SHOOTING’S CARROLL HARDY…
My shooting running mate Shawn Carpenter’s favorite sports teams, outside of rifle teams that is, are the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.
In fact, he is responsible for bringing me back to baseball after a toxic combination of Robert Moses and Walter O’Malley caused the Brooklyn Dodgers to decamp from the Borough of Churches to the City of Angels. After my ten year old heart was broken by the westward migration of the Dodgers baseball faded into the background. In its place I took up, of all things, following America’s Cup racing. I suspect my juvenile affectation was based on my infatuation with Goodyear Blimps which, at that time, were all namedafter the United States’ America’s Cup yachts.
The romantic in me was in awe of the majestic classic J Boats of the 1930s and the technophile in me was enamored of the sleek 12 meter boats of the 50s through 80s. When commercialism and professionalism entered America’s Cup sailing in the late 1980s my interest in sail racing waned.
It was then that Shawn came along and revived my interest in baseball. Living in southern New England there were three ball teams within a 150 mile radius, the Boston Red Sox, The New York Yankees, and the New York Metropolitans. I had to choose a team and it was easier than I thought.
I rejected the Mets because of team colors. As a Brooklyn fan I could live with Dodger Blue, but it was defiled by the black and orange of the much despised Giants. It then became an ethical decision. Simply put: did I want to root for the button down corporate machine which was the Yankees or did I want a soul? I became a Fenway Fanatic.
On top of that there were many Red Sox players that attracted me, such as Moe Berg. The journeyman catcher played in Boston from 1935 through 39 and stayed on as a coach in 1940 and 41. The Princeton and Columbia Law School graduate could speak seven languages but, as Senator outfielder Dave Harris remarked, “…he can’t hit in any of them.” Famed sportswriter John Kieran said that, “Moe was the most scholarly professional athlete I ever knew.” On the other hand, the wildly eccentric Casey Stengel, in a case of the pot calling the kettle black, remarked that, “Berg was the strangest man ever to play baseball.”
Red Sox Icon Ted Williams, the Lones Wigger of hitting, in his second year in Boston, hadn’t heard of Kieran or Stengel when he asked Berg what made hitters like Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth so special. Berg said, “…you are better than Gehrig, Ruth, or Jackson. When it comes to wrists you have the best.” If Berg was giving an honest evaluation or trying to build a young ballplayer’s confidence is debatable; what Williams went on to do with it is not.
Williams wanted to be known as the greatest hitter that ever hit and it would be hard to argue that he did not accomplish his goal. Harvard paleontologist and popular science writer Stephen Jay Gould called Williams’s 1941 season, in which he became the last ballplayer to hit .400, “the greatest achievement in 20th-century hitting” and “a lesson to all who value the best in human possibility.”
The last day of the1941 season began with Williams sitting on a .3995 average which would have rounded out to .400. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin gave him the choice of sitting out a double header and finishing the year with the rounded .400. Williams would have none of it insisting that if he was destined to hit .400 he would do it the right way and bat. He went six for eight in the two games and finished the season with a .406, the last player to do so.
Williams single minded focus on hitting caused him never to miss an at bat buton September 20, 1960, in the waning days of his Hall of Fame career, Williams stepped into the batter’s box at old Memorial Filed in the first inning and faced Orioles starter Hal “Skinny” Brown. Williams fouled the first pitch off his instep off his foot.
The Splendid Splinter was in such pain that he immediately hobbled off the field and into the club house. Manager Pinky Higgins called out to journeyman outfielder Carrol Hardy, ‘Hardy, get a bat; you’re the hitter.’ Just like that Hardy became the answer to a baseball trivia question: “Who is the only player ever to pinch hit for Williams?”
Fast forward to August 14, 2017. The US Roberts team was heading into the Army Shooting Club at Bisley Camp to attend a dinner in their honor hosted by The Perrymen, a British shooting club consisting of British shooters who have competed at Camp Perry, when NRA Liaison Toro Croft’s ‘phone beeped. It was an Email from Roberts Coach Lones Wigger with distressing news. Fighting cancer his doctors had advised him against making the trip and, after much soul searching, he had to agree.
Roberts officials had earlier made contingency plans for just such a situation. In the soft twilight of a late English summer evening the Roberts Adjutant beckoned Shawn Carpenter away from the crowd, placed his hand on his shoulder, quietly told him that Wigger was unable to attend, and that he was now the Roberts Team Coach.
Carpenter had become to Wigger what the Hardy was to Williams, a relative unknown replacing a legend. Pretty weighty, but still heady, stuff for a Red Sox and shooting fan. But, unlike Hardy who lined into a double play, Carpenter won the Roberts Trophy.