On April 11, 2019, attempting to complete a four-game sweep, the Cardinals took the field for an afternoon game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Scheduled to head to Monterrey, Mexico, that evening, the Cardinals trotted out their getaway lineup, with José Martínez, Tyler O’Neill, Jedd Gyorko, and Matt Wieters filling in for their regular counterparts. As far as getaway lineups go, this one was a far cry from the days of Bourjos, Garcia, and Cruz, and the four fill-ins combined for eight hits and six runs scored to power the Cardinals to an 11-7 victory. Perhaps this hasn’t aged terribly well with Gyorko off to a dreadful start this season and O’Neill recently optioned to Memphis but you certainly can’t question the potential ceiling here.
By definition, a good bench in baseball is tough to come by or reconcile. If you’re good, why are you on the bench? And if you’re on the bench, are we sure you’re all that good? (I bring the bone-rattling analysis to St. Louis Bullpen.) Enter Jim Lindeman, who was one of the main bats on the bench for my favorite team of all-time: The St. Louis Cardinals, Vol. 1987.
Lindeman was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 1983 out of Bradley University, where he had been the team MVP in 1982 and 1983 by hitting .350 with 110 RBIs in 130 games. At Bradley, he was teammates with Kirby Puckett and Mike Dunne, the latter who was coincidentally the Cardinals first-round draft pick in 1984 and later swapped along with Andy Van Slyke and Mike LaValliere just before the start of the 1987 campaign for catcher Tony Peña. (Also, coincidentally, Dunne is my wife’s first cousin and he brought the funniest item to the family white elephant Christmas gift exchange last year.) For all intents and purposes, it appears the Cardinals’ Bradley connection has dried up.
Nevertheless, a solid slugger at AAA Louisville in 1986, Lindeman reached as high as #3 on the Cardinals’ prospect list and would soon become a quintessential bench guy for the Cardinals because he was never shackled with that conundrum from above. Meaning, by MLB standards, he wasn’t that good so there was never a question whether he actually belonged regularly in the starting lineup. Batting from the right side and able to play first base and the corner outfield spots, he saw his most action in 1987 with 227 plate appearances and a career high eight home runs to show for it. By the time he hung up his cleats after the 1994 season, he had spent time with five different franchises but totaled only 736 plate appearances for his career, which is just a few more than Matt Carpenter is known to log in one full season.
I remember Jim Lindeman, though. I remember him because along with Dan Driessen, he filled in admirably for Jack Clark during the 1987 postseason. Hobbled by a severely sprained right ankle, Clark only had one at-bat during the 1987 NLCS and was left off the World Series roster altogether. This was a big deal. Clark was one of about ten guys in the National League who should have won the MVP award instead of Andre Dawson in 1987 (although given the collusion by owners going on at the time and Dawson’s $700,000 salary, there is some poetic justice in him and his 49 home runs walking away with the trophy). Clark hit .286/.459/.597, with a 176 wRC+ on the season, and probably had better plate discipline than anyone during that era. He completed that team.
And the Cardinals should have crushed the Twins in the World Series. Even when allowing for the variance that comes with a 7-game series, that Twins team had a negative (!) run differential for the season and, I repeat, the Cardinals steamroll them if healthy. But life isn’t always fair, baseball teams aren’t often healthy when October rolls around, so in walked Lindeman.
In 30 plate appearances during the ’87 postseason, Lindeman hit .321/.333/.464, including a two-run home run in the 6th inning of Game 3 of the NLCS which sparked a big Cardinals comeback, and a crucial 6-5 victory in a series that would eventually go seven. I would show you videos of such feats but they don’t appear to exist online and when you search Lindeman on MLB’s official database you’re left with this. He does, however, make an appearance at the 00:36 mark in this “Rappin’ Redbirds” video from 1989 which looks and sounds just as you would expect.
Back on point, Lindeman’s contributions in 1987 weren’t enough. Clark’s shoes were just too big to fill. The Metrodome was just too damn loud and the ceiling was too damn white. The Cardinals lost to the Twins in a heartbreaking seven games (with Lindeman batting cleanup in the deciding game). Rumors swirled that I cried.
Lindeman’s career would never reach such heights again. Going forward, he was a regular on the Cardinals bench along with other mostly forgotten men like Denny Walling and John Norris, and following the 1989 season, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for three fringe minor leaguers who never took a single hack in MLB.
The story does not end there. Lindeman’s legacy lived on in RBI Baseball for regular Nintendo. A bench bat, naturally, Lindeman had the second most power on the team after Jack Clark (it was the 80’s, after all), and if you wanted to play with the good guys and hit a few home runs – every player in RBI Baseball could hit home runs but for the Cardinals starting lineup (minus Clark), the pitchers, and the NL’s Al Pedrique – the smart move was to sub out Curt Ford in left for Lindeman and his lumbering bat. With the rest of the lineup’s blazing speed, this was the best way to keep one’s head above water against the Mike Schmidt’s, Dale Murphy’s, and Pedro Guerrero’s of the world.
Currently, there’s not much to find online with regard to Lindeman. As recently as 2010 Lindeman was a teacher and the head baseball coach at Rolling Meadows High School in suburban Chicago. From the same Peoria Journal Star article, Lindeman had this to say about playing for manager, White Herzog:
“Whitey was the best manager I played for, not only because of his knowledge of the game, but for the way he treated every player on the roster. He made everyone feel important. I have tried to take that experience and build on it with my high school teams.”
Anyway, that’s Jim Lindeman.