Two or three more Hardy boys would have been all right with Bingham fans, too, but nobody can accuse Alan Hardy of not making the most of what he has. A slender, rawboned man with slicked-back hair, the elder Hardy has a folksy, Gomer Pyle manner, yet is purposeful enough to have set out to make his firstborn son "the athlete I never was." He hit fly balls to Bruce for hours on end, organized a kids' football team for him to play on and put him through shooting drills on the backboard on their driveway. To sharpen his son's outside shot he used his welding tools to fit a smaller hoop inside the regulation rim, making it harder to score. "I read somewhere that Adolph Rupp recommended it," says Alan Hardy. The father demanded perfection of the son, harshly upbraiding him for striking out or dropping the ball. "If he's going to play, he should play right," Hardy said. "Besides, that's the only way he'll ever get to college." His wife intervened only occasionally. "Sometimes he was a bit rough," recalls Louann Hardy. "But I could see where it was paying off."
Looking back, Bruce agrees. "When clayed bad, I knew I was going to get when I got home," he says. "My father would yell at me, and I'd beg him leave me alone. Sometimes I'd cry, and my mom would, too. But it wasn't as bad it sounds. I'm glad he pushed me. Other guys had ability, but they never became good athletes because they weren't pushed."
As good as Alan Hardy's boy became, Bingham High did not completely shake its losing ways during his sophomore year, and Bruce, nicknamed "Super Soph," settled for all-region honors in every sport. For Bruce's junior year Foot-ill Coach Roy Whitworth installed a pro-type offense to take advantage of his quarterback's arm. Leading Bingham to a 5-4 record, its first winning season in eight years, Bruce threw for 1,409 yards id 20 touchdowns, including several bombs of 50 yards or more. On defense he played safety, leading the team in unassisted tackles and interceptions.
Next came the unexpected state baseball championship—Bruce averaged 21.6 for the season—and then, as night follows day, similar heroics in baseball. Bingham was 10-6 in Bruce's junior year and he hit .480 and played five different positions. He was the starting pitcher in 4-1 win over Morgan, striking out 12 in five innings before driving off to attend an all-state banquet. After a rival team stole nine bases against Bingham, Bruce told Coach Son Sudbury, "Let me catch. I can do better than that."
Sudbury agreed and his new catcher delivered. In a 2-1 loss at Tooele, witnessed by a Cincinnati Reds scout, Bruce threw out two men trying to steal. But he also went hitless, striking out twice against a pitcher the Reds signed for a fat bonus. Cincinnati's book on Hardy: "Tremendous arm but he's got to hit better." Angelo Cerroni, a local scout for the Oakland A's, admits to no reservations about Bruce's baseball potential, calling him "the best high school athlete I've seen in 20 years."
Lest The Adventures of Bruce Hardy
be confined to only three sports, Bruce took up tennis last spring for the first time "just for fun." He played a few times, then beat the No. 1 man on Bingham High's team in straight sets. While that embellished his reputation as a natural athlete, any trace of doubt about his competitiveness vanished when Bruce, playing volleyball in a coed gym class, became vexed by the indifferent efforts of the girls on his team. As he grumbled at the girls, one of them, a diminutive sophomore, assured herself a permanent place in the lore of Bingham High. "Damn it, Hardy," she snapped, "it's only a game."
There were similar tensions during football season last fall. Bingham's team was riddled by graduation, forcing Bruce to operate behind a small inexperienced line. In the opening game, a 28-6 loss to Brighton, he was repeatedly dropped for big losses. Doing some unaccustomed scrambling, he was intercepted five times. He had no time to get off long passes, and Whitworth wisely had him rely on flares and screens the rest of the year. But the receivers were also green—and the season became a nightmare of dropped passes and other misplays.
That Bingham still produced a 6-3-1 record is a tribute to Bruce. "We would have won two games without him," says Whitworth. Forced to run more, Bruce also kicked PATs and field goals and was ubiquitous on defense. But his passing statistics slipped to 14 TDs and 1,125 yards, and the frustrations got to him. "I dropped a pass in the end zone," says Wayde Groves, a split end. "Bruce was good and mad. He didn't say anything but in the huddle he just stood there hitting his hands together."
Conscious that college recruiters were looking on, Bruce was often unhappy with his own play as well. So was his father. Alan Hardy claims to have mellowed, saying, "My boys have become so good that I can't teach them much anymore." But Bruce's erratic performance in a 35-12 loss to Davis was too much for him. "You played pathetic!" he shouted when Bruce came home. "What college is going to want you?" Bruce left the house in tears.
But colleges did want him and Frank Kush and the other coaches who came to Bingham had the glint in their eyes of the prospectors who once arrived in quest of gold, silver and copper.