CLEVELAND - When someone brings up the topic of the Great Terminal Tower Softball Drop, the next words out of their mouth are something like, “It's amazing someone wasn't killed.”
On June 24, 1980 as part of the Terminal Tower’s 50th birthday celebration, local businessman Ted Stepien threw five softballs from an upper floor of what was then Cleveland’s tallest building.
Stepien owned a professional softball team, the Competitors, and had just purchased the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The object was to have one of his softball players catch a ball, re-creating an event from the downtown Cleveland landmark's past.
Forty two years earlier, two Cleveland Indians catchers caught baseballs thrown off the 708-foot-tall Cleveland skyscraper. The 1938 event was in an era when people tried to outdo each other by catching baseballs dropped from monuments and tall buildings all over the nation.
The softballs Stepien’s dropped in 1980 ended up making national news because two people were injured; one suffering a broken wrist, and a car was damaged.
Our video player contains a story filed by WEWS reporter Allen Davis. Davis recounts the events using Chopper 5 and ground level shots. We see spectators getting a very up-close look at the event, some wearing their baseball gloves.
The young lady with the broken wrist is seen with her "souvenir" ice bag.
Davis closes his story with an interview from the lucky softball player who caught the last of the five softballs dropped. A very impressive catch considering he was looking up into the sun at a small item hurtling at him at more than 100 miles per hour.
By the way, the one ball that didn't hit someone or something or wasn't caught was said to have bounced back up in the air 40 feet after hitting the pavement.
Next up, we see a segment from our 11 p.m. newscast. WEWS anchors Jeff Maynor and Ted Henry do a live interview with Stepien.
Stepien was joined on his live shot in front of downtown Cleveland Competitors Club by a Cavaliers ticket seller.
Stepien explains the organizers of the event asked him to take part in the softball drop because the Indians declined and he felt he was doing the organizers a favor.
Stepien says he should have been given time to practice. Ted Henry asks Stepien why he didn’t stop after the first person was injured. Stepien tells Ted he was given no way to communicate with anyone on the ground and wasn't aware anyone had been injured.