In 1908 baseball was the only game that mattered in the South. With no major league team in the region, rivalries between Southern Association cities such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, and New Orleans were heated. This season, however, no city was as baseball-crazed as Nashville, whose Vols had been league doormat in 1907.
After an unpromising start, the Nashville club clawed its way into contention during the month of July, rising into the upper division, then into a battle for first. Local interest intensified, as the competitive fire of Nashville fans was stoked by sharp-tongued columnist Grantland Rice and the city's three daily newspapers. By the time the Vols met the New Orleans Pelicans for a season-ending series, and the championship, the city was gripped by a pennant fever that shut down the commercial district. Nearly 13,000 people thronged the Nashville ballpark, Sulphur Dell, for the third and deciding contest. What they saw was described by Rice as "the greatest game ever played in Dixie."