Video Vault: Karl Wallenda's 1974 walk across Cleveland Stadium on a wire

World-famous aerialists thrill Tribe fans

CLEVELAND - Karl Wallenda was 69 years old when he walked on a cable high above Cleveland Stadium.

The Indians lost to the Kansas City Royals 4-2 on May 31, 1974, but most fans stayed to watch the famous aerialist gingerly walk 570 feet from left field to right field.

An AP story said Wallenda was 125 feet above the field when he did a headstand.

What’s fascinating about watching Wallenda walk across the Stadium is our ability to hear him. WEWS news cameras put a wireless mic on him and Wallenda does a play-by-play of his daredevil performance.

The first 30 seconds of the film in our video player is Wallenda checking out the setup in a wind-blown drizzle. The baseball game that evening was delayed for a while by rain.

As Wallenda steps onto the wire that evening, three times he tells the crew on the ground holding the wire in place to "pull it tight."

"That wind starts up now, it’s pretty bad," he said. At 1:09 into the film, “It won’t be long now. We're almost near the middle," as he approaches the half-way point.

Wallenda has the presence of mind to continue to speak for the camera. "Often people ask me what I say, what I think. Well, the only thing is, I hope I make it. God is with me."

The crowd erupts as Wallenda stops, lies the pole on the cable and does a headstand.

"I made a headstand, but that pole is the lightest I ever had. I never worked with a pole like that. It’s very, very tricky."

Karl Wallenda met with the media afterward and had a martini.

In the background in the interview room, there are two posters of note: the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s “The Best Things In Life Are Here” poster and a “Beer Night” promotional poster. That 1974 beer night would become an infamous event in Cleveland history, as the Tribe would forfeit the game to the Rangers after drunken fans stormed the field.

But back to our hero.

Wallenda and his family members made more trips to our area. A later stunt involved Cleveland Stadium again, this time at half the height as before and using two family members, bicycles and a chair.

The final piece of videotape looks to have taken place as a female member of the family walked a wire at a local horse track. The track is not identified, but there is a ferris wheel can be seen in the background so it may be at a county fair.

Wallenda died four years after his first Cleveland Stadium walk on March 22, 1978. He fell while walking a wire between two towers of a hotel in Puerto Rico in high winds.

As a web extra, I've added a raw interview Wallenda did with WEWS sports anchor Paul Wilcox in 1972. Many of you may remember Wilcox as the longtime host of "Polka Varieties" on WEWS, but he did sports on many of our newscasts as well.

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