The year was 1920 and a young flame thrower had just gotten married. The date of the marriage was May 3, 1920. The young couple stopped off at the Crescent Theater in New Orleans and the marriage license slipped out. It was recovered by an usher, but it was an awkward start in life for Jim Kendrick Lindsey and his bride, the former Carlotta Matthews. Jim and Carlotta remained married for 43 years and had one daughter and three grandchildren.
Jim Lindsey never strayed too far from his Louisiana home. He was born in Greensburg on January 24, 1899 and died 35 miles away in Jackson, Louisiana, on October 25, 1963.
He was one of eight children and had four sisters and three brothers. His father, Hollis Womack Lindsey Sr., was a farmer and cattleman, who served as Sheriff and later State game conservation agent for St. Helena Parish. His mother was the former Margaret Minerva Thompson. His sister Doris Lindsey Holland was the first woman to serve in the Louisiana State legislature.
When pitching in the minor leagues, he would return home after the season and pitch for the semipro team representing the Standard Oil Company of Louisiana refinery, Stanocola, from whom he was originally obtained in 1920 by the Cleveland Indians. One such outing took place on September 19, 1926 when his Stanocola team defeated Placquemine 8-0 as “Big Jim” limited the opposition to two hits and went 3-for-4 at the plate.
Young Jim was quite impressionable, and his father was fond of telling this story about 9-year-old Jim Lindsey. They went to town and saw a picture show. In the show, there was a deluge in some tropical land. Young Jim was very much worried and suggested that they go out and cover the hay in their wagon.
His first mound success came at the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Port Gibson, Mississippi, where he pitched for two years. He was later with Cleveland, Mississippi, in the semipro Delta League. By 1919, “Plantation Jim”, as he was then known was working as a crude oil stillman and pitching for the refinery.
He signed his first professional contract with the Cleveland Indians in 1920, but although he had trials with the New Orleans Pelicans of the Class A Southern Association and trained with the Tribe, he spent 1920 and 1921 with Stanocola. He also pitched in the New Orleans semipro Dixie League for a team known as the Peppermints.
In 1922, he was among 18 pitchers who reported to Dallas for spring training with Tris Speaker’s Cleveland Indians. On March 27, in an intra-squad game, he virtually assured himself of a roster spot by limiting the squad comprised of regulars to two hits and pitching five innings in a 3-2 win. His control in that game set him apart. In his first two springs with the Indians, he had been the “wildest thing in pitching”. His efforts that day were universally praised and Smoky Joe Wood, who had won 34 games as a pitcher with the 1912 Red Sox and was finishing his career with an outfielder with the Indians, summed it all up by stating that “I never saw Jim look as good as he did today. He could throw the ball where he wanted to. In other years, he has lacked control.”
The Indians brought him north. It was Lindsey’s first time out of the South. Upon arriving in Chicago for the first time, Plantation Jim observed, “She’s some village.” He was one of 46 players on the Cleveland revolving-door team of 1922. He appeared in 29 games, all but five as a reliever.
He was pressed into service as a starter for the first time on May 11, pitching the first six innings in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics that Cleveland eventually won, 5-4. His first win came on June 11, 1922, one month later, against Philadelphia. He came on in relief and pitched four shutout innings as the Indians, down 8-4 at one point, came back to win, 9-8.
His prowess at the plate was not particularly exceptional. His first major-league hit, a single, came on June 17, 1922, in a 14-inning marathon against Boston. Lindsey put out the fire in the fourth inning and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. After singling in the sixth, he injured himself sliding, and came out of the game. His first and only RBI of the 1922 season came in an 11-3 loss to the Yankees on July 6 during the second game of a doubleheader.
Facing the mighty Yankees on July 9, Lindsey had his best outing of 1922. He came into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with New York leading. Lindsey allowed an unearned run in the eighth and the Indians tied the score in the ninth and the game went into extra innings. The Tribe scored a pair in the 13th to go out in front and Lindsey held off the likes of Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel, going the last six innings to earn his third win of the season. Four days later against the Red Sox, he was almost as good. He came in with runners on first and third with none out in the sixth, allowing but one hit in the last four innings as the Indians came back to win, 4-2. It was Lindsey’s fourth and last win of the season.
Despite these flashes of brilliance, Lindsey’s overall performance in his rookie season was not superlative. For the season, he went 4-5 and posted an ERA of 5.92.
