Don was instrumental in helping the Mets win the division in 1969 when the Miracle Mets went on to win the World Series.
During that all important stretch run when the Mets were battling the Chicago Cubs for first place, Cardwell stepped up and delivered five straight wins for the Mets and helped the Mets clinch the division.
Although, he wasn’t the most popular guy in the Mets rotation that season, a rotation that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan, the Mets could not have clinched without him.
Cardwell will always be remembered for being the only pitcher to toss a no-hitter in his first start after being traded. On May 15, 1960, after being traded from the Phillies to the Cubs, Cardwell no-hit 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 in his first start with a new team. He only walked one batter in that masterpiece, it was Alex Grammas with one out in the first inning. He then went on to retire the next 26 batters in a row.
Two years later, Cardwell ended up playing for the Cardinals and posted his best win total ever, winning 15 games and also notching a career high 156 strikeouts. He didn’t stick around too long, and would soon end up with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
On December 6, 1966, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Don Cardwell to the Mets along with outfielder Don Bosch, in return for pitcher Dennis Ribant and outfielder Gary Kolb. The Mets had a minor league system that was about to deliver a few of the greatest Mets pitchers ever to wear the uniform, and they wanted to add a veteran presence to the staf.
He would end up being the perfect mentor for a pair of young rookie hurlers that season in Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman.
During his Mets years, Cardwell was the victim of poor run support and posted a 20-32 record in three full seasons with the Mets, despite posting ERA’s of 3.57, 2.96 and 3.01 and pitching 12 complete games and three shutouts.
One of those shutouts came in 1969 when he blanked the Pirates in the second game of a September 12th doubleheader, after Jerry Koosman blanked the Bucs in the first game.
Both Jerry Koosman and Don Cardwell pitched 1-0 shutouts, and each of them drove in their own winning runs!
The Mets took over first place for good, and never looked back.
On the day of his death, Tom Seaver had this to say of his former teammate.
“He was a tremendous mentor to the young guys on our staff. When he said something, you listened. He was the ultimate professional.”
I never saw Don Cardwell pitch and knew absolutely nothing about him. The other day his name appeared on a list of sports personalities that passed away this year. I decided to look him up and found a wealth of information about him. By the time I was done reading and learning about the man, I felt as if I had known Don all my life, and suddenly felt an attachment to him both as a player and as a New York Met. I decided I would dedicate a post to his memory.
Here is a rare video of Don Cardwell pitching the ninth inning of his famous no-hitter. I hope you enjoy it.