Don Cardwell: 1969 World Champion Mets Pitcher (1967-1970)

Donald Eugene Cardwell was born on December 7, 1935, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The big six foot four right-handed pitchers went to Appalachian State University, getting signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1954.

MLB Career: Cardwell debuted in the majors three years later in 1957 with the Phillies pitching as both a starter & reliever. 

He began his career earning a save in his first game. He started out going 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 next two seasons as the Phillies never finished higher than eight. Cardwell won 16 games while losing 24 in his Phillie years (1957-1960) posting a 4.50 ERA. 

Cubs Career: In May of 1960 Cardwell was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Tony Taylor.

No Hitter: Two days later, in the second game of a doubleheader, at Wrigley Field Cardwell made his first Cub appearance. 

Cardwell threw a no hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the first no-hitter ever thrown by a pitcher making his first start with a new team.

The only base runner came on a 1st inning walk. Two great catches late in the game helped Cardwell to secure the no-hitter. 

Carl Sawatski led off the 9th with a liner to right field that George Altman made a great catch on.  The last out of the game came when Walt "Moose" Moryn snagged a sinking line drive to left field. 

That season he went 9-16 with a 4.38 ERA striking out 150 batters in 205 innings pitched. 

Good Hitting Pitcher:
Cardwell was also a good hitting pitcher belting out 5 HRs & 9 RBIs that year, going 16-77 with a .208 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 Cardwell 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. A month later he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates for former NL MVP (1960) Dick Groat.

Pirates Career: Cardwell spent four seasons in Pittsburgh (1963-1966) going 33-33 with a 3.38 ERA. The Pirates finished third in two of those seasons. In Pittsburgh he was a teammate with his future 1969 Mets teammate Donn Clendenon.

In 1963 he posted the best ERA up to that point of his career (3.07). He won 13 games but lost 15 (9th most in the NL) pitching 240 innings in 37 appearances (34 starts).  

He missed most of 1964 with shoulder problems pitching in just four games.

In 1965 he rebounded to win 13 games (13-10) with a 3.18 ERA. 

Hit Batsman: Cardwell pitched inside often which had him hit many batters. In his career he hit 98 batters (101st most all time). He led the league twice in that category (1963 & 1965) while in Pittsburgh. He came in the top ten seven times in his career reaching double figures four times.

He began 1966 with the Pirates making 34 appearances going 6-6. In December of 1966 he was traded along with Don Bosch to the New York Mets in exchange for Dennis Ribant and Gary Kolb.

Mets Career: Don Cardwell was the Mets Opening Day pitcher in 1967. He was the last pitcher besides Tom Seaver to pitch an Opening Day for the next decade as Seaver would make those starts from 1968-1977.

On that Opening Day, Cardwell took a loss to his old Pirates teammates allowing five runs (three earned) in eight innings of work, at Shea Stadium. His next start came in Pittsburgh & he beat the Pirates pitching into the 8th inning, to earn his first Mets win. In that game he hit a two run HR off Vern Law.

On April 30th, the threw a three-hit shutout in Cincinnati beating the Reds 2-0. He struck out six as Ron Swoboda led the offense with a HR.

Cardwell was 2-1 at the end of April but then lost eight of his next nine decisions, he then went into the bullpen by August as a reliever. 
His only win in that stretch came against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium, coming in the 3rd inning of relief & finishing the game with a 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 shutout, once 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.

1968 Season: When Gil Hodges arrived as manager, he learned that Cardwell occasionally threw a spitball. Hodges wanted no part of that & demanded he stop throwing it, right away. 

Cardwell was back in the starting rotation but had a rough start going 1-8 into mid-June. On April 18th, he hit a two run HR off Gaylord Perry but took a 5-3 loss. On April 30th, he beat the Phillies & Chris Short 1-0 in a five-hit shutout with Ron Swoboda's HR being the only run.

It took two months to get another victory. On June 27th he pitched into the 8th inning, allowing just one run to the Astros in Houston, earning his second win.

From July to mid-August, he found his rhythm, winning six of next eight decisions, throwing two complete games. On August 13th, he out dueled the Dodgers Don Suttin at Shea Stadium in a 2-0 victory. In three straight starts he allowed just two earned runs in 24.2 innings.

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. 

Cardwell finished the year at 7-13, leading the club in losses, while striking out 82 batters, walking 50, in 180 innings pitched, while posting a 2.95 ERA in 29 games (25 starts).

1969 Mets Championship Season: In 1969 at the age of 33, he was the known as the old man of a very young pitching staff.

Cardwell got the start in the fifth game of the season & pitched a one run, nine inning game against St. Louis. But Cardinal pitcher Dave Gusti was even better, shutting out the Mets in a 1-0 win. Curt Flood's 3rd inning RBI single provided the lone run.

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 posted 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 off Wayne Granger in the bottom of the 8th inning. It was the 15th & last HR of his career.

He lost his next two starts & gave up HRs in five straight games from May 1st to May 22nd. 
From there Gil Hodges put him into the bullpen where he appeared 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. 

Later that month he took two losses to the Phillies one at home & one on the road. followed & another relief appearance.

In a July 4th Mets double header sweep of the Pirates at Shea Stadium, he earned his third win, in the night cap, allowing just two runs in seven innings.

After taking a July 27th loss to the Cincinnati Reds he found himself at 3-9 with a 3.67 ERA. 

Cardwell turned things as the Mets team went on a roll themselves. From that point on, he personally won five straight decisions through the months of August & September. He allowed eleven earned runs over 58 innings. During that win streak he also tossed 28 consecutive scoreless innings as well. 

On August 10th, he earned a win in relief at Atlanta, pitching four scoreless relief innings, in a preview of that years NLCS. On August 17th, he beat Clay Kirby & shutting out the Padres for seven innings in a 3-2 Mets win at Shea Stadium. 

On August 23rd he pitched into the 8th inning giving up one earned run then two earned runs in a start in San Francisco but took no decisions, both times. The Mets did go on to win both games.

On September 6th, he pitched six shutout innings, beating the Phillies 3-0 for his sixth win of the year. The Mets were now just three games out of first behind the Cubs.

Mets Win 1-0 Double Headers with Pitchers Driving in the Only Runs: 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. At days end the Mets had a 2.5 game lead over the Cubs.

On September 21st, he pitched a one run complete game win beating the Pirates at Shea Stadium. The Mets would clinch the NL East three days later.

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 Stats: 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.

At bat he hit .135 (94-698) with 15 HRs 10 doubles & 53 RBIs

In 101 career Met games, he was 20-34 with a 3.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 475 innings.

Retirement: After his playing days he became an executive for car dealerships in North Carolina. 

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.”


lanzarishi said…
When Tom Seaver speaks of teammates he always brings out the positive aspects. I really appreciate listening to comments by him. Don Cardwell had a bunch of hard luck it seemed but he was a smart pitcher as well. Such a shame he's not with us any longer.

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