Early in the spring of 1994, there was plenty of excitement about the upcoming Cleveland Indians season. One of the biggest reasons is because of the opening of the brand new ballpark, Jacobs Field.

Stolen from a Mark Allen Facebook post long after I posted this story. (Photo courtesy of Greg Leary Photography)

I was working at 102ZOO in Ashtabula at the time and we had four tickets to give away to opening day. We usually came up with unique ways to give away valuable tickets and this contest was no exception.

So, late in March we had a contest to see who could stand in a frigid Lake Erie the longest at Geneva State Park Beach.

I’d say we had a couple of dozen or more nuts who would do almost anything for these tickets including standing in a lake that was thick ice only a couple short weeks before. They were to stand in the water up past their knees. The last one standing in the water was the winner.

We were being safe with our contestants. We had a couple EMTs on hand in wet suits. They were monitoring the contestants and disqualifying any they thought were in trouble.

Well. As usual. The Animals of 102ZOO didn’t take the determination of our listeners into account when we came up with this wacky idea.

Nearly 45 minutes later we had only a handful drop out. We were quickly discussing alternative rules because there was another problem arising. There was a huge thunderstorm coming in over the lake. You could see it. Dark clouds and lightning and it was coming our way.

So we decided to have me stand up on the beach about 100 feet away with the tickets held over my head. The first person to grab the tickets would be declared the winner.

Have you ever seen someone who has been standing in near freezing water for 45 minutes run on sand? It’s one the funniest damn things you’ll ever see. And not just one person, but at least a dozen. None of them could move their legs at first. Then to watch them struggle with the rising surf and the thick sand. Then finally they started thawing and started to gain momentum

Then I realized another thing we didn’t think about and had absolutely no time to discuss with anyone, That several wet, cold bodies were going to hit me simultaneously while trying to wrestle Indians tickets out of my hands.

I went down in a damp lump in the sand. Someone grabbed the tickets. I hope they didn’t get too wet.

That event inspired the Ohio Special Olympics to hold an annual Polar Bear Plunge there, and other Ashtabula County beaches for many years.