Al Smith (smithal04)
Alphonse Eugene Smith
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 191 lb.
- High School Webster Groves Douglass High School
- Debut 1946
- American League Debut July 10, 1953
- Final Game October 4, 1964
- Born February 7, 1928 in Kirkwood, MO USA
- Died January 3, 2002 in Chicago, IL USA
Outfielder Al Smith played fifteen seasons in the majors, counting his years in the Negro American League, and was twice in the top six in the Most Valuable Player Award voting. He was a solid batsman and a capable fielder, as his career stats verify.
Growing up in the St. Louis area, Smith attended Webster Groves Douglass High School, where he was a football star. He got his start in pro baseball in the Negro Leagues, playing for the Cleveland Buckeyes. Among his teammates there was future big leaguer "Toothpick" Sam Jones, and the club went on to win the Negro American League crown in 1947, but lost the 1947 Negro World Series to the New York Cubans.
Smith was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1948 and joined the Wilkes-Barre Indians that season. Back with Wilkes-Barre the next summer, he led the Eastern League with 17 triples. He reached the majors in 1953 as only the fourth African-American in the big leagues. He saw regular playing time in left field the next year, 1954, when the Indians reached the World Series, and despite the fact that he clubbed a home run in Game 2, his team fell to the New York Giants in four games. In 1955, he hit .306 and led the American League with 123 runs scored. He was an All-Star that summer (along with former Negro Leagues teammate Jones) and finished third in AL MVP voting, behind Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Al Kaline and ahead of Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. However, his offensive production declined in the next two seasons, and he expressed displeasure after being moved to third base in 1957.
Following the 1957 campaign, Smith was traded to the Chicago White Sox along with Early Wynn for Minnie Minoso and Fred Hatfield. Minoso was very popular among Sox fans, and they showed their displeasure with the deal by directing boos at Smith. He hit just .237 for the club in 1959, but in the heat of that summer's pennant race, he hit a home run against the Indians on September 22nd to help the team clinch their first AL crown in forty years. In Game 2 of the World Series, he was doused by a beer from a fan in the stands while trying to chase down Charley Neal's home run; a famous photograph of the event ran in the Chicago Tribune the following day. The next year, he hit a career-high .315 (second in the AL) and made the All-Star Game for a second time in his career, and in 1961, he had a career-best 28 home runs and 93 RBIs.
Smith was traded with Luis Aparicio to the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 1963 season. After one year there, his contract was sold to the Indians, and he split the 1964 season, his final one in the majors between Cleveland and the Boston Red Sox.
During his career, Smith hit .272 with 164 home runs, and nearly a 36 percent on-base-percentage. One of his most similar players (as of the end of 2009) is Melvin Mora, and an article by Bill James points out the similarities between the two.
Sometimes referred to as "Fuzzy Smith", he is not to be confused with two other major leaguers also named "Al Smith", both of whom were pitchers.
Following his playing days, Smith worked for the Chicago Park District and part-time in community relations for the White Sox. He died at age 73 following arterial surgery.
- 2-time AL All-Star (1955 & 1960)
- AL Runs Scored Leader (1955)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1955 & 1961)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1954 & 1955)
- Matt Monagan: "The extraordinary, unsung career of Al Smith: He's like the Forrest Gump of baseball", mlb.com, February 19, 2021.