Carroll Hardy, a reserve outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, was on the visitors’ bench in Baltimore late in the 1960 season when Ted Williams fouled a pitch off his right foot during his first at-bat against the Orioles. Hobbled, he left the field.
Carroll was told by Mike Higgins the Red Sox manager, to pinch-hit for Williams and proceeded to loft a soft line drive to the pitcher, Skinny Brown, who threw to first base for a double play.
It was an ordinary play in a forgettable season for the Red Sox, except for one detail. No one had ever pinch-hit for Ted.
Eight days later, when Ted hit a long home run in the last at-bat of the final game of his career, Carroll showed up in another cameo. After Higgins sent Ted out to left field in the top of the ninth inning, to soak up the fans’ cheers, Higgins sent Carroll out to replace him.
The fans booed him all the way out and cheered him all the way in. Those two episodes overshadowed Carroll's more substantial achievements as an athlete and, later, a football executive.
He was a football, baseball and track star at the University of Colorado, Boulder, then played one season in the NFL, in 1955, for the San Francisco 49ers. After finishing his baseball career in 1968, he became part of the front-office team that built the dominant Orange Crush defense that took the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl XII in 1978.
Carroll was born on May 18, 1933, in Sturgis, S.D. A gifted athlete with a square Dick Tracy jaw, he rushed for 1,999 yards as a halfback for the Colorado Buffaloes. His average of 6.87 yards a carry is still a school record for players with at least 60 carries.
In baseball, his .392 batting average remains Colorado’s all-time best. He also excelled at the 100-yard dash and the broad jump on the school’s indoor track team.
He was chosen by the 49ers in the third round of the 1955 NFL draft, but he also signed to play baseball with the Cleveland Indians. He joined the Indians’ minor league team in Reading, Pa., then, late in the season, left to play for the 49ers. Playing alongside the great quarterback Y.A. Tittle, Carroll caught 12 passes for 338 yards and scored four touchdowns that season.
It was a tough season physically because he sustained numerous injuries and returned to baseball in 1956, playing in Indianapolis for another Indian minor league team. Over the next dozen years he played for the Indians, Red Sox, Houston Colt .45s and Minnesota Twins.
He was traded to the Red Sox in June 1960 and got his chance to play over the rest of the season, batting .234 with a couple of home runs in 73 games. He was traded to Houston in December 1962 for Dick Williams.
Over eight seasons in the major leagues, Carroll had a career batting average of .225 with 17 home runs and 113 runs batted in.
Near the end of his baseball career, he started scouting for the Denver Broncos in the off-season and was named director of scouting the next year and later held roles in player personnel, including assistant general manager.
Carroll Hardy died on August 9, 2020 at a memory care center in Highlands Ranch, Colo. He was 87 and the cause was complications of dementia.