Lindy McDaniel is not a household name, except maybe in Lindy McDaniel’s household. Certainly his name rarely comes up when discussing some of the most notable home runs hit at Tiger Stadium. But it should. In one of the last games before the advent of the designated-hitter rule in 1973 made hitting pitchers obsolete in American League parks, McDaniel cracked the final four-bagger by a pitcher at The Corner.
It came on September 28, 1972, a Thursday night game against New York. It was the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie. Mickey Lolich was on the mound, trying to keep Detroit a half-game behind Boston in the final week of a torrid pennant race. In his usual bulldog style, Lolich was on his way to a 22-win season. However, he also was on his way to surrendering 29 home runs, tops in the American League.
McDaniel, swinging from the right side of the plate, dug in. Crack! The Yankees’ 36-year-old reliever, a lifetime .148 hitter with just two home runs in a career stretching back to 1955, unexpectedly connected to left field, handing New York a 2-1 lead. The Tigers clawed back to knot the score in the last of the ninth, but the Yankees won it in the 12th on their third solo shot of the night off Lolich.
Afterward, manager Billy Martin criticized his pitcher’s performance at bat and on the bases. Lolich had bunted through a pitch on an attempted squeeze play and failed to advance on a wild pitch, each time costing the Tigers a run. If nothing else, Lolich’s ineptitude served as a reminder why, come the following April, the ninth spot in the Detroit batting order was going to be filled by a “real” hitter, Gates Brown.