Pitcher Mike Hedlund’s Greatest 1971 Success: The Ultimate Veteran’s Day Story

An all-star patriot
from 1971

His 1972 Topps card doesn’t mention it. Oh, the seven complete games and one shutout from 1971 get a sentence, as well as being a 1963 Connie Mack All-Star.

However, I feel that Mike Hedlund’s greatest outing that year came off the field.

I wrote, and he responded with an epic memory:

“In 1971, the USO had tours to Vietnam with pro athletes. This tour had me, Bobby Bonds (Giants), Doc Ellis (Pirates), Mike Kilkenny (Tigers), Nick Colosi (National League umpire) and Jim Enright (Chicago Sun-Times reporter). We spent 2 weeks visiting mostly fire support bases in Vietnam.

It was quite an experience and I’m honored to have been able to do that. Our tour was to visit, talk and basically do whatever we could for those guys and morale.

Most of the soldiers we met were very secluded and sometimes we really had to work to get them to interact with us. It made me really appreciate the country and freedom we have in our country, thanks to the sacrifice our military men and women have made.”

Mike Hedlund is a joy to salute, too. He’s remained devoted to the fans and collectors, more than four decades after his last major league game.

I shared a story with Mike in my letter, too. I said goodbye to a cousin named Dustin Yancey this month in 2005, killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Not just on Veterans Day, I’m grateful to all the Dustins, and all the Mikes.

1969 Kansas City Royals Prankster Moe Drabowsky ‘Sparked’ Mike Hedlund

Do you smell smoke?

When the Baseball Hall of Fame opens a wing for pranksters, pitcher Moe Drabowsky will be a charter member.

I asked Mike Hedlund what he learned from his merry moundmate. Hedlund graced me with this tale:

“My favorite Moe Drabowsky story was in Kansas City in 1969. Moe was famous for giving ‘hot foots’ to many a ballplayer. On this particular day, we were in the bullpen, which had a long wooden bench that ran from end to end.

On this day, Moe talked me into getting under there and giving someone on the other end a ‘hot foot.’ Once I was on my belly and scooting down, Moe lit ME up!

Since I couldn’t get out quickly, it burned up a lot of my shoelaces. Good thing I didn’t have to get up to pitch that day!”

Coming Monday: Hedlund’s inspiring 1971 Vietnam visit to our troops.

Cleveland Indians Teen Pitcher Mike Hedlund Recalls 1965 Debut

Yea for the website
Baseball Birthdays
for preserving some
seldom-seen shots
of rookie Mike!

You know what life is like for the typical 18-year-old boy.

Driving a car. Graduating. Debuting on national television in Fenway Park.

Well, Mike Hedlund was never typical.

I wrote to ask about being a member of the Cleveland Indians right out of high school. Here’s his amazing answer:

“Being the youngest at age 18 was quite an experience! Max Alvis and Gary Bell are both from Texas and probably made me feel more welcome than the others. I guess it was the ‘Texas’ connection. Gary gave me my nickname, ‘Booger Red.’ Booger Red was a famous rodeo rider from Texas and had red hair.

Some pitchers like Don McMahon and Stan Williams were more of the senior type to me with lots of big league experience.

I didn’t play much that year (being a ‘protected player’ from waivers) but will always remember my first game in Boston, Saturday Game of the Week and my first batter I faced…Carl Yastrzemski. Ground out to first and I cover for the putout!”

Thanks to the stars at www.retrosheet.org, here’s the box score from young Mike’s premiere!

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