Unfortunately, Jim was sent back to the minors in 1923, and spent the better part of the next seven seasons in the minor leagues.
In 1923, he was with Milwaukee in the Class AA American Association and went 8-12. The Indians brought him back to the major leagues for the start of the 1924 season, but he only got into three games, allowing seven runs in three innings, before being sold to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association at the end of June. During the balance of the season, he went 3-4 with the Blues.
Reflecting on his lack of success in 1924, Lindsey told an interesting story which appeared in the several publications in December, 1930. It seems that Lindsey was rooming with Sumpter Clarke and Guy Morton. Clarke’s mother had sent the men a ham. Clarke had the ham with breakfast on June 7 and later that day was released by the club. The ham was given to Morton, and he too was released after eating the ham on June 11. The ham wound up in Lindsey’s hands. He wasted no time in throwing the ham out the rear window, but it was too late. Lindsey was sent to Kansas City not long thereafter, where he developed neuritis in his pitching arm that lingered into the following season.
The next five seasons were spent in the Class A Texas League. He began the 1925 season with Dallas and was released on May 3. He signed on with San Antonio. While with San Antonio, he was checked out and it was discerned that he had three bad teeth that were causing his problems. Following dental surgery, his arm came around.
In his first appearance against his old club on May 26, he was the winning pitcher as San Antonio defeated Dallas, 5-3. His combined record in 1925 was 9-10.
Over the next two seasons, Lindsey went a combined 28-24 for San Antonio. He was highly regarded and New Orleans sought his services. However, San Antonio was reluctant to sell. The rules in effect at the time allowed major-league teams to draft players if they were not sold by their minor-league team pursuant to the conclusion of a season. The National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates, elected to draft Lindsey, but he wound up back in the Texas League, this time with the Houston Buffaloes.
His two years with Houston, under the tutelage of former minor league catcher Frank Snyder were exceptional, and he went 46-20. In 1928, he led the circuit with 25 wins as Houston went on to play Wichita Falls for the league championship. After defeating Wichita Falls, they went on to play Birmingham of the Southern Association for the Dixie Championship. After dropping the first two games, the Buffaloes came back to win the next four games. Lindsey pitched Houston to its first win in the series, in Game Three.
He resumed his march back to the major leagues in 1929 by winning six of his first seven starts, including four shutouts. One of those shutouts was observed by Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey. In all, he had a league-leading eight shutouts in his 20 wins with Houston that season. At one point, he pitched a league-record 30 successive shutout innings, and he had nine games were he allowed five hits or less, including a one-hitter. On June 16, he pitched the shortest game of the year (one hour and 20 minutes) against Dallas. He was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals at the end of August. In his first start, on September 15, he pitched a complete game as the Cardinals beat the New York Giants, 6-4, in the second game of a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park. A week later, he pitched six innings of one hit ball (the only hit was by pitcher Dazzy Vance) against the Brooklyn Robins, but ran into problems in the seventh and eighth, surrendering six runs as Brooklyn won, 7-2. Not long thereafter, he was stuck by appendicitis.
After a strong finish to his 1929 season with Houston and his first success with the Cardinals, he had a poor spring training in 1930, and was on the verge of being sent back to the minor leagues.
But he stayed with St. Louis and had a 7-5 record. On May 13, against the Giants, he entered the game with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth inning and was in command the rest of the way as the Cards came from behind to beat the Giants, 6-4, giving Lindsey his second win of the season. Useful as both starter and reliever, his versatility was very apparent in the month of August. On August 6, he secured his fourth save of the season, pitching the final two innings in a 4-3 win over the Cubs. He held Chicago scoreless and got the final two outs striking out Charley Grimm and Gabby Hartnett in the ninth inning. In addition to five relief appearances, he started five games in August. In his starts, he went 3-2. He pitched three complete games in those starts.
On a very deep pitching staff, led by Wild Bill Hallahan and Burleigh Grimes, Lindsey didn’t get much in the way of notoriety, but he had shown his mettle as the Cardinals won the National League pennant and went on to face the Philadelphia A’s in the World Series. Lindsey was used sparingly in the Series, getting into two games, pitching 4 2/3 innings, and allowing only one run. Unfortunately, by the time he entered Games Two and Six, the matter was decided as the A’s had built up substantial leads.
In his World Series debut in Game Two, he relieved Flint Rhem, and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He came to bat just once, singling off George Earnshaw, but the Cardinals lost the game, 6-1. Reflecting on his hit, in characteristic Lindsey style, he said that he “stretched a triple into a single.” He was also effective in the decisive sixth game, pitching two innings, but once again he entered the game too late to make a difference. The Cardinals lost the game, 7-1, falling in six games to the Athletics.
Lindsey had one of his best seasons in 1931, primarily as a reliever, when relieving was not a role to which many aspired. In his first eight appearances, he pitched 14 innings and allowed but one run. It was written that “No matter how gloomy the outlook, when manager Gabby Street gives him the nod, Big Jim strolls to the hill with the nonchalance of a bride making her fifth trip to the altar. They say, in St. Louis, that his attitude upsets the mental poise of the enemy batters. Regardless of whether there is anything to the theory, he usually gets them out with undue delay.”
Wire to wire, Lindsey was in command. In his first three appearances, all in relief, he had two saves and a win. As of June 24, his ERA was below 2.00.
As the Cardinals were headed toward a pennant win, Lindsey came out of the bullpen for a spot start on September 15, and came through with a 5-0 shutout, to bring the Cards within a game of clinching the pennant. It was his sixth win of the season, against four losses. Out of the bullpen, he had seven saves, good for second in the league, and his ERA for the 1931 season was 2.77.
The Cardinals went to the World Series for the second consecutive year and once again faced Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. Although St. Louis lost both of the games in which he appeared in relief, they won the series in seven games.
In two World Series, Lindsey pitched eight innings in relief, giving up five runs (three earned). He had no decisions in four games with a 3.38 ERA, and batted 1.000 (1-for-1).
It was common for Lindsey to eat up innings coming out of the bullpen, and this was very much the case on July 20, 1932. Lindsey came in when started Tex Carleton faltered in the second inning. The score was 3-2 in favor of the Cardinals when Lindsey entered the game with none out in the second stanza with two runs already in for the Dodgers, and the tying run standing at first base. He stopped the bleeding and pitched the remainder of the game, securing his third win of the season, as the Cardinals won, 16-5.
For the 1932 season, Lindsey went 3-3 with a 4.94 ERA as the Cardinals dropped to a sixth-place finish.
Lindsey started the 1933 season with St. Louis but only appeared in one game before being sent to the minors at the end of April.
During the 1933 minor-league season Lindsey was toiling for the Cardinals’ Columbus minor-league affiliate when he was traded, as part of an eight-player deal, to Class AA Rochester of the International League. In his time with Columbus, he was 7-2 with a 3.69 ERA. One of the reasons for the trade was that Columbus, prior to the trade, had been found in violation of the American Association’s salary agreement. The league officials had suspended Lindsey, along with three other players. Rochester was able to assume Lindsey’s contract “without violating any of the International League rules in any way.” At the time, the monthly payroll limit in the American Association was $6,500. This was considerably less than the $8,500 limit in the International League. When he was suspended, Lindsey had been assessed a fine of $200. The fine was later rescinded.
With Rochester, he was only 3-9, but excelled in the International League playoff, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief in the third game of the series as Rochester came from behind to win, 4-2, and take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Prior to the 1934 season, the Cincinnati Reds secured the contract of Lindsey, and he began the season in the Queen City. On May 23, of that year, after appearing in four games and pitching four innings, he was sold to St. Paul of the American Association and he was back with the Cardinals on June 5. Between June 6 and July 8, he appeared in 11 games, all in relief.
One game in particular was memorable. On July 1, during the first game of a doubleheader, Dizzy Dean was matched up against Tony Freitas of the Cincinnati Reds. Although neither pitcher was particularly effective, they were still pitching as the score was 5-5 at the nine-inning mark. Into extra innings they went and there was no further scoring, with Dean and Freitas pitching, until the 17th inning. Ducky Medwick put St. Louis in the lead with a homer, but the Reds tied the score in their half of the inning. The Cardinals then took the lead in the 18th inning with a pair of runs off Paul Derringer who had come in to relieve Freitas after Freitas was pulled for a pinch hitter in the 17th inning. In the top of the 18th, Pat Crawford pinch hit for Dean, came through with a single, and wound up scoring the final run of the game. Lindsey came on to pitch the final inning for St. Louis, holding the Reds scoreless. It was Lindsey’s last hurrah with St. Louis. There were two more appearances, neither notable, and he was released on July 10 after going 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA. He may not have been around to see the Cardinals win the pennant by a mere two games over the New York Giants, but that last save, on July 1, made him part of the story.
His next stop was in Atlanta. For four seasons, beginning at age 35, he hurled with success for the Atlanta Crackers of the Class A (1934-35) then Class A1 (1936-37) Southern Association, going 36-25. Used mostly as a reliever, he continued to excel, as he had in his major league days when given an occasional spot start. His curveball was still effective as he pitched the Atlanta Crackers to a 9-2 win over Oklahoma City in the second game of the 1935 Dixie Series between the champions of the Southern Association and the Texas league.
Late in the 1937 season, following his release from Atlanta, Lindsey signed on with the Brooklyn Dodgers, managed by Burleigh Grimes. The team was short on pitching when four pitchers became unavailable. In 20 games with the Dodgers, the 38-year-old Lindsey went 0-1 with two saves, with a 3.52 ERA. His last major-league appearance came on September 27, 1937.
His major-league career numbers included a 21-20 won loss record over nine seasons with a 4.68 ERA. Although the save statistic wasn’t used at the time, he had 19 saves using current the save definition.
In 1938, he worked out with the New York Giants, who were training in Baton Rouge, so as to be in shape for the Southern Association season, or maybe even another crack at the big leagues. He spent the year in the Southern Association playing with Chattanooga and Arkansas. There was still something left in the 39-year-old arm. In his last outing of consequence, he pitched a seven-inning shutout as Chattanooga defeated Atlanta 5-0 in the second game of a doubleheader on May 29, 1938. But the writing was on the wall. For the season he went 3-8, and his professional baseball career was over.
But the memories and most definitely the stories would continue on, spoken with Lindsey’s slow Southern drawl and impeccable timing. Of course, the facts were not always accurate, but Jim Lindsey could tell a tale. Here is an example. In his early minor-league days, as he told it, he was with the New Orleans Pelicans and they were playing Birmingham toward the end of the season. The game was getting on in innings and it was getting dark. Nevertheless, the umpire insisted that play continue. New Orleans took the lead in the bottom of the eighth and Lindsey stayed in to pitch the ninth for the Pelicans. Before you knew it, Birmingham had loaded the bases with two outs. The count went to three and two. The catcher, Bob Higgins, went out to the mound to talk with Lindsey. Worried about a wild pitch, since he couldn’t see the ball, the catcher told Lindsey to take his normal windup but to not throw the ball. Lindsey followed Higgins’ instructions. As the phantom pitch arrived, Higgins slammed his glove into the mitt. The umpire called “strike three!” The batter, of course, was irate. He shouted, “Why, that pitch was a foot outside!”
After he retired from baseball at the end of the 1938 season, Lindsey operated a dairy farm with mixed breeds of cattle at Baton Rouge. Governor Earl Long appointed him farm manager at the East Louisiana State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana, and he sold the farm in Baton Rouge. However, his daughter Colleen gave up a modeling career, returned to Louisiana, and decided to stay in the dairy business. She kept the herd, bought another farm, and eventually bred prize winning Holstein cattle. Colleen and her husband John Kinchen had three children, Tommy, John James, and Portia.
Lindsey, a member of the Jackson Methodist Church, continued in his position as farm manager until he passed away on October 25, 1963 at age 64.
The following databases and files were used:
Paper of Record
Jim Lindsey file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Library
The following newspapers were used:
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Dallas Morning News
New Orleans Item
Rochester (NY) Democrat Chronicle
State Times Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana)::
Bell, Stuart M., “Jim Lindsey is Big Noise as Cleveland Yannigans Hang it on to the Regulars”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 28, 1922: 13.
Dixon, Margaret, “Two Big League Baseball Players Consider Retirement”. The Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), December 4, 1938: 7-B.
Holmes, Thomas “Robins Lost Golden Opportunity by Failing to Sweep St. Louis Series”. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 23, 1929: 22.
Keyerleber, Kyle “Laughs in Sports”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 17, 1939: 16
Powers, Frances J., “Red Sox Miscalculate on Joe Sewell’s Ability and Indians win again 4-2”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 14, 1922: 18.
Singleton, W. B. (Bill) “Familiar Faces in the Big Show”, Dallas Morning News, December 21, 1930: sports section, 2.
Whitman, Burt, “Close Decision is Given Against Sox, Who Lose”, Boston Herald, July 14, 1922: 15.