The Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers start their regular seasons today; the Toledo Mud Hens open Friday. As a salute to baseball, this archived Blade photo captures a Toledo event at Swayne Field in July, 1939.
Eight thousand cheering fans attended the combined celebration of the centennial of baseball and the 20-year anniversary of the famous Willard-Dempsey heavyweight boxing match.
Toledo’s Vice Mayor John Q. Carey, at left, welcomed the crowd. Next to him is Virginia Vaughn, who presented flowers to the celebrities; boxer Tony Galento, who subbed for Jack Dempsey; Roger Bresnahan, one of Toledo’s greatest major league baseball stars; Cy Young, hall of fame pitcher; Jess Willard, who lost his boxing championship crown in Toledo, and Cleo Saville, who also presented flowers.
Born in Toledo in 1879, Bresnahan played ball for Toledo’s Central High School. He made his Major League Baseball debut in 1897 for the Washington Senators, and played for five other major league teams including the New York Giants, winners of the 1905 World Series. In 1916, he purchased Toledo’s baseball team and brought it back home from Cleveland. He was owner, manager, and player for the Toledo Iron Men, as the Mud Huns were known from 1916-18. They became the Hens again in 1919. Bresnahan died in 1944, and the following year became the second catcher to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Cy Young, also from Ohio, pitched in the major leagues for 21 years, and compiled a record 511 wins. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. One year after his death, the Cy Young Award was created to honor the season’s best pitchers.
The Willard-Dempsey fight took place in Toledo on a searing hot July 4, 1919. Willard was known for his ability to absorb tremendous punishment and was the heavyweight champion for four years. But after three rounds with Dempsey, Willard could not continue and lost his title. The Toledo match is still considered one of the most severe beatings ever in a championship bout.
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