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Roy Smalley Jr.

Posted by Andy on October 27, 2011

I was stunned to see on our front page that Roy Smalley Jr. had died, but it turns out that I was just confused.

I know that both Roy Smalley and his father of the same name played in the majors, and I always assumed that Roy Smalley Jr. was the decent-hitting middle infielder who played mainly for the Twins in the 1970s and 1980s. This Smalley (who, incidentally, is Roy Smalley III, not Roy Smalley Jr.) just turned 59 two days ago and is certainly way too young to have passed away (and thankfully he has not.)

It's Smalley's father who is Roy Smalley Jr. He was a light-hitting shortstop for mainly the Cubs and Phillies in the late 1940s and 1950s, and he died a few days ago at the age of 85.

Anyway, it's a shame that it took Mr. Smalley's death for me to correctly figure out who was who, but I'm glad that I finally did.

Roy Smalley Jr.'s 1950 season was quite interesting. He had career highs in HR, RBI, SLG, and a few other categories, and most by a large margin. He also had a career high in strikeouts and even led the league in that category. He had good power for a shortstop from that era, averaging 11 homers per 162 games for his career.

On a separate note, I will be live tweeting Game 6 of the World Series tonight. You can subscribe to my feed @AndyBBREF. This is sort of an experiment---not sure whether I will continue tweeting after tonight, but at least tonight you can get real-time stat updates during the game.

23 Responses to “Roy Smalley Jr.”

  1. Doug Says:

    To add to the confusion, for me anyway was Roy Jr. died just 3 days shy of Roy the 3rds birthday. The announcement i saw here on Roy Jrs. death happened to be on Roy the 3rds birthday. I always thought of Roy 3 as Roy Jr. as well.

  2. Jay Dots Says:

    119 strikeouts to led the league... that might be the league average these days.

  3. Evil Squirrel Says:

    I too thought it was the most recent Smalley who had passed when I saw this....

    I mainly know of Smalley III from the old Nintendo classic RBI Baseball, a video game which I got for my 13th birthday and which made a baseball fan for life out of me. He was one of the bench players for the '87 Twins in that game. I only later became aware of the fact that his father also played in the Bigs and shared his name....

  4. Andrew Says:

    I was also confused initially until I looked it up to see it was the Smalley of "Miksis to Smalley to Addison Street (so named because the elder Smalley had a scattergun arm and made many wild throws a la Steve Sax, some reaching the Wrigley Field stands on....Addison Street )" and not the Twins/Yankees SS.

  5. Andy Says:

    Since Smalley Jr in 1950, the next middle infielder to lead the NL in strikeouts was Juan Samuel (2B) in 1984, 1986, and 1987, then Delino DeShields (2B) in 1991, and then Jose Hernandez (SS) in 2001 and 2002.

  6. Ed Says:

    So Roy Smalley Jr. was married to Gene Mauch's sister. Later, Roy Smalley III played for Gene Mauch (his uncle by marriage). That must have been interesting.

  7. Ed Says:

    BTW, I mostly remember Roy Smalley III for his 1979 season. Anyone else remember that one?

    If you look at his stats, it doesn't really stand out. What you don't see in the full year stats is the he was the leading MVP candidate at the All-Star break. Than he completely collapsed in the second half. Here are his splits:

    First half: .341/.424/.535
    Second half: .185/.262/.327

    Ouch! Talk about regression to the mean!!!

  8. Whiz Says:

    Roy Smalley Jr.'s big 1950 season was one of only 26 with at least 21 HR and an OPS+ of 85 or less. The most recent such seasons were Vernon Wells this year (25, 83) and Aaron Hill last year (26, 79).

    Tony Armas the elder (but not Sr.!) had 36 HR and OPS+ 85 in 1983, which is the highest HR/OPS+ ratio of any qualified batter, although Sammy Sosa's 1998 (66, 160) and 1999 (63, 151) were close behind.

  9. Andy Says:

    I always wondered why the two players named Tony Armas were not designated as Sr. and Jr., but I see now they have different middle names.

  10. Paul E Says:

    @ 2 Jaydots:

    Actually, in 2011, the average was 127 K per batter.....

  11. Paul E Says:

    How about Smalley the elder leading the league in errors (51) and strikeouts (119) in be joined by Dick Allen in 1964 (41 E-50 and 138 K's)

  12. Tim L Says:

    I am a bit young to have seen Roy Smalley III play, but I do remember him as an analyst on Baseball Tonight. Suffice it to say he had better baseball skills than TV chops.

  13. Jeff Says:

    Add me to the list of those who didn't know RS3 was the 80s infielder. For me, my visual image of every player who played in 1987 is their 1988 Topps card. When I hear the name Roy Smalley, I immediate see a guy standing at bat, feet shoulder width apart, facing his right, playing for the Twins. It's a little odd...

  14. BSK Says:

    I used to make the same mistake with the John Thompsons, at G-Town. I always wondered why the called the father "junior". He was the junior. His son was the third. The original was not a coach.

  15. birtelcom Says:

    The name Roy Smalley triggers for me memories of "The Hidden Game of Baseball" (THGB) by John Thorn and Pete Palmer from 1984, which further explored the fresh approach to baseball analysis Bill James Abstracts were presenting at the time but was somewhat more systematic than Bill . THGB included an early form of uberstat (trailblazing for the later Win Shares, WARP, WAR, etc.) that suggested that Smalley III, who was in mid-career at the time, was one of the most valuable defensive players ever and as a result was an enormously valuable overall player. Though the theoretical analysis in THGB was mostly splendid, the Smalley evaluation, like some others in the book, seemed odd then and has not stood the test of time.

