RIP: Don Cardwell

It has been a while since I have posted. I apologize. I have been hampered by:
1. Being busy
2. Being in a posh hotel in Atlanta last week that wanted $12/night for internet access
Tonight I’m in a budget hotel (less than $60/night) in Louisville and low and behold, I have free high speed internet access. That proves two things:
1. I’m frugal
2. High brow people and things are losers
Anyway, it has been a week now since former Pirate hurler Don Cardwell passed away. Let’s have a look at his career…
In The Beginning – Cardwell was signed by the Phillies in 1954.
Great Beginnings – after being traded from Philly to the Cubs, Cardwell tossed a no-hitter in his first start for the Wriglies. You can find the visitor half of the 9th inning of that game on Youtube. I don’t know who it is that put that clip on Youtube, but he/she deserves high praise. Notice that there aren’t any baskets on the outfield fence. Also notice that there is only one cop trying to hold the mob at bay at the beginning of the celebration. Cardwell was the first and is still the only pitcher to toss a no-no in his first start after a trade.
To The Bucs – after going from Chicago to St. Louis in the 1962 off-season, the Cards traded him to the Pirates a month later. Pittsburgh got Cardwell and Julio Gotay, sending Dick Groat and Diomedes Olivo to the Redbirds. I remember reading about this trade (maybe in October 1964 by David Halberstam) that Branch Rickey, at that point working for the Cardinals, was opposed to it, even though he liked Groat and had signed him for the Pirates. Generally speaking, Rickey preferred getting younger players and in this trade, St. Louis got the two oldest players in the deal. At any rate, I think this worked out pretty well for St. Louis.
First Pirate Win – 4/10/63. In his first appearance as a Pirate, Cardwell was the starting pitcher in the third game of the season. He went 8-2/3 innings and allowed just two runs to Atlanta. He was lifted in the 9th after putting two men on base. Bob Veale relieved and earned the save. Donn Clendenon’s homer in the bottom of the 8th broke a 2-2 tie.
Last Pirate Appearance – 9/22/66. Tossed 2/3 of an inning in a 14-1 blow out loss to the Braves.
How He Got Away – on 12/6/66 he was traded with Don Bosch to the Mets for Dennis Ribant and Gary Kolb. Somewhat of an interesting trade. Both Bosch and Kolb were outfielders and neither of them would hit a lick in the Show. Bosch got 318 ABs and had a 29 OPS+. Kolb was a touch better. In 450 ABs, his OPS+ was 65. Ribant was a young pitcher of some talent – he’d won double digits for the Mets in 1966. But never did much after that. Ribant was 9-8 with a less than league average ERA for the Bucs in 1967 and then was swapped to the Tigers for Dave Wickersham.
Best Season – 1961. Cardwell set career highs in wins, innings pitched, whiffs and starts (38).
The Miracle Year – Cardwell was a member of the Miracle Mets starting rotation in 1969 and tossed one inning in the World Series.
Pretty Good Wood – Cardwell ranks in the top 20 all-time among pitchers with 15 career homers, including 5 in 1960.
Unusual Windup – as described in the Neyer-James Guide to Pitchers: “…he pumped his arms over his head with the ball in his glove, his right hand empty. He would grab the ball at the top of his windup, and get his grip for the pitch he wanted while following through on the delivery.” The book states he did this because he had trouble with tipping his pitches. I’m certain that if a young pitcher were to try this today, it would be corrected almost immediately. You can see this on the Youtube video of his no-hitter. He goes into his windup with an empty right hand.
Post-Career – according to his obituaries, Cardwell was part of automobile dealerships after his career ended.

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