. I hid in the trunk a lot of times. I never thought it was wrong. It was like climbing the fence at State Fair. I did that until was I married and well into my twenties.
When you are poor and frequently broke, you do what you have to get by.
So back to Munson and Sulphur Dell and Nashville baseball ----- Munson didn’t know me. I knew him. He broadcast away games through Western Union recreation. A tape that provided only the basics. “Ball one“ “Strike one“ etc. A 1 to 3 put out. That was pitcher to first base. Munson filled in the details from his imagination and with great embellishment. He even struck the mike with a pencil to simulate the sound of the crack of the bat. I thought that he was there. Either he was so good or I was so hungry for the details that I believed it all.
Larry Munson went on to cover Georgia football As I write this, he’s still out there and pretty much a legend. He will never know how much his play by plays meant to me. It was the only way I learned the great game of baseball.
“It’s a hot night in Sulphur Dell”