Lindy McDaniel

There is nothing in Lindy McDaniel‘s composite stats that make you shiver with delight. His 3.45 ERA sounds pedestrian. His career 1.272 WHIP sounds ordinary. He gave up his share of hits. The only thing his stats show us is a long and reliable career where he consistently took the ball and threw for as long as you wanted him to throw the ball. For example, in 1973, one of the years mentioned in the first paragraph, Lindy pitched 47 times, 44 of them in relief. He finished the game as the team’s last pitcher 32 times. And yet he threw 160.2 innings! His record that year was 12-6 with ten saves AND a complete game start.

It was one of those games in 1973 that stands out more than any other. The date was August 4, 1973 in a game against the Detroit Tigers. Ralph Houk’s Yankees were only a half a game out of first place and faced Billy Martin in the opposite dugout. Martin also had the Tigers in the race. The Orioles would eventually win the division in a romp. The Yankees limped home with a record of 18-31 to finish the season way out. But on this August day, there was hope and promise and Fritz Peterson got the start for the Yankees against Woodie Fryman.

Fritz Peterson, after so many great years with the Yankees, had a woeful one in 1973.  His arm was probably toast after so many innings all those years. On August 4, 1973, he lasted only an inning in that start. He gave up a run on two hits and left the game. Did he get hurt? Was he ill? Time forgets. He did have to field three balls in the first including a bunt, so perhaps he hurt himself with all that fielding. Either way, he was out after one inning and Lindy McDaniel started the second. The game would end up going fourteen innings and Lindy McDaniel pitched the last thirteen of them!

And get this: Horace Clarke hit the game-winning homer in the top of the fourteenth to make Lindy the winner. It was one of only two homers Clarke hit in 650 plate appearances. McDaniel gave up only one run in his thirteen-inning relief appearance and only six hits. But that was Lindy McDaniel. Whatever the team needed, he could provide it. McDaniel’s WPA score for the game was an incredible, 1.083.

Lindy McDaniel was signed as a “bonus baby” in 1955 by the St. Louis Cardinals. As such, he started right in the major leagues because the rules for such signings stipulated that the player had to stay on the big league club’s roster for two years or be exposed to the waiver wire. He only got into four games in 1955 but a year later, he appeared in 39 games and started seven of them. He finished with a 7-6 record and a 3.40 ERA. The following year (1957), he started 26 games out of his 30 appearances and had a very good year. He went 15-6 with ten complete games and a shutout. He finished with a 3.49 ERA.

Looking back at that year, you have to wonder why McDaniel didn’t stay in the starter position. Perhaps the key was that he struggled mightily the next season, perhaps the worst of his career. He only started 17 games and pitched ninety innings less than the year before. He got lit up to the tune of a 5.80 ERA. After 1958, he was mostly a reliever.

His first big year as a reliever came the very next year. He finished 47 games in 62 appearances, won 14 and if the save was around back then, would have had 15 of them. He was even better in 1960, a year when he came in third in Cy Young voting and fifth in MVP voting. He went 12-4 with a 2.09 ERA in 65 appearances. If the save rule was in effect, he would have been credited with 26. And he found the time to start two games and pitched a complete game in one of them.

McDaniel had two sub par years in 1961 and 1962 but had another big year in 1963. Unfortunately for him, the Cardinals traded him to the Cubs after that season just as the Cardinals were about to launch on their post season run that included World Series titles. McDaniel was fated never to pitch in the post season.

He had a decent season and then a very good season for the Cubs before they traded him to the Giants in the deal that brought the Cubs Randy Hundley. He had a great season for the Giants in 1966 and a good one in 1967 and then they traded him to the Yankees, then the worst team in baseball.

With such a dearth of talent on those teams, a guy like McDaniel became a fan favorite toiling away for such bad teams. He had perhaps his best season as a pure reliever in 1970 (at age 34) when he won nine games, saved 29 more. He finished that season with a 2.01 ERA in 111+ innings.

1971 was a bad season, but in 1972 and 1973, he was below three in ERA again including the brilliant 1973 season already mentioned. But after that season, McDaniel was traded to the Royals in the deal that brought Lou Piniella to the Yankees. Piniella would go on to be a Yankee hero, so McDaniel brought value even at that advanced age. He gave the Royals two fairly effective seasons before he retired after the 1975 season.

