Toledo Mud Hens
- Location: Toledo, OH
- League: Interstate League 1896-1900; Western Association 1901; American Association 1902-1913; Southern Michigan League 1914; American Association 1919-1955; International League 1965-2019; Triple-A East 2021; International League 2022-
- Affiliation: Cleveland Indians 1932-1933; St. Louis Browns 1936-1948; Detroit Tigers 1949-1951; Milwaukee Braves 1953-1955; New York Yankees 1965-1966; Detroit Tigers 1967-1973; Philadelphia Phillies 1974-1975; Cleveland Indians 1976-1977; Minnesota Twins 1978-1986; Detroit Tigers 1987-present
- Ballpark: Bay View Park 1896; Armory Park 1897-1908; Swayne Field 1909-1955; Ned Skeldon Stadium 1965-2001; Fifth Third Field 2002-present
The Toledo Mud Hens of the International League and briefly in Triple-A East, have a famous nickname that dates to the 19th Century. The Detroit Tigers farmhands play their home games at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, OH.
Slang for the duck-like American coot that lives around Lake Erie, "Mud Hens" caught on while Toledo blue laws had its baseball team playing its Sunday games in a swampy area frequented by the birds.
Today's Hens - once the minors' most-storied franchise, Jack Dunn's Baltimore Orioles - moved to the Toledo suburb of Maumee from Richmond, VA, in 1965. The then-New York Yankees affiliate began the fourth Toledo-Detroit affiliation in 1987 and now has the fifth longest partnership among teams without common ownership.
In the 1970s, TV's M*A*S*H turned "Mud Hens" into a household nickname by making CPL Max Klinger a big fan. Both Klinger portrayer Jamie Farr and Hens management have claimed credit for the idea. Klinger's Hens moved away during the Korean Conflict - coincidentally, a year after losing an affiliation with their current parent Tigers. The Milwaukee Brewers - bumped by their parent Boston Braves' move to Milwaukee, WI - replaced them in 1953, but as the Toledo Sox; they left after the 1955 season.
The name Mud Hens caught on as a nickname during the 1896 season. Due to the city of Toledo's Blue Laws, the team had to play its Sunday games at Bay View Park outside the city limits. Bay View Park was situated in a marsh that was heavily populated by the American coot. Coots were commonly known as Mud Hens, and the name stuck.
1902-1955: The American Association years
The Mud Hens joined Columbus, Louisville, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Paul as charter members of the minor league American Association in 1902. The American Association played at the highest level of minor league baseball, and in fact was for a time reckoned to be a major league. Competition within the AA was tough and Toledo did not fare well, winning only two pennants throughout these years. The Mud Hens did so poorly, in fact, that they finished in the bottom half of the league during 70% of these seasons. Toledo played in the American Association through the 1913 season. In 1914 team owner Charles Somers, who also owned the Cleveland Indians, moved the Mud Hens to Cleveland to keep the Federal League from locating a rival team there during his tribe's road trips. During this time, they played as the Cleveland Bearcats.
The club returned to Toledo in 1916, still in the Association but now called the Toledo Iron Men, from 1916 through 1918. The team was renamed the Toledo Mud Hens in 1919. Between 1916 and 1925, the Hens only broke .500 during the 1920 season. The club broke their slump in 1926 with the arrival of Casey Stengel. In 1927, Stengel assembled a veteran team that won the American Association pennant, and the only Junior World Series title in club history. Following the end of the Stengel era, a local businessman by the name of Waldo Shank bought the team and sold them to the Detroit Tigers.
In mid-season 1951, the Tigers sold the team. Halfway through the 1952 campaign, the team left for Charleston, WV. In 1953, the Braves moved their Milwaukee Brewers farm club to Toledo - filling the gap left by the Hens. The team was known as the Toledo Glass Sox (or Toledo Sox). The Sox won the American Association pennant in 1953. In 1956, the franchise moved to Wichita, KS, and Swayne Field was razed - except for part of one outfield wall. A remnant of the left-center field barrier, it is believed to be the first concrete wall ever erected for a U.S. baseball field. The ballpark was torn down to build Swayne Field Shopping Center, which remains on the site and so named today. The original center included what was then the largest Kroger store in the country.
Notable players during this era:
- Casey Stengel - Hall of fame
- Jim Thorpe
- Joe McCarthy - Hall of fame
- Fred Merkle
- Elmer Flick - Hall of Fame
- Dazzy Vance - Hall of Fame
- Hal Trosky
- Freddie Lindstrom - Hall of Fame
- Hack Wilson - Hall of Fame
- Freddie Lindstrom - Hall of Fame
- Bill Terry - Hall of Fame
- Roger Bresnahan - Hall of Fame
- Jocko Conlan - Hall of Fame
- Pete Gray - Major League Baseball's only one-armed position player
Carl "Ducky" Walinski, a local achondroplaisic teenager, was hired by the Mud Hens in 1925 at the age of 15. His duties - for 25 cents per day - included announcing games, running errands for players, cleaning and caring for uniforms, shoes, and the club house, as well as entertaining the crowds. Ducky later earned local fame by traveling from pub to pub on roller skates (often in the company of a goat) advertising Buckeye Beer. During this time, his nickname changed to "Bucky" in honor of the product he promoted.
