Minneapolis Roosevelt and South alumnus Harold “Hy” Vandenberg was born on March 17, 1906 in Abilene, KS. When Hy was four his father died from tuberculosis, and his mother moved the surviving members of the family to Minneapolis.
Vandenberg would appear in 90 major league games, going 15-10 with five saves during seven seasons spread out over an 11-year period (1935–1945) with the Red Sox, Giants, and Cubs.
According to Bill Nowlin‘s SABR BioProject essay, the 6-foot-4 right-hander began his professional career with the Minneapolis Millers right out of high school, though he does not appear in the statistical record until pitching for the Bloomington, IL Cubs in 1930 at age 24. He bounced around the minors, going back and forth between Bloomington, Minneapolis, and elsewhere before ending up in Syracuse in 1935 where he caught the attention of the Boston Red Sox.
He made his major league debut with the Red Sox on June 8, 1935 at age 29. He gave up 12 runs in just 5 1/3 innings overall. Vandenberg didn’t exactly think it was a fair audition, however, as those 5 1/3 innings came in three relief appearances spread out over a six-week period.
Vandenberg next appeared in the majors in 1937, making one start with the New York Giants, giving up seven runs over eight innings in a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. He appeared in six games for the Giants in 1938, and two in 1939, spending most of his time with their Jersey City farm team.
He finally earned his first major league win on April 24, 1940 (almost five years after his MLB debut), allowing just two runs on five hits and three walks in a 5-2 Giants win in Philadelphia. The New York Times described the complete game victory as an “elegant mound triumph.” He made three starts and ten relief appearances in total in 1940.
Vandenberg did not pitch in the major again until re-emerging with the Cubs in 1944, going 7-4 with two saves and a 3.63 ERA over 35 games (nine starts). He had only accumulated 25 appearances over his first five major league stints combined.
Vandenberg held out into the 1945 season, training at the University of Minnesota. Once he did report to the Cubs, however, he matched his success from the year before, going 7-3 with two saves and a 3.49 ERA over 30 games (seven starts). The Cubs made it to the World Series, losing to the Tigers in seven games. Vandenberg provided solid relief pitching in Games 4, 5 and 7, holding the Tigers scoreless on just one hit and three walks in six innings pitched.
Despite coming off his two most successful seasons, the Cubs released Vandenberg during Spring Training 1946. Possibly dispirited, he performed poorly in the minors with Oakland and Milwaukee. In 1947 his contract was purchased by Oklahoma City, but he chose instead to leave professional baseball and pitched for the Springfield, MN team in the amateur Western Minor League.
Following his playing career, Vandenberg worked as an engineering technician for the Hennepin County Highway Administration (per biographer Bill Nowlin). Hy Vandenberg died from cancer at his home in Bloomington, MN on July 31, 1994. He was 88 years old.
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