KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Lindsey Nelson Stadium has been a hub on the University of Tennessee’s campus this season. As fans continue to flock to and around the stadium Saturday afternoon as the Vols get set to play LSU in their first-ever Super Regional in Knoxville.
Lindsey Nelson is a legend. As Columbia, Tennessee native orange and white ran through his veins. His roots extend to Knoxville where he studied journalism at the University of Tennessee from 1937-41.
He got his start in broadcasting at Tennessee calling games for Vol football in 1948 and is credited with starting the Vol Radio Network in 1949.
“In fact, he’s the one who talked Coach Neyland at the time into starting the Vol Network,” said Ford. “Lindsey was a promoter of that, he thought everybody across the state outta’ hear Tennessee football.”
He also had a stint as the Sports Information Director at UT in 1951. While Nelson focused on his broadcasting career, he also was an Army press officer in World War II in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy.
“He got called back to active duty in June of that year, so he a deal where he had a couple of games and went into active duty then came back and went back to baseball,” said Ford.
Nelson broke into the big leagues broadcasting for the Liberty Broadcasting Network. A couple of years later, he began his 20-plus year run broadcasting nationally for networks including NBC, CBS, and ABC covering iconic sporting events including multiple World Series, the Masters, Cotton, Sugar and Rose Bowl.
“He worked with every network and not many announcers are able to do that, Lindsey is one that did, and I think to him that’s a tremendous compliment for a broadcaster,” said Ford.
Nelson was known for his simple yet signature moniker, “Hello, everybody, I’m Lindsey Nelson” accompanied by his colorful, eye-catching jackets he wore on air.
The “Voice of the Cotton Bowl,” Nelson’s work covering football on the college and NFL nationally made him into a household name, however, his passion lied with baseball. Nelson was the lead broadcaster for the New York Mets for 17 years alongside championship manager of the New York Yankees Casey Stengle.
“He was a good storyteller,” recalled Ford. “When you cover baseball, nine-inning games, and you’re talking in between, he’d tell all kinds of stories. He’d tell a lot of stories about different players, about Stengle, interviews, and things like that. When he’d tell them, it would be magical.”
Nelson’s broadcasting lengthy broadcasting career landed him in at least nine Halls of Fames across the country including the New York Mets Hall of Fame, Pro Football Hall of Fame and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
“In his day, he was one of the better ones, the best,” said Ford. “Verne Lundquist, he recalled, was a spotter for Lindsey Nelson at the Cotton Bowl one year. He had an impact on a lot of people in the broadcasting business and I think that was his legacy.”
When he retired from the microphone, he returned to Tennessee to pass along his knowledge and shape the future of the industry as an adjunct professor.
“He had a condo on Cherokee Buff and he could see the games being played at this [Lindsey Nelson] stadium form his condo. And he often talked about it, he knew we when we were playing baseball,” said Ford.
Nelson also garnered multiple accolades including earning the National Sportscaster of the Year award five times.
Tennessee baseball went to the College World Series Final in 1951, falling short to the Oklahoma Sooners as the runner-up. The Vols later returned to the World Series in 1995, the year Nelson passed away.
In 1992, Tennessee’s stadium underwent renovations, expanding the seating, stadium and revamping the ballpark. The University decided to have a groundbreaking and honored Nelson’s legacy by naming the stadium after one of their most distinguished alums.
“In 1995, after stadium had been re-done, we had a good team go to the College World Series. I know Lindsey was always enamored with the success that we had. He was certainly a true Volunteer.”
“I met Lindsey on several occasions, my boss at the time was Haywood Harris and Gus Manning and we went to Lindsey’s apartment. I was walking into his study and I couldn’t believe the amount of memorabilia that was there. He had a ball signed by Babe Ruth, he had Casey Stengel pictures, Harmon Killebrew, he had all types of memorabilia that was presented to him at different times that he collected. When I walked in there it was special.”Personal account of Lindsey Nelson from Bud Ford