1965-Present: The Modern Era
In 1965, the Richmond, VA franchise was purchased, and baseball returned to Toledo. The team revived the Mud Hens name, and found a new home in Ned Skeldon Stadium, a converted horse racing track on the Lucas County fair grounds. The new Mud Hens became the Triple-A franchise of the New York Yankees, and settled into the International League. In 1967, the Detroit Tigers replaced the Yankees as the parent organization, and the Mud Hens won the International League title and their first Governors' Cup.
1974 through 1977 were split between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cleveland Indians. In 1978, the Minnesota Twins took over as the Mud Hen's parent organization. They were featured on M*A*S*H, a popular TV series in the 1970s. Corporal Maxwell Klinger, played by Jamie Farr (both Klinger and Farr are from Toledo), wore a Mud Hens jersey or cap in many episodes, and the team was a frequent topic of conversation for the character. The success of the series brought the Toledo Mud Hens to international fame, and the Mud Hens made the playoffs three of nine seasons with the Twins. In 1987, the Mud Hens and Tigers reunited. The Hens remained at the bottom of the International league throughout the rest of their life at Ned Skeldon Stadium.
In 2002, a new stadium, Fifth Third Field was built in downtown Toledo. The stadium was named best minor league ball park in America by Newsweek that year, and the Mud Hens finished at the top of their division. Things only got better for the Mud Hens with the introduction of Larry Parrish as manager. In 2005 and 2006, the Toledo Mud Hens won back-to -back Governors' Cups. The Hens continue to break minor league attendance records as the most famous team in Minor League Baseball.
Notable Players from this era:
- Bobby Murcer
- Jim Bunning - Hall of Fame
- Greg "Boomer" Wells
- Willie Hernandez
- Kirk Gibson
- Kirby Puckett - Hall of Fame
- Craig Monroe
- Magglio Ordonez
- Joel Zumaya
- Brandon Inge
|1897||83-43||1st||Charles Strobel||none League Champs|
|1904||42-109||8th||Herman Long / John Burns / Billy Clingman||none|
|1905||60-91||7th||Michael J. Finn / Edward Grillo||none|
|1909||80-86||6th||Fred Abbott / Ralph Seybold||none|
|1910||91-75||2nd||James Holmes / Harry Hinchman||none|
|1913||69-98||6th||Topsy Hartsel (47-58) / Herman Bronkie (22-40)||none|
|1919||59-91||7th||Rollie Zeider (22-47) / Roger Bresnahan (37-44)||none|
|1921||80-88||7th||Bill Clymer (31-39) / Fred Luderus (49-49)||none|
|1922||65-101||7th||Fred Luderus (3-19) / Roger Bresnahan (0-2) / Al Wickland (15-3) / Possum Whitted (47-77)||none|
|1923||54-114||8th||Possum Whitted (33-63) / Bill Terry (21-51)||none|
|1927||101-67||1st||Casey Stengel||none League Champs|
|1933||70-83||5th (t)||Steve O'Neill|
|1937||89-65||2nd||Fred Haney||Lost in 1st round|
|1941||82-72||5th||Zack Taylor (27-25) / Fred Haney (55-47)|
|1942||78-73||4th||Fred Haney||Lost League Finals|
|1943||76-76||4th||Jack Fournier||Lost in 1st round|
|1944||95-58||2nd||Ollie Marquardt||Lost in 1st round|
|1946||69-84||6th||Don Gutteridge (33-54) / George DeTore (36-30)|
|1952||46-107||8th||Rollie Hemsley||--||Moved to Charleston June 23|
|1953||90-64||1st||Tommy Holmes (9-16) / George Selkirk (81-48) (May 16)||Lost League Finals|
- 1896 Inter-State League Champions
- 1897 Inter-State League Champions
- 1927 American Association Champions
- 1927 Junior World Series Champions
- 1953 American Association Champions
- 1967 Governors' Cup Champions
- 1968 International League Champions (lost Governors' Cup in playoffs)
- 2005 Governors' Cup Champions
- 2006 Governors' Cup Champions (Lost first Bricktown Showdown to Tucson Sidewinders)
- Ralph E. Lin Weber: The Toledo Basbell Guide of the Mud Hens, Baseball Research Bureau, Rossford, OH, 1944.
- John A. Husman: Baseball In Toledo, Arcadia Publishing, 2003