Harry “war horse” Rogers

Harry “war horse” Rogers

During the winter of 1938, a city employee by the name of Harry "War Horse" Rogers decided to have a get-together for everyone in Nashville who wanted to talk baseball. Little did he know that he was starting a tradition that would endure the war years and continue on a yearly basis for the past 79 years. Harry Rogers was a very humorous and jolly man. However, he took his baseball very seriously and was an excellent and successful sandlot manager for many years.

In order to have a good baseball gathering during the winter of 1938, Rogers prevailed upon Raymond Johnson, long-time sports editor of the Tennessean for help. Johnson ran several articles in the sports page about the meeting that was to be held at Shacklett's Restaurant. About 60 people showed up.

They went through a buffet line and then to a room upstairs. After eating, Rogers asked each person to tell a baseball story. With many professional players in attendance, it made for lovely evening. Some of the attendees that night along with Rogers and Johnson were Red Lucas, Robert "Pin Head" Link, Clydell Castleman, Raymond "Speedy" Oliver, J.F. "Junie" McBride, Albert "Heads" Merville, Johnny Boguskie, Hilry "Hots" Shaffer, A.B. "Treetop" Hill, T.G. "Shaky" Kain, Tom Malone, Tom Garrett, Harold Shyer, and Dan Lynch. Everyone had such a great time that a decision was made to elect officers and hold a banquet in the winter of 1939. At that time, the Old Timers Baseball Association was born.

Rogers was elected the first president. He held that office until his death in 1951. The term "Old Timers" evolved as the name of the newly formed association because that is what Johnson had called it in the newspaper. Many of the charter members of the Old Timers Association gave a great deal of credit to Johnson for keeping the organization alive and well in the early years.

After Rogers' death, Johnson accepted the presidency. Johnson served in this capacity for five years. He initiated the practice of having a well-known baseball figure being at each banquet as a guest speaker. Eddie Glennon was the first speaker in 1953. In 1957, local Chicago Cubs scout T.G. "Shaky" Kain was president. In 1959, local jeweler Harold Shyer became president. Albert "Heads" Mervillefollowed in 1961 and Johnny Boguskie in 1963. Boguskie attended 46 consecutive before his death in the winter of 1985. The 1985-1986 Old Timers Board of Directors served as honorary pallbearers.

Hilry "Hot" Shaffer took over in 1965, but because of increased job duties with the federal government, Shaffer stepped down after one year. J.F. "Junie" McBride came on as president in 1966 and served for three years. McBride played professionally and was a well-known amateur player and manager. Until his recent passing in the spring of 2009, Junie had attended all 71 Old Timers banquets. In 1969, George Leonard, sports writer for the Nashville Banner, took over the helm. Leonard was the person that started having a program written up for the banquet. He made sure the organization would always have a program as well as highly publicizing the event in his paper. Leonard would later be the sports editor in 1979-80 before his retirement from the Nashville Banner.

Well-known pharmacist Jack Mayfield became president in 1971, followed by former Nashville Vols professional player Harold "Buster" Boguskie. Buster was the son of the late Johnny Boguskie. Jimmy Miller became president in 1975. Jimmy is the son of the late Cleo Miller, a prominent physician that worked hard to keep the Nashville Vols alive and active in the community. In Miller's second year, the banquet was held downtown at Municipal Auditorium. In 1977, Raymond "Speedy" Oliver became president. Oliver was also the owner of Speedy's Grill, home of the 1952 banquet and site of board meetings from 1959-1983. The banquet was also moved back to the state fairgrounds in 1977.

James Harold Martin took over as president in 1979. Martin was a long-time outstanding amateur pitcher. In 1981 W.G. "Dub" Allenbecame president. Dub Allen had been a professional player and at the time of his taking office was a Nashville school teacher. Ray Cartwright, former sandlot manager and member of the Nashville Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, became president in 1983. Bill Stinnett, a prominent attorney in Nashville and former player and manager became president in 1985. Farrell Owens, former Nashville Sounds vice-president, became president in 1987.

