Portrait of a Legend: The Hardy Boys

Roy and Mitch Hardy clutched the grips of their motorcycles and stared in horror at the oncoming car. It was careening from side to side on the narrow road.

“He’ll hit us! We’d better climb this hillside- and fast!” Roy exclaimed, as the boys brought their motorcycles to a screeching halt and leaped off.
“On the double!” Mitch cried out as they started up the steep embankment.

To their amazement, the reckless driver suddenly pulled his car hard to the right and turned into a side road on two wheels. The boys expected the car to turn over, but it held the dusty ground and sped off out of sight.

So began the short teenage sleuthing career of the two future Big Sky Hall of Famers, Roy and Mitch Hardy, as catalogued in their autobiographical work, The Tower Treasure, published under the pseudonym, Franklin Dixon.

The brothers’ father, Fenton Hardy, was a police detective in Pasadena, California until an unfortunate event involving two water buffalo, a stack of chocolate chip pancakes and the Mayor of Bakersfield forced him to resign in disgrace and move back to his home town of Troy Mills, Iowa. There he opened a private investigation firm and his two sons dreamed of following in his footsteps. They soon realized that baseball was way more lucrative and slightly less likely to get you shot (apologies to the estate of Kevin Fonda), but they never fully relinquished the dream

Roy was the elder of the two. A sinker ball artist, the peak of his career came after his trade to Pittsburgh during that incredible Season 7. Amidst the league-wide offensive outburst, highlighted by his teammate Dan Thompson’s 80 HRs, he managed an incredible line of 30-5 with a 2.35 ERA, and headlined the staff of one of the league’s all-time great teams.

The trade to Pittsburgh was a result of Roy’s insatiable curiosity. In fact, he was traded three times in his career and the impetus for each trade can be traced to Roy’s amateur sleuthing. As the initial draft choice of the Philadelphia Bell Busters in the Big Sky expansion draft, Roy soon discovered something rotten in the City of Brotherly Love. Allegations of the Liberty Bell being a fake and rampant drug use among the Philadelphia Eagle cheerleaders saw Roy shipped out of town in Season 2 and banished to the nowhere town of Milwaukee to play for the Butter Girls.

Roy actually solved minor crimes in the off-season, while combining with one of the truly great pitchers in league history, Rube Daniels, during the season. It was his association with Rube that led to him getting traded to Pittsburgh. Rube’s brother, Hayseed Daniels, was serving a 15 year sentence for grand larceny and felony assault. Roy would later say that a throw away comment Rube said about the incident sparked his curiosity. Never the one to let a mystery pass, Roy dug deeper into the incident. His investigation led to the arrests of the rest of Daniels’ siblings, brothers Hick, Yokel and Bumpkin and his sister, Cosmopolitan. It turns out that they were operating a theft and smuggling ring involving maple syrup and garlic flavored cheez-whiz. Rube barely avoided indictment when the police surprisingly dropped the investigation of him the day before the open of Season 7. Less than two months later, Roy was in Pittsburgh.

His three seasons in Pittsburgh were marked by both statistical dominance, including both of his Cy Young awards, and a running feud with megastar Dan Thompson. At first Thompson got along great with the star pitcher. It was not long, though, before Thompson referred to Roy as “that nosy little bitch.” It was Roy that uncovered the scandal involving Thompson, the three daughters of the Pride’s owners and a Jello sponsorship. After a two year odyssey involving several tons of fruit flavored gelatin, the scandal eventually led to Thompson’s move to Toledo, but it also led to Roy’s move to New Orleans.

The Big Easy and Roy Hardy were not a good match, as his natural inquisitiveness forced him to flee the city in fear of his life after one season. Scarred by his near death experience at the hands of a Voodoo priestess, Roy landed in Los Angeles, where he kept to himself and caused no trouble during his last two seasons before retiring.

Mitch Hardy was also a first round draft choice in the initial Big Sky expansion draft, but he landed in the ill-fated city of Burlington, a franchise that moved after one season to Detroit. It was in the Motor City that Mitch spent most of his career.

Unlike his brother, Mitch had a much quieter extra-curricular life, but this was in appearance only. Documents that surfaced after his untimely death show that Mitch worked hand in hand with the FBI to investigate and expose several high profile cases involving members of the Detroit Mafia, Ford Motor Company executives and drug-crazed Andorran ex-pats.

The case that sparked the most interest at the time was the unusual incident that involved the former Mayor of Bakersfield, California and the second in command of the most prominent Detroit crime family. Yes, the same Mayor of Bakersfield that caused Fenton Hardy to resign in disgrace. It retrospect it seems obvious that Mitch would be involved, especially when we consider the ongoing feud that would later erupt between him and the owner of the Toledo Black Sheep.

The case itself centered around a bizarre cult that worshipped Southeast Asian bovids. The cult erupted into the public awareness when they took hostages at a Lansing, Michigan IHOP and eventually killed themselves in an orgy of breakfast foods. The investigation led to the exposure of the former Mayor as some sort of high priest that had married the Mafia lieutenant to several water buffalo in a polygamist wedding. Apparently, Mitch went undercover in the cult but was exposed when it was revealed he had an allergy to Swedish pancakes.

Mitch’s proclivity for mysteries did not become public knowledge till after his retirement. It was then that the Big Sky league formed the notorious commission to look into the “Cartel Connection”, the band of Big Sky superstars that were allegedly using HGH and importing cocaine from Central America. Roy Hardy was also initially tabbed for the commission also, but at that point he was in hiding “from the horde of zombies looking for me.”

The commission investigated the affair for several seasons. During Season 20, Mitch Hardy had a high-profile quarrel with the owner of the Toledo Black Sheep. Allegations that certain members of the Toledo team were not just members of the ‘Cartel’ but also leaders of the group, had surfaced the previous season. The Toledo owner, long rumored to hold blackmail evidence involving several high ranking members of the Big Sky league and the US Government, objected strenuously. Only two seasons previous, Toledo and its owner and team were subject to the infamous scandal involving the bribing of players during the Season 14 World Series. Now, with this, the owner felt his franchise was again the target of malignant, unfounded rumors. In a fantastic televised interview, he went on the attack against the commissioners and even specifically called out Mitch Hardy, casting aspersions on not just him, but also fabricating allegations of contract murder by Fenton Hardy.

Mitch did not take this lying down and he released all the information that the commission had gathered during the previous two seasons. Damning evidence against several Hall of Fame players and more than a little evidence of collusion involving several Big Sky owners was laid open to the public. Hardy was quickly ejected from the commission and the remaining commissioners called the released information fabrications of a warped mind and the investigation was quickly ended with no repercussions to anyone involved.

Mitch Hardy died during Season 28 under suspicious circumstances. He was attending the wedding of his sister’s daughter in Ohio, when a large explosion blew up the hotel room where he was staying. Authorities quickly dismissed the death as accidental, saying there was a gas leak that was ignited when Mitch Hardy fell into a drug induced coma and one of the underage prostitutes he was with lit a cigarette. Oddly, there were no other bodies found in the wreckage and no drug paraphernalia were ever found. Detective Richard Lawson, a former Police Captain on the Toledo police force, claimed that everything except Mitch Hardy’s body must have been incinerated in the explosion.

As his last act, Mitch apparently wrote an email to his now reclusive brother, Roy. It ended poignantly. Mitch Hardy’s last words to anyone were “Why did I ever sign in Vancouver?”

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