The University of Colorado, where Hardy was a star in three sports, said he died of complications from dementia. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Hardy continued to play professional baseball and football after playing in track and field, baseball, and football in Colorado from 1951-55.
UC athletic director Rick George called Hardy “a true icon of the state. His list of accomplishments during his lifetime and the people he touched are truly second to none. We have lost a large Buffalo. ”
Hardy achieved a 10-letter record in the early 1950s. Honorable Mention All-American in 1953 and 1954, Hardy racked up 1,999 career yards averaging a whopping 6.87 yards per carry, which remains the best of school history among players with at least 60 races.
Hardy led the nation in the kickoff comeback average in 1952 and had six interceptions for the Buffaloes.
On the diamond, Hardy has been CU’s career batting average leader (.392), with 118 hits on 301 batting. He also had 15 homers, 80 RBIs, 107 runs scored and 45 stolen bases.
He has run a 9.8 in the 100 yards on an indoor track before.
Hardy was the 33rd pick in the 1955 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He averaged 28.2 yards per catch as a rookie, with 12 receptions for 338 yards and four touchdowns.
Prior to showing up to the 49ers camp, Hardy signed with the Cleveland Indians and played for their A-league team in Reading, PA. In 1956, he was hitting .365 in 21 games for the Indian Triple-A team in Indianapolis when he was ordered to report to the United States Army.
He returned to the Indians after his two-year period of military service. His major league career spanned a decade from 1958 to 1967, with stops in Cleveland, Boston, Houston and Minnesota.
Hardy was the only man to hit Red Sox icons Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
“I wish people would remember me for hitting 400 home runs and a .305 lifetime batting average, but I didn’t,” Hardy told the Denver Post. “But it doesn’t hurt to remember being the only man to ever knock for Ted Williams. ”
Hardy’s first major league home run was a three-point shot for the Indians to beat the White Sox in the bottom of the 11th in 1958. He was knocked out in place of Roger Maris.
Boston traded Hardy to the expanding Colt 45s in 1963, and he then joined the Twins, who sent him to their branch in Denver.
In his two-plus seasons with the Denver Bears, he began to spot the Denver Broncos part-time during the offseason.
This led to a 24-year stint with the Broncos in a variety of roles, including assistant ticket manager, scouting director, director of professional personnel, and assistant general manager.
He ended his major league career with a September call-up with the Twins in 1967, then turned full-time to football.
Hardy was credited with helping build Denver’s “Orange Crush” defense that led to the Broncos’ first Super Bowl appearance in 1977. This dominant defense included Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Louis Wright, Lyle Alzado, Otis Armstrong and Barney Chavous.
Hardy helped bring the Broncos’ 1986 and 1987 Super Bowl teams together before his retirement.
He was born in 1933 in Sturgis, South Dakota. He is survived by his wife of nearly 64 years, Janice Mitchell, his son Jay and his daughters Jill and Lisa.
With the coronavirus pandemic, funeral services will be reserved for family and a celebration of life will take place at a later date.