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CU Hall of Famer Carroll Hardy dead at 87

Hardy leaves a legacy of an outstanding one-of-a-kind athlete at CU

Denver Post Archives Denver Post via Getty Images

Former Colorado Buffaloes legend Carroll Hardy passed away due to complication with dementia on Sunday. He was 87.

A three-sport athlete in football, track and baseball, Hardy was the epitome a true student-athlete in the early 1950’s. He earned an honorable for All-American in 1953 and 1954 and was an all-Big Seven conference pick as a senior. The Sturgis, South Dakota native rushed for 1,999 career yards, which is still 20th all-time in CU history. Hardy’s 6.87 yards per carry is tops for any player at CU with 60 or more carries.

The late Fred Casotti, CU’s former sports information at the time, always had said he merited consideration for the Heisman Trophy in 1954, when Wisconsin’s Alan Ameche won it. Hardy outrushed Ameche by one yard that year (642-641), more than doubled his average per carry (9.2-4.4) and scored eight touchdowns to his zero.” He played in both the major senior bowls of the 50’s— the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl— earning outstanding player honors in the latter for the U.S. All-Stars with 138 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.

On the diamond, Hardy was CU’s all-time career batting average leader for 200 or more plate appearances (.392), twice batting over .400 including. He had 118 hits in 301 at bats, with 15 home runs, 80 runs batted in, 107 runs scored and 45 stolen bases.

A rare two-sport pro in both the NFL and MLB, he played with legends in both sports. Hardy was a third round selection (33rd overall) by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1955 NFL Draft. He enjoyed a solid rookie season, mainly as a receiver being a favorite target for Y.A. Tittle. He caught 12 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns in 1955 before moving on to pay baseball. He actually signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians and played on their A-league team in Reading, Pa., before reporting to camp with the 49ers that year.

According to CU’s obituary, “Hardy’s major league career spanned 10 years (1958-67), as he played for four different teams: Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox, Houston Colt 45’s and the Minnesota Twins. He owned a career batting average of .225 (251 hits in 1,117 at bats), with 17 home runs and 113 runs batted in.”

He goes down in history as the only man to ever pinch-hit for two legendary Red Sox, Ted Williams (the last player to hit .400) and Carl Yastrzemski. He also pinch-hit for Roger Maris when both were members of the Indians in 1958.

“Though those are iconic moments, he once said that his greatest moment in the sport came while a member of the Red Sox, when he hit a grand slam home run to defeat the club that traded him, Cleveland, 4-0 in 1962. He also had the distinguished honor of replacing Williams in left field in the final game of his career; Williams had homered earlier and took his position in the ninth inning. He was called back to the dugout so the fans could give him one final ovation as he passed Hardy on the way to the Red Sox dugout.”

After retiring from baseball, Hardy began scouting part-time for the American Football League’s Denver Broncos. He stayed on with the club for 24 years at different capacities, including director of scouting and director of pro personnel.

“As a pro football executive, he was often credited with helping to build Denver’s famous ‘Orange Crush’ defense that led to the team’s first AFC West Division title and Super Bowl appearance in the 1977 season. After his days with the Broncos, he also worked as a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs.” He spent nearly half of his life involved in professional sports.

Hardy was named to CU’s All-Century Football Team in 1989 when the school celebrated its 100th year of intercollegiate athletics. He was inducted into CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002, the Hall’s fourth class overall, as only two football players preceded him: Byron “Whizzer” White, the only member of the inaugural class in 1998, and William “Kayo” Lam the following year (also inducted in that class with football ties were Dick Anderson, Darian Hagan and Hale Irwin).