When relievers were relievers
McDaniel's death recalls bygone era
Good morning, all! It’s Friiiiidddddaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy !!!
Lindy McDaniel died on Sunday, his death the result of COVID-19. He was 84. Who was McDaniel? In his day, he was one of MLB’s top relievers. His death also recalls a bygone era.
When McDaniel and others of his ilk relieved, they usually pitched more than one inning per appearance. They were not the specialists that have come to dominate today’s game. (Some might add, have come to ruin today’s game.) Facing a batting order two times in a game was not uncommon for a closer. McDaniel led the National League in saves in 1959 with 16, when saves were not a recognized statistic. Saves were not recorded as official statistics until 1969.
It was typical for a reliever to enter the game and pitch two or three innings to earn that “unofficial” or by 1969 official save. For example, in his last season with the New York Yankees in 1973, McDaniel pitched 160.1 innings in 47 games, only three as a starter. He went 12-6 with 10 saves and a 2.86 ERA. Today, it is rare that most starters exceed 200 innings in a 162-game season.
I mostly remember McDaniel with the Yankees, a team on which he pitched for 5 1/2 seasons. I can still hear the authoritative voice of Yankees broadcaster Frank Messer saying “Lindy McDaniel is on the mound for the Yankees.” His greatest season may have been 1970, when he recorded 29 saves.
A very religious man, who pitched for the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Yankees and Royals, McDaniel studied for the ministry, during his playing days and eventually was ordained by the Church of Christ.
His passing merited an extensive obituary in Tuesday’s New York Times. Far be it from me to criticize the august publication’s coverage of his death, but the paper did leave out some key elements of McDaniel’s career, including how he was involved in trades with other “name” players:
The Cubs traded him to the Giants for pitcher Bill Hands and catcher Randy Hundley, who went on to solid careers in Chicago
The Yankees acquired him from the Giants for another renowned pitcher, albeit on the downside of his career, Bill Monbouquette
The Yankees dealt him to Kansas City for two players, one who would be a cornerstone of Yankees teams and history for nearly two decades; Lou Piniella.
As Vin Scully would say, it is also “interesting to note” that McDaniel was the winning pitcher in Mickey Mantle’s last game. On Sep. 28, 1968, McDaniel hurled three perfect innings, in relief of starter Mel Stottlemyre, as New York, down 3-0 after six innings, rallied to win, 4-3. During the reliever’s three inning stint, Red Sox manager Dick Williams was ejected for arguing that McDaniel was not keeping his foot on the pitcher’s rubber and Ken “Hawk” Harrelson was tossed for arguing with plate umpire Jake O’Donnell.
Lindy McDaniel had a solid career and his passing recalls an era, that sadly baseball may never experience again.
It was only a matter of time
Betting continues to infiltrate sports and the media. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which purchased 21 regional sports networks from Fox, is on the verge of renaming the network, Bally Sports. It is a 10-year deal that will bring $85 million into Sinclair’s coffers.
Because Sinclair’s sports stations hold the broadcast rights to numerous professional teams, MLB, the NBA and NHL must all approve the renaming of the networks. The bet here is they will receive that approval.
Remember when it was frowned on for sports and wagering to intermingle? Those days are long gone.
Nationals go to Rochester
As we have written in this newsletter about MLB’s full take over of minor league baseball operations, we have also noted the change of affiliations between MLB franchises and their minor league “partners.” The latest announcement came Thursday with word the Washington Nationals will relocate their AAA affiliation from Fresno, CA to Rochester, NY.
Note the story indicating that the word of the Nationals affiliation with Rochester first came from the office of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Do not downplay the significance of Sen. Schumer breaking the story. When word broke last year that MLB would contract 40 minor league franchises, the previously independent NAPBL went to Congress to fight the contraction plan. Congress was all ears, willing to help the NAPBL in its fight to save the franchises. Then along came Covid-19 and other matters. In other words, Congress no longer had the time nor the appetite to fight the good fight for NAPBL. Shrewdly, MLB also decided to bring the Congress into the fold on its blueprint, trying to avoid Congressional interference, such as eliminating baseball’s antitrust exemption.
This is not the first announcement, coming from Schumer’s office about minor league baseball. Last week it was made to appear Sen. Schumer saved the day to keep the New York Mets affiliation in Binghamton. With Sen. Schumer and other Congressional heavyweights in on the deal, the guess here is Congress will not block MLB from pursuing its overall goal of restructuring the minor leagues.
Richmond’s Covid cost
Read an interesting story written by John O’Connor in the Richmond Times Dispatch about the cost of Covid-19 to the University of Richmond athletic program. (The story is behind a paywall or I would link to it.) O’Connor quotes the vice president and director of athletics John Hardt as saying that the cost is in excess of $750,000. Almost $400,000 is being earmarked for testing players on the university men’s and women’s basketball teams.
That is the cost to Richmond, a mid-major school. Can you imagine the cost to an ACC or Pac-12 school? And remember, those conferences are running football programs too. Richmond bagged its football season months ago.
That is it for this week. Next week is Thanksgiving week and I will take a hiatus from the newsletter. I will attempt to record a podcast or two so you still may get a notice in your mailbox. The newsletter will return on Nov. 30. As always, thank you for your support. Be safe. Stay healthy. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!