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Jim Hardin – 1973 Topps #124

James Warren Hardin(August 6, 1943–March 9, 1991) was a professional baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves from 1967 through 1973 and was a member of one of the best pitching staffs of the 1960s and 1970s that included Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Tom Phoebus, and Mike Cuellar. He earned a championship ring in the 1970 World Series and was part of the dominant 1969 American League champions who lost that year’s World Series to the “Miracle Mets.” An 18 game winner in 1968, Hardin pitched 4½ years with Baltimore, half of one season with the New York Yankees and one year with the Atlanta Braves. He finished his career with a record of 43-32 and a 3.19 ERA. As a starting pitcher he was an iron man, registering 28 complete games in 100 career starts – a rate rivaled by few contemporary pitchers and even fewer current starters. Hardin, a pilot, died on March 9, 1991 when his Beech 35-C33A crashed in Key West, Florida. Shortly after taking off from Key West International Airport the propeller of his aircraft failed from fatigue. The aircraft stalled and the plane crashed while Hardin attempted to return to the airport to make an emergency landing. It was widely reported that, during the plane’s descent, Hardin steered the plane away from a baseball field filled with young children. The plane came to rest in a parking lot of the TGI Fridays restaurant, which was under construction at the time. Hardin is one of three Yankees to lose their lives in aviation accidents; the other two are catcher Thurman Munson (1979) and Cory Lidle (2006). Hardin was survived by his wife and three children.

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