Gene Smith, former New York Yankees minor leaguer, became president in 1989. Larry Taylor, former Cincinnati Reds minor leaguer that played second base for three years with the AA Nashville Vols, was named president in 1991. Jimmy Morrissey, a member of the Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, was named president from 1993-94. Jack Lavender, a well-known amateur baseball administrator on both the local and national level, was president from 1995-96. Bob Elliott became president in 1997. Elliott played professionally in the old St. Louis Browns organization and was later an outstanding amateur manager and administrator.

Mickey Hiter became president in 1999. Hiter was a catcher during his playing days at Antioch High School, Lipscomb University, and the sandlot Tri-State league. Currently, he is heavily involved in amateur baseball as a manager and administrator. Roy McDonald became president in 2001. McDonald was an outstanding athlete at Old West High School. He later went on to distinguish himself as an outstanding umpire, having worked many college playoff games as well as being local reserve umpire for the AAA Nashville Sounds.

In 2003 Elliott Jones became president. Jones was an All-Nashville baseball player while prepping at Montgomery Bell Academy. He was later an outstanding pitcher at Vanderbilt University. He is now a practicing attorney. In 2005, Rip Ryman, who was a Metro councilman for the 10th District in Goodlettsville, Tennessee became president. This East High School and Belmont University alum served as State Director for Dixie Youth Baseball from 1971-1997.

Former Boston Red Sox farmhand and Nashville city school MVP Gerald Montgomery took the president's helm in 2007. Local author ("Baseball in Nashville", Arcadia Publishing) and baseball historian Skip Nipper served as president for a two-year term ending with the 2010 Old Timers banquet.

Tommy Parker assumed the position of president for a two-year term in 2010. A graduate of Overton High School and the University of Tennessee, Tommy coached and sponsored local amateur teams for many years.  His teams had more than 1,000 wins, capturing 19 state titles and two world championships.

Former Metro councilman Jim Forkum took on the role of president in 2012.  Jim played at Antioch High School, Belmont University, and in amateur baseball in local Little League, Knot Hole, Babe Ruth, American Legion, Connie Mack, Larry Gilbert, and Tri-State leagues.  Jim is a graduate of Belmont and is retired from State Farm Insurance.

Bart Leathers began his two-year term as the Old Timer's president in 2014. As an integral coach, player, organizer, administrator, and encourager of the MTABA, in 2013 Bart was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame of Roy Hobbs Baseball, a national organization for adult baseball. He also has umpired in amateur leagues as well as high school, JUCO, NAIA, and NCAA games.

Founder and vice president of Equipment Finders, Inc., Russ Pyles assumed the position as president beginning in March 2016. A Cincinnati Reds fan, Russ is a Nashville Sounds season ticket holder, coaches and plays in local leagues, and is president of the Stratford High School Spartan Baseball Club.

Nick Hiter became president in 2018 and will serve a two-year term.

In the 80 consecutive years that the Old Timers have held their banquet, only twice has there been a postponement. In 1985 inclement weather caused a postponement from January 31 to February 21, and in 2003, snow forced the banquet to be moved back from January 17 to January 24. A major predicament occurred in 1999 when the scheduled guest speaker Ray Knight informed the banquet committee 48 hours before the banquet that because of illness in his family, he could not fulfill his obligation. Twenty-four hours later board member Nick Hunter secured former major league pitcher Rick Honeycutt and the Association did not miss a beat.

In 1976, women were invited to the banquet for the first time. In the year 1960, a woman asked long-time board member Albert "Heads" Merville why women were not admitted. His response was, "If we can get them to admit to being an old timer, we will admit them." Another "first" happened at the 1999 banquet. The Association gave four deserving high school seniors $2000 scholarships. Board members Bill Griggs, John Morgan, and Rip Ryman were instrumental in raising the funds through a golf tournament in the fall of 1998.

In 1984, board member Farrell Owens requested to put into writing a creed for the Old Timers. It reads, "To enjoy fellowship with baseball enthusiasts and to honor and support the great game of baseball at all levels." This creed was adopted as official. Of course, this is what the Old Timers have been doing since 1939.