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IM birthplace of baseball big leaguer

Former Kingsford Heights resident played for Indians, Pilots

November 16, 2012
By BURT ANGELI - Sports Writer , The Daily News

IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain can lay claim to a Major League Baseball player.

Actually, Kingsford Heights.

But Gordon (Gordy) Thomas Lund, with 23 games in the majors including a stint with the one-and-only 1969 Seattle Pilots, was born right here on Feb. 23, 1941. The son of Hugo and Irene Lund spent a few years in Kingsford Heights before leaving with his family for Chicago.

"My father worked at Ford and he got wind that the wood station wagons were on the way out and the (Iron Mountain-Kingsford) plant would eventually close," Lund said. "He continued to work for Ford in Chicago."

Lund, one 13 baseball major leaguers born in the U.P., chummed with the Pirlot brothers, Don and Harlan, during his Kingsford Heights days.

"My close friends were the Pirlots," Lund said.

After moving to Chicago, he returned to the U.P. on occasion to visit his friends and grandparents, Tom and Lillian Bolitho, and his aunt, Margaret Bolitho, who worked for the Iron Mountain News.

Lund's baseball career took shape at Chicago's Taft High School where the Eagles won a pair of city titles. He started at third base as a freshman and later in his high school career played shortstop and second base.

"I got my infield experience in high school," Lund said. "I started all four years. I was very lucky."

Lund, good enough in basketball to receive offers to play collegiately, signed with the Cleveland Indians out of high school in 1960.

For the next 20 some years, Lund's baseball career consisted primarily of minor league playing and managing. Lund, noted for his glovework, made stops at Lakeland, Fla.; Burlington, NC; Salt Lake City; Jacksonville, Portland, Syracuse, Vancouver and Hawaii.

With the Indians needing a player due to military reserves, Lund got the call for three games in 1967. On Sept. 27 at Boston's Fenway Park, Lund doubled off "Cy Young" winner Jim Lonborg.

"It was off the 'Green Monster' (wall) and I was running hard all the way," Lund said of his first major league hit.

His second major league hit also came in that game, a single off Ken Brett.

After a trade to Baltimore, Lund later wound up with the expansion Seattle Pilots organization in another deal. Seattle's 1969 season was highlighted by pitcher Jim Bouton's then controversial book, "Ball Four."

Lund got to know Bouton during a 20-game experience. Bouton's book mentions Lund twice - once for a boat ride and the other for taking roommate Garry Roggenburk to the airport when the pitcher was ready to give up baseball.

"It was a fairly good-sized boat," Lund said of the Puget Sound escapade with Bouton's family and Roggenburk. "That crazy Bouton dived into the bay and when got back into the boat he was blue."

Lund's minor league stop in Hawaii, playing for the Islanders and Chuck Tanner, led to managing.

"Chuck Tanner was a wonderful manager," Lund said of the man who went on to major league success with the White Sox, Athletics, Pirates and Braves. "Chuck got along with his players, a players manager. He let you know what was ahead and to be ready."

After 11 seasons, Lund retired from playing.

"It was a little discouraging but what are you going to do?" Lund said of a baseball playing career with limited major league games. "The opportunity never came along."

Out of baseball a "couple years," Lund stopped by Comiskey Park one day to see White Sox general manager Roland Hemond and manager Tanner. The White Sox had a minor league managing job in Wisconsin.

"What can you tell me about Appleton?" Lund inquired of Don Pirlot and his wife, Virgie, who lived there at the time.

The response was positive. Lund managed eight seasons in the White Sox farm system - five in Appleton including a sterling 1978 squad that posted a 97-40 mark. He's now in the Appleton Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, moves within the White Sox organization signaled the end of Lund in baseball.

"The White Sox made a complete change to the organization and brought in new people," Lund said. "It turned out it was the best thing."

Out of baseball again, Lund could devote more time to the home front within his wife, Roberta, and two daughters.

"My kids needed a father and I was always gone," Lund said. "They were starting high school and it was important to be at home. It turned out wonderful."

Lund. retired from baseball as well as positions with a welfare and pension fund, lives in Arlington Heights, Ill.



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