Lindy McDaniel finished with 141 wins against 119 losses and Baseball-Reference.com credits him with 172 saves. He finished 577 games. He managed to add in 18 complete game starts over his career and threw two shutouts. He even made the All Star Team as a member of the Cardinals in 1960. Perhaps his best stat was in pitching all those years and finishing with a 0.7 homers per nine inning rate. He was an effective and durable arm for 21 years and many of those were for bad teams. He is remembered fondly and his name alone brings many smiles to old time Cardinal, Yankee, Cubs, Giants and Royals’ fans.

12 thoughts on “Lindy McDaniel

  1. John

    Thanks Will. I love learning about these Yankees that were before my time. Great stuff.

  2. ProfRobert

    Great post, William (do you prefer that or Bill/Will/etc.?), and I feel like a pedantic whiner to point out that McDaniel was traded for Lou Piniella — Chambliss came from Cleveland along with Tidrow for Peterson and some other pitchers who never did much of anything thereafter.

    I gather you have the boxscore from that August 4, 1973 ironman game? If you treated McDaniel as the starting pitcher, what would his game score have been? 13 innings with one run — did he break 100? Just wondering.

    • Ack! You were right about the Chambliss thing. How did I mess that up!? Fixed it, thanks. The game score (if I did the math right) would have come to 91 if treated as a starter. 50+39+18+3-12-4-3.

      When I turned 40 (long ago, alas), I adopted William after spending a life as a "Bill," Two reasons. Divorce was a new start. And my son was a "Bill," so that made it easier to keep us apart. But as long as you are nice, you can call me anything.

      • Eh, let he who has never made a typo cast the first stoen [sic].

        As for names, you know the old line, just don't call me late for dinner! I've always been a "Robert," though. I don't even hear "Bob" as my name, and I don't react to it. (And my livejournal is titled, "I am not Bob.") One of the small passive-aggressive pleasures I have is snickering at people who affect familiarity with me by calling me "Bob," but who obviously don't know me well enough to know that I don't go by that name.

        • I revile salesfolk and other business people who presume to call me, "Bill."

          • John

            You know, with a William, Bill never comes to mind as nickname. Will is always the first thing I think of.

          • I get plenty of that too.

  3. Smerdyakov

    My favorite memory of Lindy McDaniel was from the 1968 season. The hapless Yankees were facing the Tigers, who would go on to win the World Series that year. Their weekend began with a twi-night doubleheader, the second game of which went 18 innings, until it was suspended because of the American League curfew. The entire game was replayed as part of doubleheader on Sunday, and the Yankees ended up playing four doubleheaders (one of which was really a tripleheader) in five days.

    Anyway, McDaniel threw 7 perfect innings in that 18-inning game, and he became my hero. The combination of Lindy McDaniel and Steve Hamilton in the bullpen was my all-time favorite, until Stanton and Jeff Newlson.

  4. h.sevush

    Lyle was terrible the one year he pitched with Goose. The only good thing that came of it was Nettles famous line about Sparky after he got traded away "he went from Cy Young to Sayonara."

    Lindy was a very good reliever and he saved us from having to watch Dooley Womack come out of the pen.

    • I wouldn't say Lyle was terrible the year he pitched with Gossage. He pitched 111+ innings in 59 appearances and went 9-3 with a 3.47 ERA. He also saved nine games. From the looks of his strikeout rate, his arm was toast by then and he didn't do much the rest of his career.

  5. Phil

    McDaniel had a high leg kick from what I remember. He was fun to watch and when he was on his game he was tough to hit.

  6. Bill

    Thoroughly enjoy these posts involving players from the dark ages of 1965-75. That's when I cut my teeth on the Yankees and I have been rewarded countless times over for the faith I showed in those teams from that era. Lindy McDaniel was a classic "good year-bad year" pitcher for the first four seasons here. 1968 and 1970 were great, 1969 and 1971 not so much. Ralph Houk had a tendency to burn pitchers out (a la Joe Torre) back in the day. Very rarely would a reliever survive long under Houk, but McDaniel managed to do OK.

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