Each September, the base ball clubs of the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball gather at Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, to play for the championship of the state and the right to hold the Sulphur Dell Cup. It’s a Tennessee base ball tradition with roots extending back to at least 1867. In September of that year, the Holston Base Ball Club of Knoxville played for the “championship of the State” in a hotly contested, best-of-three series against the Mountain City Base Ball Club of Chattanooga.
The first mention of the championship series occurs in the September 5, 1867, Knoxville Daily Free Press and is an account of match one, played on Tuesday, September 3, 1867, in Chattanooga:
B.B.—The great match game at Chattanooga for the championship of the State, between the “Holston” club of this city, and the “Mountain City” club of Chattanooga, came off on Tuesday, and resulted in the defeat of the former by a score of 79 to 50. The Holston boys complain very much of the umpire, and do not hesitate to charge him with partiality in his judgments. They speak highly of the general treatment they received. The second in the match will be played at Knoxville on the 16th inst.:
Holston Base Ball Club
Runs Outs Williams, 2 b., 8 2 Putnam, 1 b., 7 2 Miner, p., 4 3 G. White, 2 b., 5 2 R. Armstrong, s. s., 5 3 A. White, c. f., 5 5 H. Armstrong, c., 9 1 Homer, l. f., 4 4 Cleage, r. f., 5 4 Total 50 27
Flies caught 2; R. Armstrong, 1, F. Armstrong, 1. Fouls caught 15; F. Armstrong, 4, Williams. 5, A- White, 4, G. White, 1, Cleage, 1. Passed balls, 22. Home Runs, 2: Williams 1, Clenge 1.
Mountain City Base Ball Club
Runs Outs Wilber, c. f., 13 0 Lowry, p., 9 3 Blakely, 1 b., 11 2 McCraeklin, c., 8 5 Sherman, l. f., 8 4 Johnson, 2 b., 6 2 Marfett, 3 b., 7 6 Brown, s. s., 8 2 Ross, r. f., 8 3 Total 79 27
Flies caught, 5: Johnson, 3, McCracklin, 1, Brown, 1. Fouls caught, 12: McCracklin, 8, Wilber, 4. Passed balls, 10. Home Runs 4: Wilber 2, Blakely 2.
Time, 4 hours.
Umpire, Charles C. Siegfrid.
Scorers, H. L. W. French, Holston; J. J. Lynch, Mountain City.
This is the first game for the championship of the State. The second game to be played in Knoxville.
The Holstons 29-run loss stung for 13 days until match two came off on Monday, September 13, 1867, in Knoxville; the recounting of this match appeared in the September 18, 1867, edition of The Knoxville Whig:
Base Ball.—The lovers of the national game had quite a lively time in our city last week. Some time ago a match game for the championship of the State was agreed upon between the Mountain City Club of Chattanooga, and the Holston Club of Knoxville. The first of three games was played at Chattanooga, in which the Mountain City was victorious. The game here was the second of three, and resulted in favor of the Holston by a score of 52 to 31. The final game will come off at Cleveland or Chattanooga in a short time.
On Friday night a concert was given to the Mountain City boys at the Lamar House, which is spoken of as quite a success. They were escorted to town on their arrival here on Friday morning by the different clubs of this city in full uniform, headed by the Knoxville Brass Band, and were entertained at the Bell House during their sojourn here. On Saturday a match game came off between the Knoxville and City Clubs of this place, in which the city club was victorious.
Tied at one match a piece, the Holston Base Ball Club and the Mountain City Base Ball Club played the decisive game at a neutral site in Athens, Tennessee, on Saturday, September 21, 1867. With little fanfare and withholding the score of the final match, The Knoxville Whig made the following announcement on September 25, 1867:
The Holston Base Ball Club Victorious.—The third of the match games between the Mountain City Club of Chattanooga, and the Holston Club of Knoxville, was played at Athens on Saturday last, in which the Holston were the victors, and is now the champion club of the State. Three cheers and a “tiger” for the Holston.
Indeed, three cheers and a tiger! It’s a cheer that resounded in Tennessee in the late-1860s, and if you listen closely, it still echoes each September on the fields of Carnton Plantation, as communities from across the state root on their favorite clubs in the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball’s Sulphur Dell Tournament!