The Johnny Lindell Mystery

Baseball cards are touchstones; evoking childhood memories and pleasurable collecting experiences. A favorite player’s exploits or a key acquisition to complete a set can be conjured up with just a glance. Also certain cards can take you to a specific time and place. The 1949 Leaf Johnny Lindell is such a card.


The Lindell card transports me back to the early ‘70s. My best friend at school told me a story about exploring an abandoned house. The old man who lived there had recently died. Of course he made it sound as the gentleman had died in the house, resulting in the certainty of it being haunted.  I subsequently learned that the man died in a nursing home.

The friend stated that the contents left in the dwelling were strewn about-probably by him-with most of the stuff dumped on the floor. There, in a cardboard box, he found, amongst other things, the Johnny Lindell card. Applying the “finders keepers” rule, my buddy laid claim to the card.

It goes without saying that my “collector’s gene” kicked in immediately. I negotiated a trade giving the friend some current cards in exchange. The card was nowhere near mint condition, but it was by far my oldest card. From that day forward, I’ve often pondered why it was in the house.

“Kids living in the house” is the most logical explanation for the card ending up on the shack’s floor. This ramshackle place undoubtedly saw many migrant families come-and-go. Central Washington has experienced waves of immigrants and emigrants trying to escape poverty by taking advantage of plentiful agriculture jobs. My parents and grandparents were part of the “Ozark Diaspora” in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The child collector theory is plausible, but the card was at least 22 years old at the time and apparently no other cards were present in the house.

It is possible that the old man had a special affinity for Johnny Lindell. After all he was a hero of the 1947 World Series in which he batted .500. Maybe the man remembered Johnny as a “war era” star since his deferment kept him playing through ’44 against weak competition.

How a ’49 Leaf Johnny Lindell ending up in crumbling house in Selah, Washington will always remain a mystery. However, it serves as a great example of the memories a single card can evoke. The accompanying photo is the actual card.

The ’49 Leaf cards measure 2 3/8 x 2 7/8 with 98 in the set. The background features bright colors with a colorized photo. This colorization process is primitive with a limited blue and red uniform pallet. The player’s face is painted with flesh tones.

To learn more about Johnny Lindell’s career, check out Rob Neyer’s BioProject biography.

Author: Tim Jenkins

Sports memorablilia collector with Seattle teams emphasis. HOF autographs, baseball cards and much more. Teacher for over 30 years. Attended games at 35 different MLB parks.

5 thoughts on “The Johnny Lindell Mystery”

  1. For the past 40 years, I have been using random Topps cards (generally tattered) as bookmarks, and I usually leave them in the book when I am done. Some day, someone will find one of my old books in a closet (or in a used book store somewhere) and say “I wonder why this guy loved Paul Popovich?”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was thinking bookmark as well. I’m sure I have a pack’s worth of junk wax hidden inside books I’ve half-finished. Back when I was a grad student, I was using an old Gene Michael card as a bookmark, which caused the guy who sat next to me in class (an older native New Yorker) to tell me about ten minutes worth of “Stick” Michael stories.

    It also reminds me of the time my dad found a ’55 Bowman Smoky Burgess card stuck inside an old console radio he was taking apart. He kept the card and gave the radio away, thinking that was the best investment. Oy.

    At any rate, great and creepy tale!

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  3. Lindell has hit the most important forgotten HR in Yankees history. On the next to last day of the 1949 season he hit a late inning tie-breaking HR against the Red Sox to give the Yankees a 5-4 victory and put them into a first place tie with the Sox. The Yankee victory the next day gave them the pennant.

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  4. This post reminded me of exploring my grandmother’s house and finding weird stuff in the backs of office drawers. Lots of coins (I was also into collecting coins as a kid) but, much to my dismay, never any sports ephemera. Except for one day I pulled out a pile of paper and two 1.75″ x 3.75″ cards fell out. I still remember getting goosebumps. Nothing worth a lot of money—two 1917 Zeenut commons—but for a kid whose oldest card was a 1960 Topps just having any baseball card that old was exciting as all hell.

    Liked by 2 people

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