St. Louis fans love brothers. They loved the Deans, Dizzy and Paul, and in 1934 the Deans won St. Louis a pennant. They loved the Coopers, Walker and Mort, and during the early '40s the Coopers won four pennants for St. Louis. Since 1946 the Cardinals haven't won any pennants, but then they haven't had any brothers. Now they do, St. Louis loves them and fans are waiting—and hoping.
The newest set of brothers is the McDaniels, Lindy and Von, two tall, rugged right-handed pitchers from a cotton farm near Hollis, Oklahoma. It is due largely to them that the Cardinals, who, according to most preseason predictions, were doomed to mediocrity, have spent as much time in first place during the last month as any other team.
Lyndall Dale, at 21, is the older. He has short brown hair, steady brown eyes and speaks quietly and seriously. He belongs to the Church of Christ, and hopes to preach one day. Last winter he studied the Bible at Florida Christian College. So did young Audrey Kuhn, a pretty blonde with blue eyes and delicate features, whom Lindy had met during spring training the year before. When the semester was over, Lindy and "Augie," as he calls her, were married.
Max Von McDaniel is 18, with blond hair, blue eyes and a swift smile. His admiration for his older brother is sincere and obvious. Just six weeks out of high school, this is his first period away from home, and he is slightly awed, a bit lonely, but confident that what the boys back home in Hollis can't hit, the men in the National League can't hit either.
July 14, 1957
The McDaniel boys were born and have spent most of their lives in Hollis. Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel have two other children, a girl, Anita Beth, age 10, and a 13-year-old left-hander named Kerry Don.
"If you want to meet a real cutup, that's Kerry Don," says Lindy. "But he'll probably be a better pitcher than Von or myself. He's got good control for a lefty."
"He's got good control for anybody," adds Von.
Unlike many fathers of major league ballplayers, Newell McDaniel never played baseball. His sports were tennis and track. But from the time they were old enough to steal second, the boys loved baseball, and Mr. McDaniel did his best to show them the proper way to play it. He worked with them in the evenings before supper. Lindy would do the pitching and Von the catching. As a matter of fact, it wasn't until a few years ago, when he was playing American Legion ball, that Von began pitching. He was throwing batting practice one day when his coach, short of pitchers and impressed with Von's strong arm, asked him if he knew how to throw a curve.
"Heck," says Von now with a grin, "I'd been fooling around with a curve for years."
Both boys went to Arnett High School, about eight miles from Hollis. By the time Lindy was a senior, he had been spotted by Fred Hawn, a scout for the Cardinals. Hawn, a leathery little man with iron-gray hair, became a close friend of Newell McDaniel, and after Lindy had spent a year at the University of Oklahoma, Hawn succeeded in signing him to a Cardinal contract at a $50,000 bonus. Last year, in his first complete season with St. Louis, Lindy won seven and lost six, to establish himself as one of the Cardinals' better pitchers. This year he was 8-4 at All-Star time and is regarded by many as the ace of the St. Louis staff.
Meanwhile, Von was striking out everybody in Oklahoma. When he graduated from high school this May, Hawn wasted no time in signing him to a contract identical to the one Lindy had signed a year and a half before.
When Von joined the Cardinals on May 23, they were in sixth place with a listless 13-17 record. Then, while on the road, they began to win. They won 18 out of 24 games, including eight in a row, and when they returned home they were in second place, a game behind Milwaukee. During this stretch Lindy had won four games and Von had pitched well in two relief appearances, getting credit for his first major league win by shutting out the Dodgers in four innings. Von's performances stimulated the older players, excited the imagination of St. Louis fans who watched him beat Brooklyn on TV and made him a hero before he had thrown a single pitch in the home park.
Back in St. Louis, the Cardinals took three out of four from Pittsburgh and moved into first place. Then the champion Dodgers came to town and St. Louis braced itself for a rugged four-game series.
It is doubtful, no matter what happens the rest of the season, that St. Louis will get as excited as it got the night of that first Dodger game, the night Von McDaniel made his first major league start and his first appearance before the home crowd.
The morning paper said that Wil-lard Schmidt had been selected to pitch that night and most people believed it, even Von McDaniel. But Lindy didn't. He had watched the way Von had been handled the two previous days—hard throwing one day, no throwing the next. And he knew that Manager Freddie Hutchinson would not tell Von when he would start until a few hours before game time, to insure Von of a good night's rest. Lindy advised his brother to get plenty of sleep.
At 10:30 that morning Von had his breakfast of cold cereal, fried eggs and cocoa in the coffee shop of the Fairgrounds Hotel.
