RIP to Chuck Lindstrom, who only played one game in the majors — but what a game he had. The son of Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom, he died on September 29 at the age of 85. Lindstrom played for the 1958 Chicago White Sox.
Charles William Lindstrom was born in Chicago on September 7, 1936. His father had retired from baseball earlier that season, finishing his 13-year career that May. While Freddie settled into retirement and became the baseball coach at Northwestern University, Chuck was developing his own baseball skills and playing American Legion ball with the Winnetka Post 10 team.
Lindstrom was primarily a catcher and pitcher on his Legion team, and it was good enough to reach the 1953 Legion World Series tournament, played in Miami. Lindstrom threw a 5-0, 1-hitter against Edison Post of Detroit in the opening round. He also defeated a Cincinnati team that featured future major-leaguer Dick Drott as their ace pitcher. Winnetka made it to the championship game but lost to Yakima, 4-1. Lindstrom allowed all four runs in 4 innings pitched and then caught the final 5 innings. He was 2-1 in the tournament as a pitcher and caught and played second base when he wasn’t on the mound. Despite the defeat, Lindstrom was honored as the American Legion Baseball Player of the Year. Lindstrom humbly said the award was more for the effort he gave than the results he showed.
“I played every position, even if I walked nine guys and hit three. Whatever it may be, it mattered that you still stuck with it and battled,” he said in a 2016 interview. “The award wasn’t to acknowledge that you struck out 35 players; it was a matter that you did all the things that The American Legion stood for. It was a recognition of what I was doing was in keeping with what The American Legion program was trying to promote. That’s what the real honor was.”
Lindstrom was awarded with a Player of the Year plaque at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. The running joke in the family was that Chuck was honored in Cooperstown 22 years before Freddie, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Lindstrom attended New Trier High School and played baseball and basketball there. He played football for a time, and an injury suffered as a sophomore almost ended all of his athletic hopes. “I was on a blocking assignment. I really wanted to take my man out of the play,” he told the Quad City Times in 1958. “I hit him. He got up. I didn’t.” Lindstrom suffered a broken back and was put into an aluminum cast. The doctors said he would need to wear it for two years, but he recovered enough to remove it within a few months. “I hated that cast with a passion. I was determined to get out of it as soon as possible,” he said.
Lindstrom’s New Trier baseball team featured many of the Winnetka Legion players and won the 1953 Suburban High School League championship as well. By the time he was a senior, the young catcher-pitcher had multiple offers to attend college out of state, but he opted to play for the best baseball coach he knew — his father — at Northwestern. He focused primarily on his catching skills in college, and he batted .415 as a sophomore and .363 as a junior. Northwestern was named the Big 10 Champions in 1957, thanks to the coaching and playing of the Lindstrom boys.
The Chicago White Sox signed Lindstrom to a professional contract on June 17, 1957. He was given a $4,000 bonus, the maximum amount under bonus classification. He was hoping for a “bonus baby” contract, but teams were wary about keeping a young player on the major-league roster for two years. “Chuckie chose the White Sox because he thought it to his advantage to be with a Chicago club for business reasons after he’s through with baseball,” said Freddie.
The White Sox assigned Lindstrom to Colorado Springs of the Western League after he was done with his college baseball obligations in the spring of 1957. In 68 games, he hit only .222. He rebounded nicely in his second pro season with the Davenport DavSox of the Three-I League. He hit .276 with 21 doubles and 14 home runs in 1958. His defense improved as well, thanks to his manager Ira Hutchinson, who showed him how to position his fingers in the catcher’s mitt correctly. He also got a boost from Ronald Butcher, the team’s other catcher. Lindstrom was playing with his own mitt and was dropping too many balls. Butcher gave him his mitt, which was broken in, and Lindstrom had much more success with it.
At the end of the season, The White Sox decided to bring Lindstrom and reliever Stover McIlwain to the major leagues. There were some questions among the Davenport press about why those two got promoted over the team’s two best hitters, Don Mincher and Bob Sagers, but the move was thought to be largely a chance to give a couple of kids a look at the big leagues. They weren’t expected to even play — until they did.
It was September 28, the last day of the 1958 season. Eighteen-year-old McIlwain, who’d pitched for the Sox briefly the previous year, was given the chance to start against the Kansas City A’s. He allowed a leadoff home run to Lou Klimchock but made it through 4 innings without allowing any other runs. The White Sox, meanwhile, scored a run in the second inning and two more in the bottom of the fourth. Catcher John Romano and pinch-hitter Earl Battey each had RBI singles to put the Sox out in front. In the top of the fifth, manager Al Lopez sent Lindstrom into the game to replace Romano. Within a few batters, he committed a passed ball, but it didn’t factor into the scoring. He came to bat for the first time in the sixth inning, drawing a walk off A’s reliever Bob Davis. He advanced to second base on a Billy Goodman single and scored on a single from Don Mueller. That made the score 7-4, White Sox ahead. Lindstrom batted again in the seventh inning with Johnny Callison on first base after a walk. He hit a triple to right field to make the score 8-4. The White Sox added a few more runs to win 11-4.
Lindstrom never played in another major league game, leaving him with an enviable 1.000/1.000/3.000 slash line, with a run scored and an RBI. He handled two putouts behind the plate for a 1.000 fielding percentage, too. As another historical footnote, the pitcher who relieved McIlwain was Hal Trosky Jr., whose father was a first baseman for Cleveland and the White Sox in the 1930s and ’40s. Trosky Jr. picked up the win in the game, which was the second and final appearance of his career. Did Lindstrom and Trosky represent the first second-generation battery in baseball history?
Lindstrom spent all of 1959 with the Charleston Chasox of the Sally League. He caught some but also put in time in the outfield and at third base, because the Chasox had Sam Hairston, the veteran Negro League catcher who played briefly with the White Sox in 1951. Lindstrom hit .219 with 4 home runs and was even given a few chances to pitch. The White Sox tried to convert him to a full-time pitcher in spring training in 1960, and when the experiment didn’t work out, Lindstrom retired. He was prompted to return later that year and play for the Lincoln Chiefs, which needed some catching help. He hit .218 in 59 games and then played in 54 games for Charleston and Lincoln in 1961. He left pro ball for good after that season.
Anywhere he went in baseball, he was always asked if he’d be as good as his father. He already knew the answer to that — Freddie had played in a World Series when he was 18 years old, and he was in his early 20s and in the low minors. “But it doesn’t bother me. Being Charles Lindstrom has helped a lot more than it hurt,” he said.
Lindstrom followed in his father’s footsteps and became a baseball coach and an associate professor of physical education at Lincoln College. His father never coached with a win-at-all cost mentality, and the son adopted those same principles. “It was just his knowledge of the game, his insight on how you play the game, all those things had a very strong impact on my own personal philosophy, and my philosophy as a coach and athletic director,” he said. As it so happened, Lindstrom’s philosophies resulted in a successful 23-year run at the school, and he was inducted into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013. He then went on to launch a couple of businesses that were related to baseball: Diamond-Dry and Universal Sports Lighting. One of Universal’s biggest projects was to change the lighting fixtures at U.S Cellular Field, now known as Guaranteed Rate Field.
“When the White Sox won the World Series [in 2005], they won playing under our lights,” Lindstrom noted proudly.
For more information: Holland Barry & Bennett Funeral Home