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Knights to honor former Charlotte O’s slugger Drungo Hazewood

Former Charlotte O’s outfielder Drungo Hazewood hit 21 home runs for the team in 1979 and 28 in 1980.
Former Charlotte O’s outfielder Drungo Hazewood hit 21 home runs for the team in 1979 and 28 in 1980.

Cal Ripken and Drungo Larue Hazewood were two of the biggest weapons on the 1980 Charlotte O’s baseball team that won the Southern League championship.

Ripken went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Baltimore Orioles. Hazewood was out of baseball in 1983, disappearing from public view.

On Friday night, the Charlotte Knights will induct Hazewood, who died four years ago, into the club’s Round Table of Honor. The Knights, Class AAA members of the International League, descended from the Class AA O’s. Hazewood’s widow, Venus, will accept the honor in ceremonies planned before the 7:05 p.m. game against Norfolk.

Hazewood will join former Knights manager Charlie Manuel and player Jim Thome, former O’s owner Frances Crockett and Knights owner Don Beaver in the Round Table.

Hazewood, a native of Sacramento, Calif., was a 6-foot-3, 210-pound multisport athlete who planned to play football at Southern Cal. But he chose baseball after being drafted in the first round in 1977 by Baltimore. At age 17, he received a $50,000 signing bonus.

Through Class A and AA, Hazewood was a slugging phenom. An outfielder, he hit 21 home runs for the O’s in 1979 and 28 homers in the 1980 title season, thrilling fans at the old Crockett Park off South Boulevard. Hazewood was among league leaders in more than a half-dozen categories.

In his book, “The Only Way I Know,” Ripken said Hazewood was “big and fast and something to watch, scoring from first on a double.”

He hit .583 with the Baltimore Orioles in 1980 spring training, but the Orioles, coming off a 1979 world championship, couldn’t find a spot on their roster for him. He reached the majors late in 1980 and went 0-for-5, striking out four times.

Hazewood alternated between AA Charlotte and AAA Rochester in 1981 and ’82, but never returned to the majors. According to a number of written accounts, he couldn’t hit the curveball.

In 1983, Hazewood left baseball to care for his mother, who was suffering from cancer. And then he disappeared into an every-day life in Sacramento, raising seven children and 10 grandchildren. He died of cancer at his home on July 28, 2013. He was 53.

In a Baltimore Sun story written at the time of Hazewood’s death, 1980 Charlotte O’s player Scott Christopher said, “He was the next Mickey Mantle.”

Also to be honored Friday night will be Ed Walton, who won 540 games and nine state championships as a baseball coach at Charlotte Country Day and Carmel Academy.