Hal Smith (infielder)

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For other people of the same name, see Hal Smith (disambiguation).
Hal Smith
Hal Smith Pirates.JPG
Catcher/Third baseman/First baseman
Born: (1930-12-07) December 7, 1930 (age 83)
West Frankfort, Illinois
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 11, 1955 for the Baltimore Orioles
Last MLB appearance
July 22, 1964 for the Cincinnati Reds
Career statistics
Batting average .267
Home runs 58
Runs batted in 323
Teams

Harold Wayne Smith (born December 7, 1930 in West Frankfort, Illinois) is a retired American professional baseball player. He was a utilityman — a catcher, third baseman and first baseman — in Major League Baseball from 1955 to 1964 who played for five different teams, but is best known for his key role during the 1960 World Series as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.[1] During his playing career, he threw and batted right-handed, stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, and weighed 195 pounds (88 kg).

Early Major League career[edit]

Smith was signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Yankees in 1949[2] but he never played for the Yankees. He was included in a 17-player trade (one of the largest in Major League annals) to the Baltimore Orioles after the 1954 season and he made his big-league debut with the Orioles as their starting catcher on Opening Day 1955, going hitless in three at bats against Bob Porterfield of the Washington Senators.

During his rookie season, Smith appeared in a career-high 135 games, 113 as a starting catcher, but in 1956 he lost his regular job to Gus Triandos (who had also been traded by the Yankees to the Orioles in the 17-player deal). Smith was swapped to the Kansas City Athletics for fellow backstop Joe Ginsberg in August 1956; he would play in Kansas City through 1959 as a catcher and third baseman, batting over .300 in 1957. Inter-league trading without waivers was inaugurated after the 1959 season, and on December 9, Smith was dealt to the Pirates for relief pitcher Dick Hall and two other players.

Place in history[edit]

As a right-handed batter, Smith platooned with left-handed hitting Smoky Burgess behind the plate during the Pirates' pennant-winning 1960 regular season. In 95 games, 66 as a starting catcher, Smith set a career high in runs batted in (45), while swatting 11 home runs and hitting .295. During the World Series against the Yankees, Smith started Games 3 and 6 against ace left-hander Whitey Ford and went two for seven as Ford shut out the Pirates in each outing.

Smith began Game 7 on the bench, but entered the contest in the eighth inning after starter Burgess was removed for a pinch runner. Smith came to bat in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, two runners on base, and the Pirates trailing by a score of 7–6. With two strikes, Smith hit a dramatic three-run home run off Jim Coates to give the Pirates a 9–7 lead. His home run electrified the Forbes Field crowd, who thought his blast would win the World Series for the Pirates. However, his hit would be overshadowed: the Yankees then battled back to tie the game at nine in the top of the ninth, leading to Bill Mazeroski's walk-off homer to win the Series in the bottom of the inning. But the eighth-inning blow was pivotal, and Smith would always be known as one of the heroes of the 1960 World Series.[3]

Smith and Burgess returned as the Pirates' platoon catchers in 1961, but the right-handed hitter slumped to a .223 average with only three home runs. Smith was left unprotected in the 1961 Major League Baseball expansion draft and was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the premium phase of the lottery. Smith was the catcher for the first Major League game in Houston baseball history, going two for four with a home run and a double in an 11–2 rout of the Chicago Cubs on April 10.[4] He was the Colt .45s' regular catcher during their maiden National League season and hit 12 home runs, third on the club, but batted only .235. In 1963, rookie John Bateman claimed the starting catcher job and Smith split his season with the Colt .45s' Oklahoma City 89ers affiliate. He then wrapped up his MLB career in 1964 as a backup catcher with the Cincinnati Reds, hitting only .121 in 32 games.

Smith appeared in 879 games over ten Major League seasons, with his 715 hits including 148 doubles and ten triples. In addition, during the 1960–1961 seasons, he was one of two Hal Smiths catching in the National League. The other, Harold Raymond Smith, toiled for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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