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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

When Toledo Dropped the Glass



Photos by Courtesy of Baseball in Toledo


The Toledo Mud Hens name is one of the most iconic brands in minor league baseball. The name has been used in Toledo since 1896, but there was a short 3-year stint where the baseball club went by the Toledo Sox. A very generic name and with no connection to parent clubs in Boston and Chicago – why did this happen?


The story begins with the Mud Hens moving to Charleston, West Virginia, and renamed the Senators in the middle of the 1952 season. It was the first switch in American Association league history. Mud Hens owner Danny Medenez bought the franchise a year earlier from the Detroit Tigers and operated it as an independent franchise. Medenez stated that he lost $67,000 while averaging 1,600 patrons at Swayne Field that season.


Opening night in Charleston attracted a standing-room crowd of 7,000 people at Watt Powell Park. The team attracted 42,059 fans for the first 9 games, outpacing what the Mud Hens attracted at Swayne Field in Toledo during 24 games. Toledo would be without baseball, but not for too long.


The Boston Braves announced they would relocate to Milwaukee in March 1953. It resulted in the minor league Milwaukee Brewers switching operations to Toledo. The city populace pledged $30,000 in advance ticket sales with a season gate goal of 150,000 fans.


Naturally, the team would continue the Mud Hens name, but the new ownership wanted to create fan interest and solicit their ideas. Surprisingly, a poll conducted by the Toledo Times resulted in 500 different nicknames from 7,500 entries with “Buckeyes” and “Braves” as favorites. 


Only three of the 751 tallies showed interest in retaining the Mud Hens moniker. A total of 55 names were chosen that included the following: Jets, Dons, Lakers, Papooses, Perrys, Padres, Swans, Barons, Owls, Zebras, Matadors, Wasps, Bees, Teals, Ceramics, Arrows, and Nu-Hens. A four-man committee was selected and it picked the Glass Sox as the official name. 


“Since Toledo is the glass center of the world and the word “sox” has long been identified with baseball, I believe the name is very appropriate,” said GM Red Smith.


The name was submitted by 25 people, with Fred Schultz being declared the winner. He added that his friends gave him a “good rubbing” for his selection. From the start, the name was controversial; petitions flooded the newspapers and radio offices to reconsider and pick a new name. The moniker Chiefs finished in second place and was favored by Toledo Blade editor Joe Knack. Manager Tommy Holmes indicated that he would not have voted for the name. 


A few didn’t care about the new name since they would continue referring to them as the Mud Hens. It did have one fan; pitcher Bob Chipman liked it, “They’ll be shouting, here comes the old glass arm of the Glass Sox.” 


It might sound odd that the new club decided to drop the Mud Hens name in favor of something new, but it had been done before in town. In 1916, and after a two-year hiatus, former major league and hometown native Roger Bresnahan purchased the club from the Cleveland Indians. Mud Hens won the name-the-team contest back then, but management went another route.


Two sportswriters began referring to the club as the Iron Men, leading one newspaper columnist to write, “it would be a shame to let them drop behind the rust during the coming season.” The name stuck around for a few years before the club returned to being identified as the Mud Hens in 1918.


Back to the Glass Sox, the city council objected to the commercialization and puns that may arise from the name. There was a proposal to select a committee to consider a change. Former mayor and councilman Ollie Czelusta said, “If the ballclub is satisfied with the name, maybe we ought to let it pass, but I think it stinks.”


A week later, Smith agreed with a fan dissident and held a vote at the ballpark to decide whether to change the name. He added that the committee chose the name fair and square, but “if the majority vote is yes, then the stage will be set up to learn what name a majority of what the fans want.



Photo from Baseball in Toledo


The public spoke, and on March 14, the Toledo Sox was selected as the new name, ending two weeks of the Glass Sox debacle. A statement by the club announced the following on the decision:


“The Glass Sox have been amputated, and the future Toledo would be known as the Toledo Sox.” 

The Sox would capture the 1953 American Association pennant but transferred to Wichita, Kansas, after the 1955 campaign. A group of Toledo businessmen had plans to purchase Swayne Field and modernize it for the following season. However, the ballpark was sold for $500,000 to Kroger supermarkets and transformed into a shopping center.




Photo from Baseball in Toledo

 

Baseball would be absent in the Toledo area until 1965 when Maumee Downs was converted from a race track and into Ned Skeldon Stadium. This time, management made the sound decision and picked up the Mud Hens name for their club, a name that has blossomed into a minor league merchandise juggernaut.


A small footnote to the Glass Sox name. In 1987 the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League was founded with six ball clubs including one named the Toledo Glass Sox. They played under that name until moving across city lines and renaming themselves the Sylvania Sox before playing one season and folding after the 1995 season. In a strange, and ironic way, history repeated itself in Toledo.


I guess they didn’t learn the first time.


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Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com 










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