Called “one of the
worst players in the Hall (of Fame)” by ESPN.com’s Jim Caple, Fred Lindstrom was a big league regular for just
seven of his 13 big league seasons. In his star-crossed career, Lindstrom led
his league in a major offensive category only once and is best known for being the goat of the 1924 World Series.
Born on Fredrick Charles
Lindstrom on November 21, 1905 in Chicago, IL, the 18-year-old made his major league debut on April 15, 1924 with the New
York Giants. In his initial big league campaign, Lindstrom appeared in 79 games
and hit .253 for the NL champs.
In the World Series following
that season, the third baseman made his mark when he became the youngest man to play in a World Series game (18 years, 10
months, 13 days) and when he went 4-5 against Washington’s Walter Johnson in Game 5.
It was in the 7th and final game however, that Lindstrom is unfortunately most remembered for.
With the score tied in the
bottom of the 12th, the Senators were threatening with runners on first and second with one out when Earl McNeely hit a routine
grounder to third that, when Lindstrom approached it, took a bad hop and went over his head.
The winning run scored and Lindstrom was forever etched into postseason infamy.
According to Lindstrom and newspaper accounts of the time, the ball hit a “pebble.”
Lindstrom didn’t let
the incident prevent him from having an outstanding career, however. He remained
in New York for the next eight seasons, hitting over .300 six times. Lindstrom's
best seasons came in 1928 when he hit .358 and led the NL with 258 hits and in 1930 when he posted a .379 average and hit
a career high 22 home runs.
Never known for his fielding
prowess, Lindstrom was shifted to the outfield when he developed back problems in 1931.
When the legendary John McGraw retired as Giants manager following the 1932 season, Lindstrom hoped to be named the
replacement. When the Giants chose Bill Terry instead, he requested a trade and
was dealt to Pittsburgh in a three-team deal.
Lindstrom spent two seasons
with the Pirates, hitting .310 and .290 before getting dealt to his hometown Chicago Cubs prior to the 1935 season. Now 30, the veteran appeared in 90 games for the NL Champs and hit .275.
Although he was not the goat in the Fall Classic, the Cubs were swept by the Detroit Tigers.
With his best days
behind him, Lindstrom was shipped to Brooklyn for the 1936 season. He would retire
after just 26 games with the Dodgers. In his career, Fred Lindstrom hit .311
with 103 homeruns and 1,747 hits.
The former Giant managed
briefly in minor leagues in the early 1940s and coached at Northwestern University in the 1950s. His son, Charlie, appeared in one game with the White Sox in 1958.
In 1976 – 40 years
following his playing days – Lindstrom was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. It is widely believed that former teammate Frankie Frisch, then the president of the Committee, was largely
responsible for his induction. On October 4, 1981, just shy of his 76th birthday,
Fred Lindstrom died in his native Chicago. He insisted to his final days that
a “pebble” had caused his World Series gaffe.
-David Zingler, February 2005