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Multi Sport Heroes Part 3 - Mickey Vandehey

Last week I mentioned a little about Mickey Vandehey. Few athletes could ever hope to have the career Mickey had. He was raised in Auburndale, a very small village with around 400 inhabitants located about 10 miles east of Marshfield. The high school had about 275 students, pulling in a lot pupils from the area farms. Their old football conference, the 3-C, disbanded in 1962 so they played an independent schedule until joining the Marawood Conference later. However, they were part of the Marawood for basketball and track and the Cloverbelt Conference for baseball.

Vandehey carried the Auburndale Apaches to many wins in football, basketball, track and especially baseball. Playing quarterback Mickey started four seasons and directed the team to an overall 26-4-1 record. Starting as a freshman in 1960 he directed the team to a 6-1-0 record. Game stats from that year are sparse. For the most part only the game scores are known. With the help of current football coach and athletic director, Jay Anderson, some of the team stats have been found in the local papers. Other newspaper stories from around the state have helped to shape his stats for that year. He started at quarterback and defensive back as well as handling all the kicking. Overall, he passed for 560 yards and nine touchdowns while running for three more touchdowns. He kicked 19 extra points and averaged 40-yards per punt.

In 1961 as a sophomore Vandehey began to blossom and the team posted a 7-1-0 record as he passed for 1,036 yards and 11 touchdowns, scored on five runs and on an interception return plus he kicked 16 extra points. This was all in seven of the eight games scoring stats are available. Any individual game stats for Mickey were not listed in the papers but his four touchdown passes and an interception return for a touchdown were highlights of the team’s fifth game of the year, a 41-0 win over Colby. Auburndale played in the 3-C Conference in 1960 and 1961 and they finished in second place both years. Their only 1961 loss was to Greenwood, 21-19 in game seven.

Mickey was filling out in size as he reached his junior year. He stood 6’1 and weighed about 185 pounds. It should be noted that only the stats from his junior year are truly complete. In 1962 he led the team to an 8-0-0 record and a #11 ranking in the AP poll. The 3-C Conference disbanded and in 1962 and 1963 the school played an independent football schedule. With his great 1962 stats he earned First Team All-State by the AP. Mickey completed 57 of 113 passes for 1,057 yards, 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions. On the ground he carried the ball only 53 times but gained 572 yards and 16 overall touchdowns. He not only passed and ran the ball but he continued as the team’s kicker to handle it all… kickoffs, extra points, field goals and punting. He converted 34 extra points, a field goal and averaged 43 yards per punt. On defense he intercepted nine passes and of his 16 touchdowns scored, three were on punt returns and one was a kickoff return. In the teams fifth game, a 34-19 win over Mauston, Vandehey accounted for all the teams points as he passed for two touchdowns, ran for three scores and kicked four extra points. A week later Auburndale stomped Gilman 62-0 and Mickey was again the star. He passed for five scores, ran for another and added touchdown punt returns of 46 and 47 yards while he kicked eight extra points. Game seven was also a special effort by Vandehey who passed for three touchdowns, ran for two and kicked three extra points. He again was involved in all the teams points in the 33-19 win against Adams-Friendship.

In his first three seasons Mickey Vandehey was building a strong reputation as an all-round athlete but it really started as an eighth grader when he routinely struck out the Auburndale high school players and others as he competed in a summer league baseball program. People began to take notice of the young boy and expectations were high as he entered high school. Along with his baseball and football prowess his scoring of 988 points on the basketball court during his freshman through junior years were impressing people. His ability to play on the outside or go to the basket for a field goal or rebound made him a star on the court. On the baseball diamond he was even more impressive. He played for the school team as well as the Marshfield American Legion baseball team as a pitcher and a first base man. While baseball is a game of stats, few are recorded in the local papers. He hit the ball well and threw hard, posting multiple no-hitters for both teams. He pitched the Apaches into the state baseball tournament as a junior but he injured his arm. During the summer between his junior and senior seasons he was able to recover his arm strength and helped lead the Marshfield American Legion team into the state finals throwing no-hitters against Eau Claire and Rice Lake. It should be noted that the Eau Claire team was made up of almost all of the Eau Claire high school team that won that state championship. Growing up he was semi-ambidextrous and so, when he hurt his arm a legend began about his throwing a no-hitter lefthanded (his natural throwing arm) in one game of a double-header and then shifting to his right to throw in the next game, another no-hitter. In a 2013 radio interview while being inducted into the Marshfield Area Baseball and Softball Hall of Fame he admitted he did throw on occasion both left and right-handed but didn’t remember back-to-back no-hitters that way. He said he was very strong as a lefty but certainly not as strong throwing right-handed. While injured as a junior he played the outfield and caught with his left hand and threw with his right. He was also a power hitter with many home runs. One home run, in a legion game against Beloit was measured as traveling 485 feet.