BURDEN OF CORRESPONDENCE
"I'm usually earlier than this," he explained, "but I've been upstairs writing a lot of letters. There's been lots of mail lately, mostly from insurance companies. Everybody's been wanting me to buy insurance. You've got to be mighty firm with them. It's nice to get letters from friends, though. But it keeps me pretty busy answering them."
The waitress brought his fried eggs, then lingered.
"Could you sign this, please?" she asked hopefully, shoving a card forward. "It's for my little boy. He's 6."
Von signed. "Could you put 'To Charlie'?" she asked. Von wrote, "To Charlie." "Thank you very much," said the waitress. "This will make him very happy." She moved off.
McDaniel looked a trifle embarrassed. "I have two signatures," he confessed. "One is for signing autographs and the other is for signing checks. That way I won't sign anything I shouldn't.
"I may go to college this fall. If I do, it will be to Abilene Christian, because that's near home. My mother doesn't want me too far from home, especially now that I'll be away so much during the season."
Breakfast over, Von walked across the hotel lobby toward the elevator.
"I'd surely like to go over to Lindy's, but he told me I'd better get some rest today. So I guess I'll go up and write some letters."
Six hours later, Von was sitting on the bright red stool in front of his locker, dressing. Only a few players were there as yet—Murry Dickson, who had pitched the night before, Walker Cooper, Wally Moon and, of course, Lindy. Von was busy adjusting a pair of socks, each of which had a small hole near the toe.
"Von," said Lindy, "if I were you I'd change those socks. You're likely to get a blister if you wear those."
Von examined his feet and frowned. "Oh, I'll surely be all right in these."
Lindy shrugged and left. Across the locker room came a boy wearing a fresh Cardinal uniform. He was Bob Miller, another 18-year-old bonus pitcher, signed that day. The two had pitched against each other in American Legion ball.
"Hey, Von, it sure is good to see you. When did you get out of school?"
Standing, Von shook his hand enthusiastically. "I got out last month," he said, grinning.
"Gee, you're lucky. Ours didn't end until last week. It sure is good to see somebody my own age." Miller took a step closer and almost whispered, "What's it like up here?"
"Aw, it's not much different than pitching anywhere," answered Von with authority. "What I mean is, you just pitch the same way you always do. Now if you were up here as a hitter, then you might have to adjust yourself to a new kind of pitching. But a pitcher just throws the way he always does."
"You've been doing all right," said Miller. "Are they going to start you soon?"
"I don't know."
"If they're going to start you, when do they let you know?"
"I don't know that, either. Nobody's ever told me before."
Butch Yatkeman, the Cardinals' clubhouse man, came by and spotted the holes in Von's socks. "Hey, get those socks off! You don't want to get blisters." Yatkeman produced a fresh pair, and Von took the old ones off.
"Hey, Von," yelled someone from the far end of the locker room. "Hutch wants to see you."
Von, with one sock on, one off, slid into his shower clogs and clopped toward the manager's office. By now there were more players present and, as Von passed them, they winked at each other. No one talked.
In a minute he was back. He sat down on the stool and put on the other sock.
"What did he want?" asked Miller.
"Well," said Von calmly, his eyes never leaving the floor, "I'm going to get them out tonight."
A half hour later, on the field, the Cardinal substitutes were taking batting practice. Von sat by himself in the Cardinal dugout. Lindy, bat in hand, came over.
"Hey, Von, if I were you, I'd go in and lie down on Doc's table and get some rest."
Von shook his head. "I want some air. I've been in the hotel all day writing letters. Hey, Lindy? Do I take batting practice with the regulars?" Lindy nodded. "How many swings do I take?"
"Bunt two, then take five swings," said Lindy. Then he turned and headed for the batting cage.
For another 10 seconds Von sat in silence on the bench. Then he rose nonchalantly and said, "Well, I guess I'll go in and lie down on Doc's table and get some rest."
Three hours later Busch Stadium was filled. Dusk had darkened the sky, but the bright lights of the stadium made the field look sunny. In front of the Cardinal dugout, Von McDaniel, 18, threw his last warmup pitches to Walker Cooper, 42.
Then the four umpires gathered at home plate, the national anthem was played, and the first batter, Junior Gilliam of the Dodgers, walked to the plate. Von McDaniel, looking at least 22 with his cap pulled down over his forehead, delivered his first pitch, a strike. The crowd roared. Gilliam grounded out and the crowd roared again. Reese went out too, and then Snider struck out foolishly to end the first inning. The crowd rose in applause.
"What poise," screamed Harry Ca-ray over the radio. "Only 18 years old, just out of high school. He doesn't even shave."
