Straight to the Majors: Lindy McDaniel
Over the extended weekend of the Field of Dream series the Yankees played against Garrett Crotchet, a relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox who throws hard, pitches well, and has yet to ever play a game in the minor leagues. After getting drafted 15th Overall in the 2020 MLB Draft, he signed, and went straight to the majors.
This got me wondering about what other players were who went straight to the MLB, of which there have been 22 since the MLB Draft was implemented in 1965. Over the next few weeks there are 11 players who have played for the Yankees while making their professional debut at the MLB level.
Today’s player is: Lindy McDaniel.
Road to the Show:
Before the MLB draft was implemented in 1965 there was a system in place to sign amateur free agents to play professional baseball. This system required that if a player was signed to a contract larger than $4,000 then they had to spend 2 years on the MLB roster, and if not the signing team would lose their rights to the player. This system was called the bonus rule and the players who came to the MLB through it were known as “bonus babies”. Lindy McDaniel is one of those players.
Coming out of Hollis, OK, Lindy McDaniel was raised in a very religious household, so much to the point that his mother needed to be convinced that playing baseball was not going to make Lindy succumb to “temptations”. McDaniel would establish himself while in high school as he became noticed by the St. Louis Cardinals at 16-years-old and while the two parties were interested in a deal, McDaniel instead opted to attend college at the University of Oklahoma…on a 4-year scholarship to play basketball. However, McDaniel’s collegiate career would be cut short when McDaniel signed a $50,000 deal to play with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955, thus making himself a bonus baby and the “11th man” in the Cardinals’ 10 man pitching staff.
McDaniel would spend the years of 1955 through 1962 with the St. Louis Cardinals, while being a 2-time All-Star for his performance in 1960 as they issued mid- and post-season All Star Games awards during that time. He was also named the SportingNews Reliver of the Year (its first year being issued) while earing a Top-3 Cy Young Finish and a Top-5 MVP finish. During his stint with the Cardinals, McDaniel became one of the first best true relievers across baseball.
Immediately after the World Series in 1962, McDaniel was traded to the Chicago Cubs where he would stay through 1965, that time being traded to the San Francisco Giants, where he would stay until the 1968 trade deadline before being traded to the…
Road to the Yankees and Afterwards:
When McDaniel was traded to the New York Yankees (for Bill Monbouquette), he nearly immediately turned around a season that was mentally pushing the pitcher out of baseball. Before coming to New York, McDaniel had purportedly thought about retiring, but was traded in a move of thirty-something pitchers in hopes each career could be revamped. In this case it worked for the Yankees as McDaniel was a great relief pitcher for the Yankees during his time from mid-1968 through 1973.
During this time, McDaniel would continue to be a legitimate power out of the bullpen while putting together an extended period of great play for the Yankees, coming out of his 6 year tenure with a 2.89 ERA (118 ERA+) over 544.2 innings of relief in 265 games (while finishing 186 of them).
McDaniel would leave the Yankees for the Kansas City Royals for Lou Pinella and Ken Wright after the 1973 season, and McDaniel would spend his final two seasons in baseball with the Royals in 1974 and 1975.
McDaniel during his career was known for his great curveball which he used to front his arsenal over a 21 year career. However, if you asked McDaniel during his playing years what his true profession was, it was a preacher, a job that he finally got to do after his career came to an end.
Unfortunately, Lindy McDaniel passed away last November (2020).