Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cardinals Bonus Baby, Von McDaniel "Mr. Vonderful"

I was looking through some of my Topps 1958 cards and came across a card for Von McDaniel.  McDaniel, a right handed pitcher, intrigued me as I noted that his birthday was April 18, 1939.  So when he pitched during the 1957 season, he would have been only 18 years old. 

Topps 1958, Von McDaniel Card #65
I found that McDaniel was a Cardinal bonus baby, who was signed on May 23, 1957, receiving a $50,000 signing bonus, which would be worth about $420,000 in today's dollars.

Just two weeks after graduating from Arnett High School in Hollis, Oklahoma, McDaniel joined the Cardinal pitching staff that already included his 21 year-old brother, Lindy.  Soon thereafter, the Cardinals must have thought that it was money well spent.  In his Major league debut, on June 13, 1957, McDaniel pitched four shutout innings in relief of Cardinal starter Vinegar Bend Mizell in a 8 - 1 loss to the Phillies.   Von took the mound and struck out the first Phillies batter he faced. After a ground out and a single to center field, he proceeded to retire the next ten batters in order.  McDaniel ended the game giving up one hit, striking out four (besetting each of the Phillies' battery mates, pitcher, Jack Stanford and, catcher, Stan Lopata, twice).
Three days later, on June 16, McDaniel returned to the mound, again pitching four shutout innings in relief, this time for starter Murry Dickson.  McDaniel recorded his first Major league win in the Cardinals 7 - 6 victory over the Dodgers.  He allowed one hit and struck out five while walking no batters.  During the game, he struck out future Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese.  McDaniel entered the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied at six.  Ken Boyer, the Cardinal third baseman,  seventh home run of the season, leading off the top of the seventh inning, gave the Cardinals the lead and ended up being the game winning run.   
On June 21, McDaniel got another chance to pitch against the Dodgers, this time making his first Major league start.  The Dodgers' first hit of the game was in the sixth inning, with the scored tied at zero, Jim Gilliam lead off the inning with single.  The next batter, Pee Wee Reese reached base on Hall of Fame first baseman Stan Musial's error.  Duke Snider followed with a bunt single.  With the bases loaded, and no outs, Dodgers' right fielder Elmer Valo ground back to McDaniel, starting a pitcher to catcher to first base double play.  The inning ended when Dodger's left fielder Gino Cimoli grounded back to McDaniel.  The Cardinals scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning and a second run in the eighth inning as the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 2 - 0.   McDaniel had pitched a two-hit shutout in his first major league start and improved his record to 2 - 0.     
Then on June 27, McDaniel got his second start, this time against the Phillies.  In the bottom of the first inning, the Cardinals jump to a 3 - 0 lead, aided by a two-run home run by Stan Musial.   The Cardinals added another run in the second inning, when Don Blasingame was plated on Musial's triple, to extend the Cardinals' lead to 4 - 0.  In the top of the fourth inning, the Phillies scored a run when Ed Bouchee's double scored Granny Hamner, touching McDaniel for his first Major league run.   McDaniel pitched into the eighth inning, giving up five hits and four runs, in the Cardinals 6 - 4 victory.  McDaniel improved his record to 3 - 0, and opened his Major league career pitching 19 consecutive scoreless innings.
On July 2, McDaniel got his third start of the season, facing off against the Braves and their Hall of Fame pitcher, Warren Spahn.  McDaniel retired the first 18 Brave batters and the Cardinals had built a 3 - 0 lead.  Braves' center fielder Bill Bruton opened the seventh inning with a single ending McDaniel quest for a perfect game after six inning.  Red Schoendienst then double to right field with Bruton going to third base.  Next batter, Hall of Fame third baseman Ed Mathews' sacrifice fly plated Bruton and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron's single scored Schoendienst.  Aaron reached third base on left fielder Wes Covington's single, before McDaniel worked out of the inning retiring Frank Torre and Felix Mantilla and the Cardinals ended the top of the sixth inning with a 3 - 2 lead.   In the eight inning, after giving up a lead off single to Del Crandall and retiring pinch hitter Carl Sawatski, McDaniel was relieved by Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm.  The Cardinals won the game 4 - 2, as McDaniel opened his rookie with four victories.
Soon fans begun to flow through the turnstiles each time McDaniel took the mound and earned him the nickname "Mr. Vonderful". In series both home and away, major-league owners witnessed a 20 percent increase in attendance in games that McDaniel started.  