"Oh, he does too," said Augie McDaniel from her seat behind the Cardinal dugout. She held a pocket radio Lindy had given her.
In the sixth inning, the score was still 0-0, and Von had not given up a hit. Then suddenly the Dodgers got their first hit, then another and, along with an error by Stan Musial, they loaded the bases with no one out. Elmer Valo, old but dangerous, came to the plate.
In his private box high above the field, Gussie Busch sat, nervous and quiet. Nearby, in the press box, General Manager Frank Lane was also nervous but not so quiet. In the Cardinal dugout, Lindy gazed sullenly out to the mound. Fred Hutchinson grimly signaled for Relief Pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm to start warming up. The crowd waited and watched.
Von took his wind-up and threw. Valo swung, and the ball exploded back at Von on a bounce. Without hesitation he fired it back to his catcher, Hal Smith, standing on the plate, who caught it and then threw to first. Two men were out, no one had scored. But there were still runners at second and third. Gino Cimoli, a .300 hitter this year and even tougher in the clutch, came up. On third, Pee Wee Reese pretended to race for home, vainly doing his best to upset the young pitcher. Cimoli swung and, like Valo, hit the ball to Von. Grabbing it, McDaniel turned slowly to first and, as Cimoli raced toward the base, he threw him out. The tidal wave of cheering might have been heard in Hollis. The inning was over and, as it turned out, so was the game.
St. Louis scored two runs. The Dodgers were through. When, in the ninth inning, Gil Hodges grounded out to Alvin Dark to end the game, Cardinal players pummeled McDaniel and almost carried him to the dugout. One of the first to reach Von was Lindy. They shook hands.
At a Howard Johnson restaurant later that night, Augie and the brothers ordered shrimp salad, hamburgers and milk shakes. Both boys are well known in or out of uniform, and several people stopped to congratulate Von.
"You'd better have the operator at the hotel disconnect your phone tonight, Von," said Lindy. "Don't accept any calls except from me."
"I wish we could disconnect our phone," said Augie. "Every morning the phone starts ringing at 10. Sometimes as soon as Lindy hangs up, it starts ringing again."
"Don't forget to call Dad tonight, Von." Von nodded.
The manager of the restaurant came over to tell the boys that his boss had phoned during the seventh inning to say that if the boys happened to come in after the game, the dinner was on the house. Von said, "It's a good thing I didn't give up a couple of runs in the eighth."
The manager left. There was a long silence. Lindy and Augie began eating. Von stared idly at the calloused fingers of his pitching hand. It had been a long day, and he looked tired. Finally he spoke.
"This is the first time I've been away from home, and I sort of miss the folks." He looked at his brother and smiled. "But Lindy says you don't get homesick unless you don't like what you're doing. And we both like what we're doing."
So does St. Louis.
The All-Star break is the baseball season's halfway point. For the American League, it might just as well be all over. Moving at a crushing .718 pace (28-11) since Memorial Day, when they were three games behind the White Sox, the Yankees quickly erased any premature hopes of a pennant race this year. On All-Star day they were comfortably in first place—just as they had been last year and the year before that.
The White Sox' perennial June pennant dreams, heightened this year by a strong .700 run through May 30, waned when the pitching staff finally found the load too heavy to carry alone.
The Indians, bothered by too many injuries, and the Tigers, perhaps hampered by too many individual stars, not only eliminated themselves from any pennant consideration when they both played below-.500 ball the last six weeks but found themselves pressed for a spot in the first division by the hot-and-cold Red Sox and the irreverent Orioles.
Paul Richards' crew of ragamuffins, the most improved team in the league, was only 2½ games removed from the cellar on Memorial Day. Since then it won 23 and lost 15 (six by one run) to climb within 3½ games of third place.
In sharp contrast to the American League's annual Yankee blues, the National League is presenting a pennant race even more incredible than last year's three-team merry-go-round. On Memorial Day four teams—the Redlegs, Braves, Dodgers and Phillies—were bunched in tense contention for the lead.
The Cardinals, in fifth place, 6½ games behind the league-leading Reds, seemed all set for another disappointing season. But in the six weeks since then the amazing Cards have won 28 and lost only 12. At the All-Star Game break they were 2½ games ahead of everyone else, opening up the widest margin in the league since early June. It was the team's biggest lead since June 1950.
The faltering Redlegs and the injury-ridden Dodgers lost more games than they won, while the sputtering Phils and the enigmatic Braves just about broke even. For a while the sixth-place Giants threatened to move into the race, too, when they won 15 out of 19, but a five-game losing streak spoiled the fun.
One interim conclusion seems safe. Either the Cubs or the Pirates will finish last.—L.W.