Smith in 1957.
January 17, 1915|
New London, Missouri
|Died: November 24, 1977
Boynton Beach, Florida
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|June 24, 1945 for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 27, 1945 for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Runs batted in||11|
|Managerial win-loss record||662-612|
|Career highlights and awards|
Smith was born in New London, Missouri, but grew up in Florida. A left-handed batter who threw right-handed, Smith was a career minor league outfielder who spent many seasons in the International League with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Bisons. At age 30, he played his only season in the Major Leagues, hitting .212 in 73 games played with the 1945 Philadelphia Athletics.
Manager of Phillies and Reds 
When his playing days ended, Smith became a manager in the farm system of the New York Yankees in 1949. After rising to the Double-A Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association in 1953–1954, Smith was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League. The Phillies of the mid-1950s had become an aging collection of the 1950 league champion "Whiz Kids" and, despite the heroics of perennial 20-game winner Robin Roberts, had to struggle to finish at the .500 mark. Smith compiled a 264–281 record in 3½ seasons before his firing on July 22, 1958.
Smith then returned to the Yankees, serving as a "super scout" from 1960–1966, until the Detroit Tigers called him back into harness, naming him their manager for 1967. He nearly won the American League pennant in his first year in Motown, losing out to the "Impossible Dream" Boston Red Sox on the last day of the season.
Bold move led to Tigers World Series title 
In 1968, however, the Tigers took no chances: led by 31-game-winner Denny McLain, they won 103 games and won the pennant by a dozen games. With left-handed starting pitcher Mickey Lolich winning the second, fifth, and seventh games (and hitting a home run in Game 2), the Tigers came back from a three-games-to-one deficit to defeat the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals in the 1968 World Series, besting the mighty Bob Gibson in the deciding game.
In the series, Smith made one of the boldest and most talked-about managerial moves in modern baseball history. In this period before the designated hitter, the Tigers had rotated four good hitting outfielders (Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup and Mickey Stanley) for the three positions. Regular shortstop Ray Oyler, always a light hitter, famously went "0 for August" (Oyler hit .135 for the season). Concerned about his team's offense, Smith inserted Stanley as the starting shortstop. Stanley played creditably in the Series, and although he made two of Detroit's 11 errors, neither of them led to Cardinal runs. He only hit .214 with no RBIs for the Series, but the other three outfielders made solid contributions to the Tigers dramatic victory. Stanley's seven games at shortstop were his 10th through 16th major league appearances at the position, having played Detroit's final nine regular season games at short in preparation for the Series.
That season represented Smith's high-water mark as a manager. The Tigers fell to second place behind the Baltimore Orioles in 1969. Then, in 1970, the team fell to 79–83 in a season marked by the suspension of McLain amid gambling allegations. Immediately after the season, on October 2, 1970, the Tigers fired Smith and replaced him with volatile Billy Martin. As the Tigers headed for their first losing season since 1963 and their worst record since 1960, Smith had come under increasing criticism from fans and the press as his players quit on him. He finally lashed out after he was fired; sharing one last drink with the Detroit media, he uncharacteristically said “The baseball fans in this town are ignorant. They couldn’t tell a baseball player from a Japanese aviator. And that's a quote.”
In all or parts of nine seasons as a manager, Smith compiled a record of 662–612 (.520).
Successful businessman 
A very successful businessman off the field, Smith then retired from the game and concentrated on ranching and real estate investing in his home state of Florida. He died in 1977 in Boynton Beach after suffering a stroke.
A Tigers fan club was named the Mayo Smith Society in his memory by its members.
See also 
- Mayo Smith managerial career statistics at Baseball-Reference.com
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Mayo Smith Society[dead link]