Edward Mayo Smith
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 183 lb.
- Debut June 24, 1945
- Final Game September 27, 1945
- Born January 17, 1915 in New London, MO USA
- Died November 24, 1977 in Boynton Beach, FL USA
He spent a decade playing in the International League. He debuted in the IL at age 18 in 1933, going just 3 for 29 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As he clearly was not ready for the big time, he did not play for Toronto in 1934, but returned briefly in 1935, hitting .182 in 9 games. After not appearing in the league in 1936, he returned to stick in 1937. For the Maple Leafs that season, he hit .293 with 40 walks and 4 homers in 99 games; he was third on the squad in average. The next season the 23-year old flyhawk batted .273 with 68 walks; he continued to show little pop (2 home runs, 22 extra-base hits) but he led the team in bases on balls. Smith continued to develop his batting eye in 1939, coaxing 77 walks (4th in the IL) and hitting .286. His power numbers were 150% of their 1938 totals (3 HR, 33 EBH) and he outhit outfield mate Heinie Manush, but was outperformed by the third man in the Toronto OF, prospect Bob Elliott.
In 1940, Smith went from one second-division team to another when he moved to Buffalo to play for the Bisons. Even in a homer-friendly park, he only went deep 6 times (2 teammates hit 20 and 7 hit in double digit totals); again Smith showed decent contact skills (.281) but his walk total fell to 45. Smith continued his career as a competent top-minor league non-prospect in 1941, hitting .261 for Buffalo with 11 homers; more importantly he again was drawing walks - 79, fifth in the IL. Smith finally played on a first-division team as Fred Hutchinson went 26-7 to lead a good staff. Smith's progress continued in 1942; at the age of 27, when many baseball players peak, Smith hit .279 with 16 steals, 11 homers, 95 walks (2 behind league leader Goody Rosen) and 100 runs scored. 1943 saw a significant drop in many stats - .261, 68 runs and 3 home runs but still he drew 96 walks, tying for third in the circuit.
With many major-leaguers and top minor-leaguers entering the service during World War II, the IL talent level declined. Smith took advantage, turning in a star season for the Bisons in 1944. He hit .340, winning the league batting title. Power was still not a strength (8 homers, 42 extra-base hits) but Smith was drawing lots of walks - 149 of them. In most seasons that would have comfortably led the league but walk specialist Blas Monaco drew 167 to top Mayo in that stat. Smith was 48 ahead of the #3 man, Felix Mackiewicz. With all those walks and hits, Smith scored 123 runs, 12 behind Monaco for the league lead. Amazingly, Smith only K'd 15 times while drawing those 149 walks.
That great 1944 IL season led to Smith finally breaking into the majors at the age of 30. In his lone big league season with the 1945 Philadelphia Athletics Smith drew 36 walks and struck out 13 times, but only hit .212 with 5 doubles and no triples or home runs; his great batting eye was not enough to offset his lack of power, while he did not show enough ability to make contact against big-league pitching, even when watered-down.
Like many guys who washed out of the majors and were too old to be prospects, Smith signed on with the Pacific Coast League. He played for the Portland Beavers for three seasons. He finished his playing-only career in 1948, he hit .286 with a .394 OBP and only 2 home runs, displaying the same skill set he had in the IL. For the 1949 season the Yankees hired him as a player-manager for their class C farm team, the Amsterdam Rugmakers of the Canadian-American League. Smith led by example, hitting .297 with 19 home runs and 116 RBI in 119 games. Never known for his power, he lit up that lower circuit and was tied for third in home runs and was third in RBI despite missing 20 games. His team went 67-71-1 and finished in fifth place. The next year he batted .323 with 10 home runs and 53 RBI in only 66 games; the team finished fourth at 72-65-1 and won in the first playoff round but lost in the finals. Smith would not play regularly again, getting into one game in 1952; he had completed his two-year run as a player-manager.
In 1951, Smith was promoted to the class B Piedmont League to manage the Norfolk Tars. He led the team to a title in 1951 - and again in 1952, when the team posted the second-best winning percentage (.727) in the history of the Piedmont League; at 37, he was not that much older than some players in the league, like Newport News hurler Ray Hathaway. He moved up another rung and managed in the AA Southern Association for two years, leading Birmingham.
In 1955, Smith made his big-league managerial debut with the Philadelphia Phillies. In two of his first three years with the team, they finished with a .500 mark; the other year they were only 6 games from .500. When the team began 1959 with a 39-45 record, Smith was fired; he was replaced by Eddie Sawyer; the team was worse under Sawyer, 30-40, and finished in last in the NL.
Smith found a job in 1959 with the Cincinnati Redlegs but only made it to the All-Star break before being let go in favor of his 1941 Buffalo teammate Hutchinson. With two firings in two years, Smith took some time away from managing, becoming a scout for the Yankees.
After 7 years as a Yankee scout, Smith moved to the Detroit Tigers for his third managerial job in the majors. After tying for second his first year in the great four-way pennant race of 1967, he led the team to over 100 wins and a World Series title in 1968 and Smith was named The Sporting News Major League Manager of the Year. The next year the Tigers won 90 more games and finished in second again. They slipped in 1970, finishing 4th and under .500, and Smith was fired, bringing his career as a manager in the majors to an end.
During his stint with the Tigers, he is best known for managing the last 30-game winner in Major League history in Denny McLain, and for a brilliant strategic move in the 1968 World Series. He had four great outfielders on that team - Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup and Mickey Stanley - as well as a solid player at first base in Norm Cash, but received almost no offensive production from his shortstops: Ray Oyler hit .135 in 111 games, and his back-up Tom Matchick hit .203. As the season drew to a close with the Tigers running away with the pennant, Smith decided to use the athletic Stanley at shortstop for a few games. Stanley hadn't played the position since Little League, but proved adequate in his tryout, and in the World Series, he started all seven games at short, giving the Tigers' line-up one more bat. It was a key move in defeating St. Louis by 4 games to 3.
Sources: minorleaguebaseball.com article on the 1952 Norfolk Tars, The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright, 1948 PCL season for DMB by Stephen Davis, Baseball's Canadian-American League by David Pietrusza
- ML Manager of the Year Award (1968)
- AL Pennants: 1 (1968)
- Managed one World Series Champion with the Detroit Tigers in 1968
- 100 Wins Seasons as Manager: 1 (1968)
|Philadelphia Phillies Manager
|Cincinnati Reds Manager
|Detroit Tigers Manager
Year-By-Year Managerial Record
- The Southpaw "Tigers-Cardinals history: Mayo Smith's brilliant move"