He debuted in the majors three years later in 1957 pitching as both a starter & reliever. He began his career with a save in his first game & then a 3-0 record by the end of May.
He then lost six straight decisions ending the year at 4-8 with a 4.91 ERA. He posted losing records in each of his three seasons with the Phillies, winning 16 games while losing 24 in that time, averaging a 4.50 ERA. In May of 1960 Cardwell was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Tony Taylor.
Two days later, in his first Cub appearance he threw a no hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals, in the second game of a doubleheader, at Wrigley Field.
It was the first no-hitter ever thrown by a pitcher making his first start with a new team. Two great catches late in the game helped Cardwell to secure the no-hitter, including one by Walt Moryn on the last out of the game.
Overall he finished 9-16 on the season with a 4.38 ERA striking out 150 batters in 205 innings pitched. Cardwell was also a good hitting pitcher belting out 5 HRs & 9 RBIs that year, going 16-77 with a .208 batting average. In his career he hit an incredible 15 HR,s with 53 RBIs & a .195 batting average.
His best season came the following year in 1961; when he won a career-high 15 games, leading the NL in starts (38) striking out a career best 156 batters in 259 innings pitched (3rd in the NL).
On the flip side he lost 14 games (6th in the NL) while allowing 110 earned runs (second most in the NL). After slumping to 7-16 in 1962, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in October, then to the Pittsburgh Pirates that November, for former NL MVP (1960) Dick Groat.
In his first year of four seasons in Pittsburgh he posted his best ERA up to that point (3.07) & won 13 games but lost 15 (9th in the NL). He missed most of 1964 pitching in just four games, then won 13 in 1965 (13-10). In Pittsburgh he was a team mate with his future 1969 Mets team mate Donn Clendenon.
Cardwell pitched inside often which had him hit many batters. He led the league in hit batsmen twice during his Pirate years; 1963 with 16 & 1965 with 12. In his career he hit 98 batters (88th most all time). In December of 1966 he was traded along with Don Bosch to the New York Mets in exchange for Dennis Ribant and Gary Kolb.
Cardwell was the Mets Opening Day pitcher in 1967, the last pitcher before Tom Seaver who would go on to pitch the next ten Opening Days. Cardwell took a loss to his old Pirates team mates allowing five runs ( three earned) in eight innings of work, at Shea Stadium. His next start came in Pittsburgh & he beat the Pirates to earn his first Mets win.
On April 30th, the threw a three hit shut out in Cincinnati beating the Reds. He was 2-1 at the end of April but then lost eight of his next nine decisions & he found himself in the bullpen by August.
His only win in that stretch came against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium, it was another three hit shutout, where he struck out eight Braves.
In September he got one start & made the most of it. He tossed a complete game five hit shut out, again beating the Reds in Cincinnati. Overall in New York in 1967, he appeared in 26 games, making 16 starts, going 5-9 with a 3.57 ERA. He struck out 71 batters, while walking 39 in 118 innings of work.
When Gil Hodges arrived the next season, he learned that Cardwell occasionally threw a spitball. Hodges wanted no part of that & made him stop throwing it, right away. Cardwell was back in the rotation, but had a rough start to the ’68 season, going 1-8 into mid June, over ten appearances. His only win came on a five hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea.
Things got better as he found his rhythm, winning six of next eight decisions, with two complete games going into mid August. On September 22nd, he was called in to pitch in relief of Jim McAndrew & went on to throw four scoreless innings to get the save. He would finish the year at 7-13, leading the club in losses, while striking out 82 batters, walking 50, in 180 innings pitched, posting a 2.95 ERA in 29 games.
1969 Season: In 1969 at the age of 33, he was the known as the old man of a very young pitching staff. He started the fifth game of the season & pitched a beautiful- one run, nine inning game against St. Louis. But on that day, Cardinal pitcher Dave Gusti shutout the Mets & won the game 1-0.
In his second start, he allowed just one run in seven innings at Pittsburgh, but the Pirates Jim Bunning & Ron Kline combined to shut out the Mets in a 4-0 loss.
Once again Cardwell started out the season badly, losing six of his first seven decisions, although he was posting a good 2.93 ERA.
On May 6th, his fist win came in an 8-1 Mets win over the Reds where Cardwell pitched a complete game. He struck out a season high eight batters. He also hit a three run HR in the game. It was his 15th & last HR of his career.
He lost two more starts & gave up HRs in five straight games. From there he went into the bullpen appearing in three games of relief. On June 10th, in San Francisco he made his first start in three weeks. Although he gave up four runs, he pitched into the 9th inning & earned his second win of the year. Two more losses followed & another relief appearance.
He earned his third win, in a 4th of July double header Mets sweep of the Pirates at Shea Stadium. After taking a July 27th loss to the Cincinnati Reds he found himself at 3-9 with a 3.67 ERA.
Cardwell turned things around from there on, just as the Mets team went on a roll themselves. From that point on, he won five straight decisions through the months of August & September, allowing only eleven earned runs over 58 innings. During that win streak he tossed 28 consecutive scoreless innings as well.
On August 10th, he earned a win in relief at Atlanta, in a preview of that years NLCS. On August 17th, he beat Clay Kirby & the Padres 3-2 at Shea Stadium.
In his next two August starts, he pitched into the 8th inning both times, giving up one earned run in the first game & two earned runs in the second. Both times he took no decisions, although the Mets went on to win both games.
On September 6th, he pitched six shut out innings, beating the Phillies 3-0 for his sixth win of the year.
On September 12th, he threw a 1-0 shutout in the second game of a double header against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He drove in the only run of that game, a 2nd inning single off Doc Ellis which scored Bud Harrelson. It was his first RBI since the May HR.
Jerry Koosman had pitched a one run shut out in the first game of that double header driving in the only run of that game. It was all part of the Amazing Miracle season.
On September 21st, he pitched a one run complete game win beating the Pirates at Shea Stadium. Although he got to within one game of getting to a .500 record, he lost his last start on October 2nd.
Cardwell finished the year at 8-10 with a 3. 01 ERA, 60 strikeouts & 47 walks in 160 innings pitched in 30 appearances.
Quotes: Don Cardwell in a 2002 interview with The Chicago Sun-Times-“Tom Seaver told me: ‘We really looked up to you. You were the strong point of our young club,’"They probably thought that if I could do it at my age, they could do it at theirs.”
1969 Post Season: Cardwell did not appear in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. He pitched one scoreless, hitless inning in Game #1 of the 1969 World Series at Baltimore, it was his only career post season appearance.
After the Championship: After going 0-2 in sixteen games by July 1970 his contract was sold to the Atlanta Braves where he finished up his career later that year.
Career: In his 14 year career Cardwell was 102- 138 with 1211 strikeouts & 671 walks in 2123 innings pitched, posting a 392 ERA in 410 games. He threw 17 shut outs with 72 complete games while posting 17 saves.
In 101 career Met games, he was 20-34 with a 3.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 475 innings.
In retirement he suffered from dementia in his later years, & was put in a North Carolina nursing facility where he passed away on January 14, 2008, at age 72.
Quotes: Tom Seaver: “He was a tremendous mentor to the young guys on our staff. When he said something, you listened. He was the ultimate professional.”