Babe Ruth Homers at Swayne Field
For more than a century, Toledo baseball fans enjoyed exhibition contests that featured big league names and even bigger home runs. My favorite exhibition story involves the mighty New York Yankees playing a game against the Mud Hens on Sept. 13, 1928, at Toledo's Swayne Field. Thanks to the Local History Department at Main Library, I was able to reference the newspaper archive and review articles about the game from The Toledo Blade, The Toledo Times, and The Toledo News-Bee.
Prior to the game, the Babe autographed 50 baseballs and threw them out to kids in the stands. The 7,131 fans who paid to witness the 3 p.m. game were not disappointed, as the Hens out hit the Yankees fourteen to thirteen and played a very respectable game. In fact, going into the fourth inning, the Mud Hens had roughed up their former teammate Rosy Ryan with a run in each of the first three innings to take a three to one lead.
But reality set in when Lou Gehrig, the Yankee’s regular first baseman, who was playing right field so Ruth could cover first, led off a home run display with a bases empty homer over the right field fence onto Detroit Avenue. Not to be outdone, Ruth, known as the “Sultan of Swat,” and who earlier slammed a home run over the center-field bleachers and another off a high sign over the stands during batting practice, stepped up and smoked a mammoth bomb that Kenneth Conn, the Toledo News-Bee Sports Editor described as going...
“...clear over Detroit Avenue and up on the front porch of a house on the far side of the street.”
The Yankees went on to take a four to three lead in the fourth but the Mud Hens kept it close. The Hens rallied in the ninth inning, but came up short, and lost by two runs. The final score was 8-6, which probably thrilled the colorful Mud Hens manager, Casey Stengel.
Sadly, the day when major league clubs played exhibitions with Triple-A ball teams are long gone. The first collective bargaining agreement in 1968 limited teams to three in-season exhibitions per year and, by 2002, they were banned altogether.