Lee Smith

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Lee Arthur Smith

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Biographical Information[edit]

Lee Smith was a top reliever. He is a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame, although time may be running out for him to be voted in.

Older photo of Smith.

He was signed as a 2nd round pick in the 1975 amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs and scout Buck O'Neil.

Smith was the all-time leader in saves until Trevor Hoffman broke his record in 2006; Jeff Reardon had held the record before Smith. Smith was remarkable for his consistency. In a role where ups-and-downs in performance are very common, Smith led the league in saves four times, was also second four times, was third once, fourth twice, and otherwise in the top 10 three other times. He was in the top 5 in the Cy Young Award voting three times, finishing # 2 in 1991.

Smith was the pitching coach for the South African team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He has been an instructor in both the MLB European Academy and MLB African Academy.

In Hall of Fame voting, 2008 was Smith's sixth year on the ballot and he received 43.3% of the vote, putting him in fifth place. In 2010, he got 47.3% of the vote, and in 2011, after teammate Andre Dawson called for his election in his induction speech, his total fell slightly, to 45.3%. He did make a decent gain in 2012, moving up to 50.6% thanks to a weak class of first-year candidates. However in 2013, when he should have gained more ground because of his clean reputation in comparison to members of the infamous "steroid class", he regressed to 47.8%, making it increasingly unlikely that he would be voted in by the BBWAA with only four years of eligibility remaining. He fell back even further in 2014, to 29.9%, the victim of a very strong ballot that saw almost all holdovers lose ground. He did not progress over the next two years, and headed into his final year of eligibility with almost no chance of election. Indeed, he only received 151 votes (34.2%) in 2017 and dropped off the ballot, having exhausted his eligibility.

Smith continued to hold the record for the most games finished, with 802, even after being passed on the all-time saves list, but that record eventually fell to Hoffman as well, and Mariano Rivera also overtook him during the 2010 season.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 7-time All-Star (1983, 1987 & 1991-1995)
  • 4-time League Saves Leader (1983/NL, 1991/NL, 1992/NL & 1994/AL)
  • 4-time Reliever of the Year Award Winner (1983/NL, 1991/NL, 1992/NL & 1994/AL)
  • 3-time Rolaids Relief Award Winner (1991/NL, 1992/NL & 1994/AL)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 10 (1984-1987 & 1990-1995)
  • 40 Saves Seasons: 3 (1991-1993)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mike Eisenbath: "All Country...: Big Money Hasn't Spoiled Lee Arthur Smith", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 22, 1990, pp. 1F-.
  • Joe Hamelin: "Lee Smith Isn't Washed Up Yet: The Angels' Closer Is an All-Star Again, Less than a Year After the Orioles Said He Was Finished", The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, CA, July 11, 1995, pp. F1-.
  • Rick Hummel: "'Washed-Up' Lee Smith Saving His Best for Last", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 1, 1994, 5F-.
  • Rick Hummel: "Strange but True: Louisiana Native Lee Smith Coaches South Africa's Pitchers while Wondering why He Isn't in the Hall of Fame", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 1, 2009, pp. D9-. [1]
  • Chris Jenkins: "Confused Lee Smith Still Waiting", The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 30, 2006, pp. C6-. [2]
  • Chris Jenkins: "Like All Great Relievers, Smith Wanted to Start", The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 24, 2006, pp. C12-. [3]
  • Matt Kelly: "Smith represents last of 15-year HOF candidates", mlb.com, January 15, 2017. [4]
  • Jeff Miller: "Call Him Old Faithful: Consistency and Simplicity Have Been Hallmarks in the Career of Angels Closer Lee Smith", The Orange County Register, Santa Ana, CA, April 22, 1995, pp. D1-.
  • Fred Mitchell: "Lee Smith", in Chicago Cubs: Where Have You Gone? Ernie Banks, Andy Pafko, Ferguson Jenkins, and Other Cubs Greats, Sports Publishing, New York, NY, 2013, pp. 204-211. ISBN 978-1613212011
  • Lorraine Montre: "Take That, Leo: Cards Reliever Lee Smith Is Living Proof that a Nice Guy Sometimes Finishes First", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 8, 1992, pp. 1C-.
  • Carrie Muskat: "Smith misses HOF in final year on writers' ballot", mlb.com, January 18, 2017. [5]
  • Kevin Neary, with Leigh A. Tobin: "Lee Smith", in Closer: Major League Players Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game, Running Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2013, pp. 155-160. ISBN 978-0762446797
  • Eric Noland: "Closing the Debate: For Years, Lee Smith Has Been a Baseball Enigma, He Is the Game's All-Time Leader in Saves, Although at Times He Appears Listless, Apathetic and on His Last Legs, but as the Angels Have Been Fortunate to Find out this Season, He's All Business in the End", Daily News of Los Angeles, June 18, 1995, pp. S1-.
  • Lee Smith: "Foreword", in Fran Zimniuch: Fireman: The Evolution of the Closer in Baseball, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2010, pp. vii-x. ISBN 978-1600783128
  • Bob Vorwald: "Lee Smith: Pitcher, 1980-1987", What It Means to Be a Cub: The North Side's Greatest Players Talk About Cubs Baseball, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2010, pp. 126-. ISBN 978-1600782770
  • David Wright: "Big Lee: Ah, Relief Move to the Bullpen Smith's Saving Grace", The Denver Post, May 9, 1994, pp. D6-.

Related Sites[edit]