  16. Richard Chester Says:

    Those 51 errors are the most in a season by a a SS since 1946.

  17. howard rosen Says:

    @7...Smalley's regression was even worse than that, Ed. The first half split you posted was actually all games pre-all-star break which was 89 games. His stats for just the first 81 games were .362/.441/.576. Pretty amazing that he played in all 162 games while batting around .160 for the entire second half.

  18. RobMer Says:

    I had the same reaction when I came to B-R and simply saw "Roy Smalley Jr." as an entry, thinking "oh, no, he couldn't have died; he must be only in his 50s!"

    While I can't say I was relieved to read it wasn't RSIII because it's still a death, it at least more understandable.

    I always thought Roy Smalley Jr, err, the Third, might have had an easier time as a player if he came up a bit later. He came up as a SS during a time when SS's were supposed to be smaller guys, pesky hitters and slick fielders. Smalley was none of those, and seemed to bounce around between SS, 3B, DH and bench. Having a bigger man who had some pop at SS seemed to become more acceptable well into Ripken's career a decade after Smalley first came up.

    Condolances to the Smalley family.

  19. DoubleDiamond Says:

    I also saw the Roy Smalley, Jr., name in the "In Memoriam" section and thought it was the younger of the two players with this name. I knew that the guy I always thought of as Roy Jr. was born in the same year I was, 1952, and that he celebrated his 35th birthday in 1987 by being part of the World Series-winning Minnesota Twins. He made a pinch hitting appearance and walked in that game, which was on October 25. And the date I saw the Roy Smalley, Jr., name under "In Memoriam" here was October 25.

    We've lost a few players born in or close to 1952 already. Mike Flanagan, born in December 1951, was a recent one. Others who have died already include Darrell Porter and Glenn Burke (AIDS-related). I thought that Eddie Solomon, a pitcher who was killed in an auto accident at a fairly young age, was also born in 1952, but I don't see him on the 1952 births page here. He was probably born in one of the surrounding years, but I don't have time to check it right now.

    Roy Smalley III, born October 25, 1952, was the first overall pick by the Texas Rangers in the January 1974 draft. I have never been able to figure out the purpose and qualifications for the January drafts and the supplemental drafts that were part of both the January and June drafts until the mid-1980s. Before signing with Texas at that point, he was picked in various drafts four times. He was traded to the Twins in the middle of the 1976 season.

    That 1987 game 7 was his last game. It came during his second tour of duty with the Twins.

  20. Bill Tuck Says:

    When I was growing up in California, I remember hearing Roy Smalley's name on game of the day broadcasts. I also remember when Roy III was drafted high and played in the American League.
    After I grew up, I had a coworker in San Jose who came from Chicago. He always spoke disparinglly of Roy, Jr.
    I also remember when Roy, III and his wife had a son, he said they did not name the boy Roy, IV.

  21. Stu B Says:

    @19: "We've lost a few players born in or close to 1952 already."

    Given that those born in '52 will turn 60 next year, that is (unfortunately) to be expected. Even with longer life expectancy, those of us over 50 aren't kids anymore!

  22. MCT Says:

    "Roy Smalley III, born October 25, 1952, was the first overall pick by the Texas Rangers in the January 1974 draft. I have never been able to figure out the purpose and qualifications for the January drafts and the supplemental drafts that were part of both the January and June drafts until the mid-1980s. Before signing with Texas at that point, he was picked in various drafts four times. He was traded to the Twins in the middle of the 1976 season.."

    I am curious about this as well. It's my impression that the secondary drafts may have been for players who had previously been drafted but had not signed, while the (regular) January draft may have been for players who had reached some eligibility milestone (such as age or graduation) since the last draft was held. I would love to find out more about how all this worked.

    Including his final selection by the Rangers, Smalley was drafted five times: in the regular June 1970 draft by the Expos; in three different Secondary Drafts (January 1971, June 1971, and January 1972) by two different teams; then by the Rangers in the regular January 1974 draft. If my above theory is correct, Smalley's selection in June 1970 was following his high school graduation, his three secondary selections were because he had not signed and gone to college instead, and his selection in January 1974 was because he had turned 21 in October 1973. This would raise the question of why no one drafted him in the June 1972, January 1973 and June 1973 drafts. It could be that there was a limit on the number of times or length of time over which an unsigned player could be selected.

    Under today's rules, I believe that once Smalley elected to attend a four-year college, he would not be eligible again until he either completed his senior year or turned 21. So he would have been eligible in June 1970 and again in June (not January) 1974, not any time in between.

  23. Jim Sexton Says:

    One of my earliest memories of major league baseball was a game in the early 50's between the Pirates and Phillies. In the last of the 9th, Gene Freeze (Pirates) hit a presumed base hit with a guy in scoring position, who easily scored. Roy Smalley (shortstop for the Phillies) watched the play despite the fact that everyone was leaving, celebrating, etc. Freeze watched the action and went to the dugout. Smalley called for the ball, tagged first base, and the alert umpire called Freeze out. Extra innings, and as I recall, the Phillies won. I was about ten, and I learned something important from that.