Willie Smith (outfielder)
February 11, 1939|
|Died: January 16, 2006
|June 18, 1963, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1971, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Runs batted in||211|
|Earned run average||3.10|
Willie Smith (February 11, 1939 – January 16, 2006) was an American Major League Baseball pitcher and outfielder. After starting his career as a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in 1963, Smith was converted to an outfielder in 1964 by the Los Angeles Angels, and remained an outfielder and pinch hitter for the Angels (through 1966), Cleveland Indians (1967–68), Chicago Cubs (1968–70) and Cincinnati Reds (1971). He also played two seasons in Japan for the Nankai Hawks (1972–73). Listed at 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and 182 pounds (83 kg), he threw and batted left-handed. He was born in Anniston, Alabama.
Smith was a highly regarded pitching prospect in the Detroit farm system. In 1963, playing for the AAA Syracuse Chiefs, he led the International League in winning percentage (.875) with a 14–2 won/loss mark, and posted a 2.11 earned run average. He also batted .380 (30 hits in 79 at bats), with one home run and 13 runs batted in. Smith was still plying his trade on the mound when he was swapped to the Angels for Julio Navarro on April 28, 1964. He had compiled a 1–4 record with an earned run average of 2.84 with the Angels in 33⅔ innings pitched when Halo manager Bill Rigney shifted Smith to the outfield to get his bat in the lineup on a daily basis. Smith responded by hitting .301 that season (his career-best batting average) with 11 home runs and 51 RBI.
In nine seasons he played in 691 Games and had 1,654 At Bats, 171 Runs, 410 Hits, 63 Doubles, 21 Triples, 46 Home Runs, 211 RBI, 20 Stolen Bases, 107 Walks, .248 Batting Average, .295 On-base percentage, .395 Slugging Percentage, 653 Total Bases, 9 Sacrifice Hits, 15 Sacrifice Flies and 20 Intentional Walks. His record as a pitcher was 2–4 with a 3.10 ERA in 29 games and 61 innings spread over three MLB seasons.
He died of an apparent heart attack in his hometown at the age of 66.
Smith is perhaps best remembered by Chicago baseball fans for his dramatic extra inning walk-off home run at Wrigley Field on Opening Day, April 8, 1969, resulting in a Cubs win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference