August 30 – Happy Birthday Johnny Lindell
The Yankees signed Johnny Lindell in 1936 as a pitcher and during the next six seasons he developed really well in the New York farm system, culminating with an outstanding 23-4 record with the 1941 Newark Bears. He deserved a shot at the big show but the only problem was that Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy’s team was already loaded with good pitchers at the time and he simply didn’t need another one. So instead, he asked Lindell if he’d like to try the outfield. Johnny had always been a good hitter, averaging close to .300 in the minors, so the 6’5″ native of Greely, CO gave it a shot. By 1943, with WWII raging and the regular Yankee outfield disrupted by military service, Lindell became New York’s regular center fielder. He had his best big league season in 1944 when he averaged .300, poked 18 home runs, drove in 103 and led the AL in triples for the second straight year.
Off the field, Lindell was a party animal. It was rumored that Yankee GM George Weiss spent more money on private detectives he hired to keep night-time tabs on his outfielder than he paid Lindell in salary. By 1945, it was Lindell’s turn to serve his country. When he returned to the Yankees in 1946, New York’s regular outfielders and prospects had all returned from military service and Lindell gradually moved into the role of the team’s fourth outfielder.
Johnny had some great moments as a Yankee. He hit .500 and drove in seven runs during the Yankees 1947 World Series victory over the Dodgers. In 1949, he hit a huge home run in New York’s final regular season series against Boston, enabling the Yankees to move into a tie with the Red Sox. But as each year passed, Lindell found himself playing less and less and during the 1950 season, Weiss sold him to the Cardinals. When St. Louis released him at the end of that season, Lindell decided to go back to pitching and returned to the minors to work on his knuckle ball. He put together an amazing 24-9 season in the Pacific Coast League in 1952 and the Pirates promoted him to their starting rotation the following year. But Lindell couldn’t throw his knuckle ball over the plate for strikes and the more patient big league hitters simply waited him out. He finished the ’53 season with a 5-16 record and led the NL in walks. By the following year he was out of the big leagues for good.
Johnny shares his birthday with his former Yankee teammate, a third baseman with the nickname of “Bull.”