December 4 – Happy Birthday Lee Smith

SmithRaise your hand if you can remember when Lee Smith was the Yankee closer. You remember Smith, I’m sure. He was baseball’s all-time saves leader until Trevor Hoffman notched his 479th save during the 2006 season. A native of Jamestown, Louisiana, Smith had an 18-year big league career that saw him wear the uniform of eight different teams.

The Yankees got him from St.Louis on August 31, 1993, after New York’s regular closer, Steve Farr went on the disabled list. Unfortunately for both Smith and the Yankees, he didn’t get much of a chance to do what he did better than anybody in baseball during his short tenure in Pinstripes. During the month he was a Yankee, the team was only in four save situations and Smith saved three of them, including career number 400.

When asked about his inactivity, the huge right-hander told the Big Apple sports press he didn’t know why the Yanks got him in the first place because what they really needed was a starting pitcher. Sure enough, when Smith’s contract expired at the end of the 1993 regular season, New York let him sign with Baltimore, where he would lead the AL in saves the following year.

Many of the players who played both with and against Smith feel he deserves to be in Cooperstown but he’s never received more than 48% of the sportswriters’ Hall of Fame votes. His one achilles heel was the postseason. He only played fall ball twice during his long career, once with the Cubs in 1984 and again with the Red Sox in ’88. Both teams were eliminated in the LCS round and though Smith did have one save, he also lost two decisions and had a combined ERA of 8.44.

Smith shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and manager, this former Yankee catcher and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1993 NYY 0 0 0.00 8 0 8 0 0 3 8.0 4 0 0 0 5 11 1.125
18 Yrs 71 92 .436 3.03 1022 6 802 0 0 478 1289.1 1133 475 434 89 486 1251 1.256
CHC (8 yrs) 40 51 .440 2.92 458 6 342 0 0 180 681.1 591 240 221 38 264 644 1.255
STL (4 yrs) 15 20 .429 2.90 245 0 209 0 0 160 266.2 239 92 86 23 68 246 1.151
BOS (3 yrs) 12 7 .632 3.04 139 0 115 0 0 58 168.2 138 68 57 13 79 209 1.287
CAL (2 yrs) 0 5 .000 3.28 63 0 59 0 0 37 60.1 50 23 22 3 28 49 1.293
MON (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.82 25 0 14 0 0 5 21.2 28 16 14 2 8 15 1.662
CIN (1 yr) 3 4 .429 4.06 43 0 16 0 0 2 44.1 49 20 20 4 23 35 1.624
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 0.00 8 0 8 0 0 3 8.0 4 0 0 0 5 11 1.125
BAL (1 yr) 1 4 .200 3.29 41 0 39 0 0 33 38.1 34 16 14 6 11 42 1.174
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.

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