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!

Stan Williams Escapes Baseball Card Purgatory

Not once, but twice, Topps gave Stan Williams its symbolic kiss of death.

The pitcher known as “Big Daddy” was shunned from 1966 and 1967 sets. The cardboard clairvoyants deemed the hurler unworthy of any Major League team. Granted, Williams toiled in the minors again, clouding memories of his earlier Dodgers success. His career faced a crossroads.

Stunningly, Williams reinvented himself as a gritty reliever. How? He explained in a letter:

“Re-invented Self: I injured my arm on one freak pitch. Slipped on rubber. My arm got progressively worse each year for 6-1/2 years. Three of those years home or in the minors. One day, I lifted my arm. Something ‘popped’ (hurt like crazy) — but suddenly my arm was sound again. within a month, I was back in Majors and stayed another seven years.


During that time, I both started and relieved. I loved to pitch and compete.


I pitched some of my better games after returning. One game, for Cleveland, I pitched all 13 innings and won, 2-1. I had 15 K’s including (9 for 9) versus two Hall-O-Famers: Luis Aparicio (5/5); Frank Robinson (4/4) (FB, CV, Slider, Spitter).”


[Yes, readers, Mr. Williams wrote Spitter, even underlining it in his letter! He continues…]

Another game against Baltimore, I won (1-0), 10 innings, 0 B.B., 12 K’s and drove in the only run, last of 10th.  After that game I was taken out of the rotation, as none of the other starters could pitch relief. (I still got in 194 innings, mostly as a reliever.)

Twice — Alvin Dark, mgr., brought me into games bases loaded, 3-0 on the hitters. I got out of it both times. No runs scored.

I am proud of never allowing a run in any post-season play, including one All-Star game; 2  World Series and my playoff games, both leagues.

SW”

When Slugging Stan Williams Outsmarted Sal "The Barber" Maglie

Pitchers don’t hit home runs every day. Stan Williams belted five as a Dodger. He savors one the most, writing:

“FAVORITE ‘HR’ (1st) — Off Sal Maglie (“The Barber”) — known for giving hitters close shaves. It was a night game in L.A. Very hot, due to the Santa Ana winds. I had a 3-run lead, top of 4th and got the first two men on base. I always worked slow, then, but was even slower and more deliberate. Must have taken 20-30 minutes to get the side out. Everyone was yelling ‘throw the ball’ (even my team). At least, they didn’t score. NOW — before I even get my jacket on — Maglie had two outs on 3 pitches. Now then had to wait on me again to take off the jacket and find my bat. Now at the plate, Maglie threw 2 curves, both strikes, then facing home plate, both hands in air, he called ‘time out.’

He then sat on the rubber (facing me), took off one shoe, dumped out the dirt, then repeated same with other shoe. (The crowd roared with laughter.) The next step was for him to threw me another CV for strike three.

When he was ready to pitch, I called time and got out of the box. Ready to pitch again, I stepped out again — now the smile had turned into a glaring snarl. I knew what was coming: the under-the-chin fastball. I opened up and blasted it about 450 feet. Had he thrown another CV, strike three.

Ironically, that made the score 4-0, but after running the bases full speed, I never got out of the fifth inning, so didn’t get the win.

(True story.)”


For fans who’ve never fathomed the demonic glee Maglie displayed on the mound, I’d suggest the book Sal Maglie: Baseball’s Demon Barber

Thanks to Mark Langill and the Los Angeles Dodgers for use of this rare 1960 portrait of Williams.

Tomorrow: Williams discusses his “reinvented self” and his arm’s mysterious recovery after a career-threatening injury.

When Slugging Stan Williams Outsmarted Sal “The Barber” Maglie

Pitchers don’t hit home runs every day. Stan Williams belted five as a Dodger. He savors one the most, writing:

“FAVORITE ‘HR’ (1st) — Off Sal Maglie (“The Barber”) — known for giving hitters close shaves. It was a night game in L.A. Very hot, due to the Santa Ana winds. I had a 3-run lead, top of 4th and got the first two men on base. I always worked slow, then, but was even slower and more deliberate. Must have taken 20-30 minutes to get the side out. Everyone was yelling ‘throw the ball’ (even my team). At least, they didn’t score. NOW — before I even get my jacket on — Maglie had two outs on 3 pitches. Now then had to wait on me again to take off the jacket and find my bat. Now at the plate, Maglie threw 2 curves, both strikes, then facing home plate, both hands in air, he called ‘time out.’

He then sat on the rubber (facing me), took off one shoe, dumped out the dirt, then repeated same with other shoe. (The crowd roared with laughter.) The next step was for him to threw me another CV for strike three.

When he was ready to pitch, I called time and got out of the box. Ready to pitch again, I stepped out again — now the smile had turned into a glaring snarl. I knew what was coming: the under-the-chin fastball. I opened up and blasted it about 450 feet. Had he thrown another CV, strike three.

Ironically, that made the score 4-0, but after running the bases full speed, I never got out of the fifth inning, so didn’t get the win.

(True story.)”


For fans who’ve never fathomed the demonic glee Maglie displayed on the mound, I’d suggest the book Sal Maglie: Baseball’s Demon Barber

Thanks to Mark Langill and the Los Angeles Dodgers for use of this rare 1960 portrait of Williams.

Tomorrow: Williams discusses his “reinvented self” and his arm’s mysterious recovery after a career-threatening injury.

Catching Pitcher Stan "Big Daddy" Williams

Pitcher Stan Williams proves my hunch.

Let’s see a current or former player convince us that fan reaction doesn’t matter. Did you see those Yankees in the pre-game introductions giggling over the boos from the California crowd? Everybody cares.

When I wrote to the fabled hurler, I began by quoting ESPN to him. Did he know he was part of their “All-Wired” team? How did he feel about the implication that he was a testosterone-driven maniac on the mound?

Williams responded with an amazing two-page reply, writing:

“Tom: you caught me at an extremely busy time. I’m back working again (Washington Nat’s), and I’m way behind getting my reports into the P.C. (Finally figured how to do it.)

‘MOST WIRED TEAM (ESPN) (1st heard of it): Please know baseball was an utterly different game then. We knocked down a lot of hitters, but just to gain an edge. We weren’t ‘head hunters.’ If some needed to be hit, you got him in the ribs or butt. We (I) didn’t need any extra runners on base. The Aaron story is true, but it was ‘tongue-in-cheek’ intimidation. Aaron was such a great hitter.”


The lesson from Coach Williams? Read up on the person you’re writing. Quote an article. Or quote the potential autograph signer back to himself. You might get more than a signature. You could land your own one-of-a-kind slice of baseball history.

Tomorrow: Stan belted five homers as a Dodger. He recounts his favorite blast, courtesy of Sal “The Barber” Maglie.

%d bloggers like this: