Game-ending grand slams and Lindy McDaniel

For the second time this year, the Indians end a game with a grand slam. According to Retrosheet, there were 188 game-ending grand slams between 1950 and 2010.

So, we aren’t talking about an unusual event. Dramatic, yes, but not unusual.

In doing some quick research, I was distracted…

Lindy McDaniel gave up 11 game-ending home runs, six with the bases empty, one with a man on base, and four with three men on base.

Four.

Four game-ending grand slams, including one to Hank Aaron in 1962 and also to Brooks Robinson in 1970. All of these came after McDaniel’s excellent 1960 season, were he made the All-Star game, finished third in Cy Young voting and fifth in MVP voting. Two of the bases-clearing game-enders came in 1963, when he was award the Reliever of the Year award.

Odd fact, Lindy hit three home runs in his 21-year career, including one on Sept. 18th, 1972, while wearing a Yankee uniform. He was the last pitcher to hit a home run as a Yankee.

What is lost on quite a few people is that McDaniel is probably one of the top 10 relievers of all time*. Starting as a bonus baby in 1955, McDaniel never completely caught on as a starting pitcher. After 1958, he would only get the occasional spot start and generally appeared in about 55 games per season and finishing about 30 per year**. He was good enough to continue pitching to 1975.

*John Thorn wrote about him in his 1979 book, The Relief Pitcher.

**No deep math here, just eyeballing from his stats.

Perhaps being a good long, middle reliever isn’t sexy, but to this day I just can’t understand why he isn’t talked about more. If you are building a team, McDaniel is exactly the type of guy you want in the bullpen. Heck, the type you need in the bullpen. The reason he gave up so many game-ending grand slams is because he was good enough to be out there.

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