As originally aired on The Rochester Press Box
Eight thousand, two-hundred and twenty-two (8,222). Is there a more absurd number? Yet there it is. Immortalized on the centerfield wall at Innovative Field where the Rochester Red Wings play their baseball games. Along with Joe Altobelli’s number 26 and Luke Easter’s 36, they are the three most important numbers in the 125-year history of the franchise.
As many of you know, but fewer each day, 8,222 represents the number of original Rochester shareholders who back in 1956, purchased the franchise from the St. Louis Cardinals. The stock drive, organized by local businessman Morrie Silver, raised most of the 500,000 dollars needed to keep the team in town. Silver himself made up the balance. It saved the Red Wings. Made Silver a local legend. And gave life to that absurd number.
That was 68 years ago. It isn’t easy to find any of those original shareholders. And it just got a little harder. Ed Blasko died last week. He was 93. Regulars at the games might remember him. Dressed wildly. A seemingly eccentric presence along the walkway on the third base side. There was more there than meets the eye. Blasko won a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award for co-developing a film processing system used on site by the movie industry. His statue was presented by Lloyd Bridges. Relocated in Rochester from Pennsylvania after serving in World War II, Blasko purchased ten shares in the Red Wings from the Eastman Savings and Loan. Not out of any sense of civic duty, he told me once. He was just a baseball fan who wanted to see the team stay in town. So next time you’re out at a ballgame and you notice that number on the centerfield wall, say a silent thanks to Ed Blasko, Morrie Silver and the other 8,220 local visionaries, who fought to keep the Red Wings in Rochester back in 1956.