This article was written by Norman Macht
This article was published in the 1989 Baseball Research Journal
Two sons of famous major leaguers had mere cups of coffee in the bigs. But what a show they staged one afternoon in The Show: a 1-0 record and a 3.000 slugging average.
It was one of those late-season games that meant nothing to the standings. The Chicago White Sox had clinched second place and the Kansas City Athletics were snugly seventh when they met at Comiskey Park on September 28 to close out the 1958 season.
But for two sons of former major league stars it was the biggest-and for one the only-appearance of their major league careers.
As a result Chuck Lindstrom, son of Hall of Famer Fred Lindstrom, made the record books as one of fifteen non-pitchers with a lifetime 1.000 batting average.
And Hal Trosky Jr., whose father was a .302 lifetime hitter in 11 seasons with the Indians and White Sox, finished the day as the winning pitcher in the only big-league decision of his career.
Both had been called up from the minors to finish out the season. Lindstrom, at twenty-two an all-star catcher with Davenport in the Three-I League, got in the game in the fourth inning. He walked his first time up. The next time, the KC catcher, Frank House, tipped him to look for a fastball. Lindstrom banged it against the left-field wall for a triple, driving in a run. He later scored.
He was on deck when the last out was made in the bottom of the eighth in the 11-4 White Sox victory, the biggest offensive outing in two months for the light-hitting Sox.
Lindstrom never batted in the big leagues again. His 3.000 lifetime slugging average is unsurpassed.
It was a day off for most of the regulars. Rookies and veteran benchwarmers were in the lineup for Chicago. Nellie Fox was the only regular starter on the field; one of the reserve infielders was hurt.
Stover McIlwain, a nineteen-year-old righthander, started for the Sox. He pitched four innings, gave up one run and four hits, and struck out four. The score was 1-1 when Earl Battey pinch hit for him in the fourth. The Sox scored two runs. McIlwain went out with the lead, but he was one inning shy of earning the victory. It was the only game he ever started in the majors. After a few minor-league seasons he was stricken with cancer and died at twenty-six.
The call went out to the bullpen for Hal Trosky to come in for the fifth. He had been at Colorado Springs until three weeks before. This proved to be his second-and last-big-league game.
Three days earlier, Trosky had pitched a scoreless fifth inning in relief of Dick Donovan against the Tigers. Ray Boone grounded into a double play pinch hitting for him.
A 6-foot-3 inch righthander who had started out as a first baseman (his father started as a pitcher and switched to first), Trosky again pitched a scoreless fifth this day. Chicago scored three in the last of the fifth for a 6-1 lead.
Taking the mound for the sixth, Trosky looked around his infield and took comfort from the steadying presence of Fox. Then a rare series of events occurred. Three ground balls were hit to Fox. Two went through his legs and one bounced off his chest. All three were scored as hits. Trosky walked a couple, and Suitcase Simpson, who had hit Trosky hard in the minors, roped one into center field for the only solid hit of the inning, and three runs were in.
“When we got back to the dugout,” Trosky recalls, “they were all kidding Fox. George Kell, Sherm Lollar, Earl Torgeson, all of them. Somebody said to him, `Gee, you musta had a good week at the track to pay off the scorer to call those base hits instead of errors.’ Nellie laughed it off.”
In the last of the sixth Jim Rivera batted for Trosky and struck out. Bob Shaw finished up. The win was credited to Trosky. He was twenty-two the next day. He never pitched another big-league inning.
What cut short the careers of Lindstrom and Trosky, despite their impressive debuts?
Lindstrom expected to make the team the next spring, 1959.
“I never got a chance to play,” he says. “At the minor-league camp I hit nothing but frozen ropes, but didn’t even make the AAA club. Finally, they sold me to San Diego in the PCL. Ralph Kiner was the general manager. They cut my pay in half, to $3,200, and gave me a ticket back to Class A. I took the ticket and swapped it for one going home and never looked back.
“I could have taken the pay cut if I’d had a decent shot at a higher league. I didn’t like the treatment I was getting, didn’t have the mental toughness to keep fighting back, so I decided, with all the negative aspects of the game, the travel, the hanging around all day waiting to play, who needed it?”
As for Trosky, he had been offered substantial bonuses by several teams as a youngster, but this was in the days when anything over $4,000 forced you to sit on the major-league roster for two years.
“The Cubs, Tigers, and Braves wanted to sign me, but players like Hank Aaron, Ed Mathews, Joe Adcock, Randy Jackson all advised me not to take the money and sit on the bench. Even some of the bonus babies who had done it said to me, don’t do it. So I didn’t.
“Chuck Comiskey was running the White Sox. I liked him. He was young, genuine, a guy who wanted to play himself and had empathy for young players. They had a good farm system. I signed with them.”
Playing first base, he was injured in a collision with a baserunner. Something snapped in his left arm. He couldn’t bend it and was out for the year.
Switching to the mound, he had good spring trainings every year, never had a losing record, kept his ERA under 4.00, was a good fielder, started and relieved, but never made it to the big club, until that tail end of 1958.
After his brief stint with the White Sox, he started the 1959 season at Indianapolis and worked in each of the first 11 games.
“I never knew how I was going to be used. Then they sent me down to Memphis. Luke Appling was the manager. He was the only one who was consistent and up front with me. He told me how he intended to use me, so I knew what to expect.”
Trosky was second in ERA in the Southern Association when he was recalled to Indianapolis. That’s as far as he got.
His last year was 1960, at Nashville.
“Jim Turner, the Vols manager, told me if I’d been in the Yankees’ organization I would have been in the big leagues two years ago. I was twenty-three, and I wanted out of the White Sox system. They’d had a shakeup and Chuck Comiskey was out. I didn’t sign for 1961. I was contacted by fifteen other clubs, but the White Sox wouldn’t sell or release me.
“A year and a half later they were offered what I thought was a generous amount for me. They turned it down. Every spring for three years scouts came around and wanted to see me throw. They still wanted me. After that I’d been out too long. Physically I could come back but I couldn’t get mentally and emotionally ready again.
“I don’t know what the club’s thinking was. I guess somebody up there didn’t like me. Finally, eleven years later, they sent me my release.”
Neither player had felt any pressure from his famous father. Writers made comparisons, but the players never imposed that burden on themselves. And neither one dwells on regrets about his big-league career.
“It was a neat experience, being up there with people I liked,” says Trosky. “I wouldn’t sell it for half a million dollars.
“Just the chance to be a teammate of Early Wynn’s, no matter how briefly, made it all worthwhile. My dad had held him up as what a person should be, an example of pure dedication. And he was right.
“The day before I got my only victory, Wynn had gone after his 250th. But he lost, 2 to 1, to Howard Reed, a kid making his first big-league start. The next day here he was, thirty-eight years old, on the last day of the season, when nobody is going anywhere but home the next day, and he’s out there before the game running wind sprints, foul line to center field and back, for twenty minutes. Every pitcher does it, dull and monotonous as it is, all season. But nobody was out there on the last day-except Gus. I know; he called me over to come out and pace him that day.
“He was the first example to follow I ever saw.”
Today Lindstrom is the Parks and Recreation director in Lincoln, Illinois. He also sells outdoor lighting systems and Diamond Dry, a substance used to soak up excess water on playing fields. Trosky became a life-insurance agent while he was playing and continues in that field in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.