In his next three starts, McDaniel had a no decision against the Reds and losses to the Pirates and Phillies. 
On July 28, in a start against the Pirates, McDaniel gave up a two-out second inning double to third baseman, Gene Baker, and then he went on to retire the last 19 Pirates' batters in the Cardinals 4 - 0 victory.  After pitching his second shutout of the season, McDaniel improved his record to 5 - 2.
The Cardinals seemed to be energized by the June arrival of McDaniel. From his first victory on June 16, the Cardinals went on a 33-17 run, during which time they held at least a share of first place for 28 days. 
In August, McDaniel opened the month on the 3rd, pitching five innings in the Cardinals 3 - 1 victory over the Phillies as he improved as record to 6 - 2.    After a loss and a no decision to the Braves, McDaniel took the mound on August 20 and pitched another complete game, his third of the year, an eight hitter, in a 3 - 2 victory over the Giants. This was his last Major league victory.  His record for the season stood at seven victories and three losses.  He ended the month of August on the 27th, when he pitched his fourth complete game, a 2 - 1 loss to the Pirates.  The game was tied at one in the bottom of the eight inning when Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski's single scored Bob Skinner with the game winning run.  McDaniel record for the season was now 7 wins and four losses. 
At the beginning of September, McDaniel started two games against the Reds.  On September 2, he failed to get out of the second inning of a game that the Reds defeated the Cardinals 10 -5, and McDaniel took his fifth loss of the season.  On September 7, in his second start against the Reds, he again pitched only into the second inning, and left with the bases loaded and one out and was relieved by his brother, Lindy.  The Cardinals won the game 7 - 4, as Lindy McDaniel got the victory and improved his season record to 13 wins and eight losses.
McDaniel's final appearance of the year came on September 17 against the Dodgers.  He pitched in relief of Cardinal starter Larry Jackson, entering in relief at the start of the 8th inning.  He record one out and walk one and gave up a hit and was replaced by Billy Muffett.
Here is McDaniel's pitching record from the 1957 season:
Complete Games
 Innings Pitched
Earned Run Average
When the 1958 season began, McDaniel became inexplicably wild. For the season, he appeared in only two games for the Cardinals.  His first appearance was on his birthday, April 18, when he pitched in relief, entering the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, during the Cardinals 11 - 6 loss to the Cubs.  McDaniel failed to record an out as he gave up hits to each of the five batters he faced and gave up three earned runs.  On May 11, McDaniel was the Cardinals' starting pitcher against the Cubs.   In the first inning after issuing a lead off walk to Tony Taylor, he retired the next three batters.  Then in the second inning he walked the base loaded, before he got out of the inning without giving up any runs.  In the third inning, after issuing a lead off walk to Cubs' right fielder, Lee Walls, he was replaced on the mound by Morrie Martin.  The Cardinals won the game 8 - 7.  McDaniel pitched two innings and gave up no runs or hits but issued five walks. At age 19, he had made his final Major league appearance.
McDaniel was then sent to the minor leagues and during the 1958 season he pitched for the Winston-Salem Red Birds of the Carolina League and the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League.  For the year he appeared in 12 games, winning one with two losses and a 9.35 ERA.  He pitched 12 innings and gave up 14 hits with 17 walks and 13 earned runs.  Although McDaniel rebounded somewhat in 1959, while pitching for the Dayton Beach Islanders in the Florida State League, when he finished the season with a 13 - 5 record, he never overcame his control problems.
During the 1960 season, with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League, while pitching in 12 games that year, McDaniel decided to became a third baseman to take advantage of his batting prowess.  Although he never got a base hit in 26 Major league at bats, he tried to return to the big leagues as an infielder. In 1962, with the expansion Houston Colt 45s' Triple A affiliate Oklahoma City 89ers, then a part of the American Association, he slugged 14 home runs and batted in 79 runs.  McDaniel continue to play as an infielder in the minor leagues, and pitched in seven more games (six appearance in 1963 with the Oklahoma City 89ers, then a part of the Pacific Coast League, and one final appearance with the San Antonio Bullets of the Texas League).  His professional baseball career ended after the 1966 season after playing two season with the Dallas Forth Worth Spurs of Texas League, Double AA affiliate of the Cubs.
On August 20, 1995, McDaniel died at age 56 in Lawton, Oklahoma, after suffering a heart attack and a stroke.

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