He also participated in track as a junior for three meets. Without any training he competed in the Marawood Conference meet winning three events. In the next meet, the WIAA sectionals, he broad-jumped 21feet, 10 inches. At the state meet he broad-jumped over 20 feet. He even took up golf and scored a 37 on the par 33 Marshfield Country Club course.

Now, as a senior and standing 6’2 and about 195 pounds he was a big man on whatever field he played. The 1963 football season rolled around with the tough schedule ahead it looked like Mickey would have to carry mush of the load on his back. With most of the 1962 team returning and playing a tougher independent schedule again, the Apaches faced Marshfield in the football season opener. Even though their opponent had about four times the number of students than at Auburndale, Vandehey led the team to a 30-18 win. He tossed three touchdowns on 6-9 passes for 167 yards, kicked three extra points and a 30-yard field goal. He followed up with a 42-13 win over Edgar and then they played Stevens Point, another very large school to a 12-12 tie. Mickey was slightly injured in that game as the SPASH defense harassed him all night. Vandehey had driven the team to the Stevens Point nine-yard line as time ran out. According to the Marshfield News-Herald, the referees were whistle happy throughout the game and seemed to be holding Auburndale back. A botched extra point snap didn’t help nor did Vandehey’s throwing four interceptions while under repeated pressure. With a 2-0-1 record they prepared for a showdown with Thorp. As described in last week’s blog, things didn’t go well for Auburndale as they lost 34-0. They also lost their star quarterback for much of the game as well as the next week. a 32-6 loss to Spencer. Mickey sat that game out and along with the two losses and being bothered with a lingering strained ligament in his left leg that clinched his not making any of the all-state first three AP teams. Despite the injury and low overall performance’s as he hobbled through the rest of the season, he would get honorable mention notice. The Apaches finished 5-2-1. His career totals were 3,633 yards passing, 54 td passes, 34 other touchdowns scored, a career 42+ yard punting average over 80 extra point kicks.

Time off between the fall and winter seasons gave Mickey some time to heal. The basketball season started fine and they reeled off 11 consecutive wins to end the season and win the Marawood conference title. When the team center missed a number of games due to a football injury Vandehey played under the basket. The season end though was disturbing. On Sunday, May 1 the Apache basketball center, Ralph Bores, took part in a pre-planned, non-sanctioned game held at Stratford between other players from Stratford, Rozellville and a few other schools. Bores signed up ahead of the event to play, unaware of the WIAA rules on participating in a non-sanctioned WIAA game during the season. The WIAA was alerted by someone from Pittsville who attended the event and several days later not only Bores but the entire team were expelled from the state tournament. The season ended with a 16-3 record, with Mickey missing one game. The removal from the playoffs left a bitter taste in not only Auburndale but area basketball fans who felt that maybe Boras should have been penalized some way but not the entire team. It was thought that if Boras or other members of his team had just gotten together and picked teams at random all would have been ok but being on a “pre-planned” team was not excusable. Playing in 18 games, Mickey scored 549 points on the season for a 30.5 average. In his final game he scored 63 points in a 124-45 win over Athens. For his career Auburndale posted a 69-15 record with Vandehey in the lineup as he scored 1,537 points. His overall performance on the season earned him first team all-state on the AP team. This honor also earned him the distinction as being the first and only athlete in state history to earn all-state in football as a junior and first team all-state in basketball as a senior.

Next up was the baseball season. Auburndale played well and Mickey would have a great year. He had signed a letter of intent to play football for Illinois but then the Chicago White Sox came along and offered him a $50,000 bonus to play professional baseball. He thought of his family and how the money could help so he signed as a two-way player. He would pitch then play outfield or first base. Baseball was different in those days as the minor league draft as we know of it today didn’t exist so any team could sign a player. Playing pro ball is where his old arm problems flared up again and he spent much of the next two years nursing injuries including a torn rotator cuff. He was released by the White Sox and then the army came calling as he was drafted. After two years in the service Mickey attended UW-Oshkosh and earned a degree but not before trying football again. In 1968 the Green Bay Packers were hurting for a punter and so Mickey tried out for them. Vince Lombardi liked what he saw but because his hang time wasn’t exactly what they were looking for Lombardi decided to go with a more experienced player. Vandehey moved to Augusta after college and taught physical education and coached there for many years. He helped coach the boys varsity basketball team, the football team and was head coach of the girls basketball team for about 11 years. Two of his students at Augusta were his two sons, both good basketball players, who played college ball and learned from one of the state’s all-time best athletes.

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