Murder Mystery at the Ballpark


Federal_Dyestuff_Location_with_Label_low_resolutionAccording to, on June 7, 1921, “The body of a slain girl is found at the Base Ball Grounds in Tennessee, the home of the Kingsport Indians. The scheduled Class D Appalachian League game against the Knoxville Pioneers is canceled to prevent the bloodhounds from becoming confused as police investigate the foul play in the ballpark.”

Curious, I needed to find out more. With a little digging, I found a few more details. On the morning of June 7, 1921, the business manager for the Kingsport Indians of the Class D Appalachian League found a young girl’s body under the bleachers at the stadium. The girl was later identified as Elsie Lawson; she was only 11 years old.

Police quickly identified a suspect. The 18-year old Uern Quillen was arrested for the girl’s murder. Witnesses had seen the two talking together on the night of the 6th, after that evening’s baseball game between Kingsport and Knoxville. When he was arrested, the shirt and shoes Quillen was wearing had blood on them. Later, footprints near the body were matched to Quillen. Quillen was tried, found guilty, and given a life sentence on October 3, 1921. He later admitted his guilt to his lawyer and other inmates.

The 1921 season was the first season for minor league baseball in Kingsport, TN. The Indians were an independent team in the Class D Appalachian League. The Indians would remain in Kingsport until the Appalachian League folded mid-season in 1925. The Appalachian League was revived in 1937 and again in 1957. Since 1963, the league has been a Rookie-level league. Today, there are 10 teams in the league, including the Kingsport Mets.

~ baseballrebecca