Phenomenal Smith

From BR Bullpen

Phenomenal Smith.jpg

John Francis Smith
born John Francis Gammon

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 6½", Weight 161 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

"Famous Phenomenal Smith Back in the Game as Manager of the Lawrence Club: . . . Smith has had a remarkably good record as a manager and player. He was at one time a famous pitcher with Detroit. Of late years he has played in the field, and showed himself as one of the best outfielders in the New England League. . . He has won six pennants (as a manager)." - Sporting Life from December 23, 1905

Phenomenal Smith was born John Francis Gammon in 1864 in Philadelphia, PA. According to the Museum of New Hampshire History, Smith lived most of his life in New Hampshire and got his nickname when he struck out 16 batters in a game in 1885 while pitching for the Newark Domestics of the Eastern League, with no batter hitting the ball out of the infield.

He broke into the majors in 1884 at the age of 19 with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association. He lost 4 games in 1884 and 1885 - giving up 43 runs in those four games - before winning one with the Detroit Wolverines in 1886, who went 87-36. The Wolverines that year featured the famous "Big Four".

The next year, in 1887, he and Matt Kilroy constituted the starting rotation of the Baltimore Orioles, with Smith winning 25 games. However, he lost 30, on a team whose record was 77-58. Kilroy went 46-19. The team's performance dropped substantially the following year, with both Kilroy and Smith losing more games than they won, as did Bert Cunningham, the third pitcher in the rotation.

Smith went back to Philadelphia for most of the remainder of his career, getting most of his decisions in 1890, when he went 8-12 on a Philadelphia Phillies team that had a record of 78-53. Kid Gleason, the star of the rotation, went 38-17.

In spite of his won/lost records, though, he often had decent ERA's, finishing in the top ten in the league in 1887. And he could hit and also run decently, with a .250 batting average, a .332 on-base percentage, 10 triples and 17 stolen bases.

In addition to his playing career, he umpired one game in the American Association in 1887.

He became a minor league manager and discovered Christy Mathewson. He managed at Norfolk and also at Manchester, where as a player-manager he won the batting championship in 1902. Later, he was on the Manchester police force for many years and after retirement continued to live in Manchester until his death.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (1887)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1887, 1888 & 1890)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1887 & 1888)
  • 400 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1887)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (1887)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chris Landers: "Why would a team sabotage its own pitcher? On the perils of nicknaming yourself 'Phenomenal'",, May 10, 2020. [1]

Related Sites[edit]