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Site updated 10-23-09
A Brief History of Sulphur Dell
"Sulphur Springs Bottom" was the name given to Nashville's recreational area after
the city became Tennessee's capitol. During the Civil War, Union soldiers first taught Nashville citizens how to play the "northern game" of baseball there. In 1870 the area
was referred to as Athletic Park, and in 1885 it became the home of Nashville's first professional baseball team, the Americans, in the newly-formed Southern League.
Located in north Nashville near downtown and bordered by Fourth Ave., Fifth Ave., Jackson St., and a railroad spur, the park was so named because a natural sulphur
spring was nearby. Residents would fill empty containers with the odorous liquid to
use for medicinal purposes, or just take a drink right from the spring.
Grantland Rice re-named the ballpark "Sulphur Dell" in 1908 while working as a newspaper reporter in Nashville.
Sulphur Dell had these unusual outfield dimensions due to the shape of the city block
in which the ballpark was located:
The distance from the grandstands to first base was only 42 feet, and to third base
was 26 feet. But that was not all: the playing surface was below street level and
there was an embankment around the entire outfield that was part of the playing
The right field embankment began at 224 feet from home plate, rising at a 45-degree angle towards the fence, ending at 262 feet. The right fielder, if standing at the
base of the fence, was 22 1/2 feet above the infield! The embankment in left field
began at 301 feet from home plate.
The outfield fence was made of wood and was 16 feet high. The fence ran from the
right field foul pole to a point 186 feet toward centerfield; there the fence was
capped by a screen that added an additional 30 feet of height but decreased to 22 1/2 feet high midway to center field. In later years the screen height remained the same, but a second tier of signage was added in right field.
In its 100-year existence, Nashville's professional baseball teams called Sulphur Dell 'home'; the Americans, Seraphs, Tigers, Vols, and Negro League Elite Giants all played at the famous ballpark. The Nashville Vols played their final game at Sulphur Dell on September 7, 1963 as a member of the South Atlantic League after 61 years in the Southern Association from 1901 through 1961.
Sulphur Dell was demolished in 1969.