#CardCorner: 1957 Topps Lindy McDaniel
With the exception of Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm – who retired with 1,070 games pitched, 143 wins and 227 (later changed to 228) saves, perhaps no other pitcher built the blueprint for the modern relief pitcher better than the preacher from Hollis, Okla.
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Born Dec. 13, 1935, Lyndall Dale McDaniel picked up his nickname as a tribute to aviator Charles Lindbergh and quickly made a name for himself as an amateur athlete in American Legion ball and semi-pro stops. The Cardinals began scouting McDaniel in high school, but he accepted a basketball scholarship to the University of Oklahoma – located about three hours east of his hometown.
But on Aug. 19, 1955, McDaniel – after just one year at OU – signed a bonus contract with the Cardinals for a reported $50,000.
By rule, he would have to immediately join the big league squad for which he rooted for as a youngster.
McDaniel made his debut on Sept. 2 against the Cubs, working his way into the starting rotation. In four games (two starts), he worked 19 innings without a decision, posting a 4.74 ERA.
Following the season, McDaniel enrolled at Abilene Christian College – pursuing religious studies. It would be a passion he would maintain for the rest of his days.
“By going into Major League Baseball, I’ll get to know more people,” McDaniel told the Associated Press following the 1955 season. “It’ll give me a chance to take Christianity into baseball, and I can decide later about (pursuing work as a minister).”
But in just four appearances for St. Louis, McDaniel had already put himself on the track to big league stardom.
“I’ll repeat: That boy may never have to go down to the minors,” Cardinals manager Harry Walker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after McDaniel’s first start – one in which Ernie Banks hit his record-setting fifth grand slam of the season off McDaniel.
Once again, a change of scenery revitalized McDaniel, who went 4-1 with 10 saves and a 1.75 ERA in 24 games for New York.
Now 33 years old, McDaniel entered the 1969 season with a rebuilding Yankees team that was restocking its farm system. McDaniel was 5-6 with five saves and a 3.55 ERA for an 80-81 New York squad that season, then once again captured national headlines in 1970 when he went 9-5 with 29 saves and a 2.01 ERA over 62 games.
“I ask him every day how his arm is and how far he thinks he can pitch that day,” Yankees manager Ralph Houk told the New York Daily News. “I watch (him) very carefully. He means a great deal to me.”
McDaniel struggled in 1971 on the heels of his 111.2 innings pitched the year before, going 5-10 with a 5.04 ERA. Then in 1972, McDaniel’s season started slowly after having surgery in the offseason to remove a salivary gland and his wisdom teeth. Meanwhile, the Yankees moved Sparky Lyle – who had been acquired from the Red Sox on March 22, 1972, into the role as the team’s main reliever.
Lyle had a historic season, going 9-5 with a 1.92 ERA while saving 35 games. McDaniel was 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA over 68 innings.
Then in 1973, McDaniel posted his sixth double-digit win campaign as a reliever – going 12-6 with 10 saves and a 2.86 ERA over a whopping 160.1 innings – his most since 1957 when he was a starter.
Perhaps deciding to capitalize on McDaniel’s season, the Yankees traded the soon-to-be 38-year-old McDaniel to the Royals on Dec. 7, 1973 in exchange for Lou Piniella and Ken Wright.
McDaniel, pitching back near his home in the nation’s heartland, was 1-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 106.2 innings in 1974, then went 5-1 with a 4.15 ERA in 78 innings in 1975 at the age of 39.
He announced his retirement before the Royals’ 5-2 loss to the Twins on Sept. 25, 1975, pitching a perfect ninth inning before appearing in each of Kansas City’s next two games – finishing his career with four straight scoreless appearances.
“I made up my mind to retire about 10 days ago,” McDaniel told United Press International. “After 21 years, I felt I’d lost something: Motivation.”
But with his deep faith – which led him to become a minister in the Church of Christ – McDaniel never lost the desire to be his best.
“It’s hard,” said McDaniel, who passed away on Nov. 14, 2020, “to separate baseball life from private life.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum