One night in the press box at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in August 1975, Cleveland Indians owner Ted Bonda said, “I can hit a 5-iron shot over the center field scoreboard from home plate.” He even offered to back the boast up with some legal tender — for charity, of course.
A total of $1,000 in bets were made that he couldn’t, including $25 from Cleveland Press writer Bob Sudyk, and the “Bonda blast” was on. At 9 a.m. on Aug. 19, 1975 (early, since the Indians would host the Texas Rangers that evening and Sudyk noted it was payday at the Press), Bonda stood at home plate with Charlie Sifford, who, after being the first Black golfer on the PGA Tour, had become the club pro that year at Sleepy Hollow Golf Course in Brecksville. Sifford, with his ever-present cigar and Panama hat, paced off the
distance 400 feet to the center field wall and said, “No way it can be done with a five.”
In front of a gallery estimated around 50 people — including stadium groundskeeper Harold Bossard and U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum — Bonda took six shots with his 5-iron at the 74-foot-high scoreboard, marked as 194 yards from home plate.
Sifford was able to clear the scoreboard using a three wood. Bonda was able to do so with a driver, but the closest he came with a five iron was hitting the fireworks box in the bleachers. That ball ricocheted over the scoreboard. “He claimed a moral victory and was booed,” Sudyk wrote.
When the Indians left Cleveland Municipal Stadium for good in 1993, no baseball player had ever hit a ball into the center field bleachers either.
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