Nashville is home to several sports teams, including the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and NHL’s Nashville Predators. Plus, the Nashville SC premiered in 2020. Nashville has also been home to minor league baseball since 1885. The Nashville Stars played in the city from the late 1930s to early ’50s. The city has more baseball hopes for an MLB team, to be named in honor of the Stars. Justin Timberlake, who grew up in Memphis, is all-in on the idea.
History of Nashville baseball
In 1884, Nashville formed the Nashville Americans, a team in the minors Southern League, first playing in 1885. The team’s home field was known as Sulphur Dell and subsequent minor league teams played there through 1963. The Dell was demolished in 1969. Over a decade later, Nashville saw another home baseball field, according to the MLB.
Herschel Greer Stadium was built on the grounds of Ft. Negley with the Nashville Sounds, a Double-A Southern League team, opening there in 1978. At the time, the Sounds were a Cincinnati Reds affiliate. Most recently, in 2019, the Sounds became a Texas Rangers Triple-A affiliate, playing in First Tennessee Park. For 2021, the Sounds have been invited by the Milwaukee Brewers to be a Triple-A affiliate. It’s currently awaiting approval.
From 1978 to 2019, more than 850 minor-league players from the Nashville Sounds moved up to the majors. Forty-five of them became major league All-Stars. During Sound’s history, the team retired two jerseys: No. 00, worn by outfielder Skeeter Barnes and No. 18, worn by first baseman Don Mattingly, currently the manager of the Miami Marlins. As with all pro baseball teams, Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 jersey is also retired there.
Nashville Negro League teams
The first Nashville Negro team formed in 1918. Called the Nashville Standard, the semi-pro team gained respect as a regional force in the South. Renamed the Elite Giants, its popularity continued to grow. An 8,000-seat stadium, Wilson Park, was built in 1929 in the heart of Nashville’s Black community. In 1930, the team became a part of the Negro National League, only for the league to disband the next year.
The league was renewed in 1933. But the Elite Giants returned for only two seasons before the failing economy forced them to move to Columbus at the end of 1934. The Nashville Stars formed in the late ’30s as a semi-pro team. In 1942, the team started play in the minors of the Negro Major Leagues. The Stars played in the Negro Southern League in 1951 for a year. Then, the league disbanded the following year.
The potential ‘Nashville Stars’ MLB team
The Music City Baseball group hopes the MLB will approve a new Nashville Stars team. Organizers want to name the team in honor of Negro League teams that played in the city before integration. Led by businessman John Loar, the idea has caught fire. Pitcher-turned-baseball-executive Dave Stewart, Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick all plan to participate.
In July, former MLB GM Dave Dombrowski became a consultant. In December, he became the Philadelphia Phillies‘ president of baseball operations. But he still believes in Nashville as a home for a new MLB team. USA Today article reports Dombrowski’s thoughts. He said, “Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future with expansion. They can’t give you any promises, but they think of Nashville as an up-and-coming baseball city.”
According to the article, “The goal is to present an official expansion proposal to MLB at the 2021 Winter Meetings in Nashville. MLB wants to eventually expand to 32 teams, but there are no current plans.” Enter Timberlake, who Loar courted with the idea. The singer could not refuse to invest in the potential team. After, the avid sports fan is already a minority owner in the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I am thrilled to be involved in the movement to bring Major League Baseball to the great state of Tennessee,” Timberlake said. “I believe in Music City Baseball’s vision of linking baseball and music in a unique way.” Dombrowski said elaborated:
“For us this is huge. I mean [Timberlake] is somebody that’s world-known, huge in the area and the region and the state. He supports baseball and all the other things that we stand for. Having someone like that involved speaks a lot for his interest in making this work and also gives us support in talking to other individuals of this ilk. It’s extremely important to us.”
Other musicians involved in the project include Darius Rucker, Luke Combs, and Kane Brown.