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Macho Low, Part 2: Doug Lindsey and the promotion from hell

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Welcome to the major leagues. Here’s a bat. That’s David Cone. Have fun.

Image c/o Baseballbirthdays.com

There were some big personalities on the 1993 Phillies. But they weren’t the only ones. As part of a commemoration of the team’s 25th anniversary, we’re taking a look at the back-ups, drop-ins, and less-remembered Phillies who didn’t make it into a lot of the archival footage.

Doug Lindsey, C

Position: Emergency call-up catcher due to everyone being injured

Age: 25

Stats: 1-for-3, 1 SO in 2 G

When that phone rings, it’s supposed to be good news.

“You’re going to the show, kid,” the manager says, a twinkle in his eye, and your whole life opens up in front of you.

The future that felt so far off during every bus ride, developmental league, and long distance phone call is suddenly here, and you’re not going to blow this chance. Your chance.

The Phillies’ back-up back-up catcher in 1993 was Doug Lindsey, and his big chance came at the end of 1991. It was only three at-bats long, but he went down swinging.

The Phillies drafted Lindsey in 1987, a year they started Lance Parrish behind the plate for 130 games and watched him hit .245. A 25-year-old Darren Daulton was waiting on the bench to inherit the team. Still needing depth at catcher, Lindsey was taken by the Phillies in the sixth round from Seminole Community College in Florida and was installed in the farm system for five seasons of reputation-building.

That reputation did not include a lot of bat on the ball. In fact, Lindsey’s minor league BA had gone steadily downward the longer he played until it settled at .173 after 107 games with the Reading Phillies in 1991 (with a .452 OPS). At the same time, Baseball America called him the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League.

He wasn’t moving up the prospect charts, but Lindsey’s manager at Reading, Don McCormack, had been a catcher with similar make-up as Lindsey during his playing days: His bat hadn’t made a lot of noise, but he had kept the ball in front of him and had an arm that could end an inning. He knew as well as the Phillies did that their catching corps—Daulton and Steve Lake started the 1991 season—and its .211 collective BA in 1990 wasn’t going to be acceptable much longer. With the future in mind prior to the season, McCormack had some thoughts on who the Phillies could tap at the position:

McCormack mentioned one name as a legitimate prospect. “Doug Lindsey is a possibility,” said McCormack.

Lindsey turned some heads in the Florida Instructional League last October. He is in his third year as a pro, starting with the Spartanburg team and then, later in the season, moved up to Clearwater.

Lindsey, in 1991, would get his chance. It would just take all season for the Phillies to give it to him.

The end of the year couldn’t come fast enough in 1991, as baseball was announcing itself as over by deteriorating the players and facilities: Daulton was hurt, Lake was hurt, and on the day it became apparent that Lindsey’s skills would be needed, Olympic Stadium in Montreal was shut down for the rest of the season after a 55-ton concrete beam fell off the side of the building.

On October 5, the day before the final game of the 1991 Phillies schedule, Lindsey got the call. He was about to join a catching corps that, prior to his promotion, had been, thanks to decimation, made up solely by Darrin Fletcher. With the AA season complete, Lindsey actually had gone home to Austin, Texas, by early October and was settling into his off-season when the call came through. Lindsey called Ed Wade to make sure it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t.

Not exactly a twinkle-eyed “You’re going to the show, kid.”

The game in which Lindsey would make his big league debut was what some might call a “sick joke.” The 1991 Mets would finish a spot below the Phillies, so their year hadn’t been especially fun to watch, either. However, they did have one discernible asset on the mound on October 6. It’s name was David Cone.

And it was pissed.

Or whatever emotion Cone needed to tap into to put on his most devastating performances. Entering the game, Cone’s season strikeout total was at 222, and without his best stuff in his final appearance, he’d finish behind Roger Clemens for the most K’s on the season (Clemens had logged 241 in Boston). Fortunately for Cone, the Phillies weren’t sending their elite squad to the plate.

Lindsey arrived in Philadelphia slated to catch rookie Andy Ashby and hit eighth. Things were immediately bad as the Mets built a 3-0 lead off Ashby in the first and Cone struck out the Phillies for two straight innings. Lindsey managed to get three at-bats in the contest, and as the greenest of rookies facing a dominant David Cone who was deep in the “Cone Zone” (NOTE: This is not a term affiliated with or liked by David Cone), struck out in every one of them. But he wasn’t alone: Kim Batiste struck out four times and Wes Chamberlain went down thrice as well. Cone spun a three-hit complete game shut-out, logging 19 strikeouts, tying a single-game record that stood for 20 years. Lindsey didn’t get any respite behind the plate either, having to deal with three wild pitches (two from Ashby, one from reliever Bruce Ruffin) and a passed ball.

It was a hell of a way for Lindsey to both begin his major league career and end his season. Sadly, his time in the bigs was not too much longer, anyhow.

It wasn’t until 1993 that Lindsey returned to The Show, popping onto the Macho Row roster for two games, which was not enough for him to make it into the team photo. The Phillies were on a west coast swing when they found themselves in need of a spare backstop, and Lindsey jetted out to San Diego to meet them, telling reporters, “I’ve never been to California before.”

In the eighth inning of a May 1 game against the Dodgers, Lindsey squatted behind the plate as a late inning replacement to catch for reliever Mark Davis. Davis allowed Los Angeles to expand their 2-1 lead into a 5-1 lead, and the Phillies entered their final at-bat facing Dodgers pitcher Jim Gott. Dave Hollins went down on strikes, but Lindsey came up next. He knocked a short fly ball over second base and onto the open grass in the outfield, the proud owner of his first major league hit.

Pete Incaviglia then grounded into a double play to complete the loss.

Lindsey would finish his 1993 Phillies career 1-for-2 with a strikeout. In early September, the ‘93 team continued their ongoing efforts to shore up that bullpen by trading Lindsey to the White Sox for reliever Donn Pall. Lindsey would get two more games and one more at-bat with Chicago before his career in the bigs would come to an end. Though the move did keep Lindsey a part of the playoff picture as Frank Thomas, Tim Raines, Carlton Fisk and the gang surged toward an ALCS showdown against the Blue Jays. Despite switching teams, Lindsey suffered the same post season fate as the team that had traded him: elimination at the hands of the Blue Jays.

I called it a “sick joke,” but I’ll bet, if you asked him, there’s no way in hell Lindsey sees his debut against Cone the same way. The thing about defensive catchers—the guys who can stop the ball, see the ball, throw the ball, but not necessarily get it over the fence—is that they tend to find success as managers and coaches. In his post-playing career, one message board tells us that Doug Lindsey was starting a 13U team in Central Texas. He probably keeps them sharp, always ready to take down your local team through the one-two punch of stellar defense and the occasional short fly ball to right field.

And what did David Cone ever do? Finish a Hall of Fame career (Edit: WRONG, just an all-star career), become a sabermetric-minded baseball broadcaster and testify as a witness at a Supreme Court nomination? Fine.

But he never struck out 20 batters in a game.