Lee Smith (baseball)

Lee Smith (baseball)

Infobox MLB retired
name=Lee Smith

position=Relief Pitcher
birthdate=birth date and age|1957|12|4
debutdate=September 1
debutteam=Chicago Cubs
finaldate=July 2
finalteam=Montreal Expos
stat1label=Games pitched
stat2label=Earned run average
* Chicago Cubs (by|1980-by|1987)
* Boston Red Sox (by|1988-by|1990)
* St. Louis Cardinals (by|1990-by|1993)
* New York Yankees (by|1993)
* Baltimore Orioles (by|1994)
* California Angels (by|1995-by|1996)
* Cincinnati Reds (by|1996)
* Montreal Expos (by|1997)
* 7x All-Star selection (1983, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
* 2x NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year (1991, 1992)
* 1994 AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year

Lee Arthur Smith (born December 4, 1957) is a retired American right-handed relief pitcher who played for eight teams in Major League Baseball from 1980 to 1997. A native of Castor, Louisiana, Smith was scouted by Buck O'Neil and drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1975 Major League Baseball Draft. In his 18-year major league career, Smith's longest tenure with any one team was with the Cubs, with whom he spent his first eight seasons. One of the dominant closers in baseball history, Smith held the major league record for career saves from by|1993 until by|2006, when San Diego Padres relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman passed his final total of 478. [cite web |url=http://sandiego.padres.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20061004&content_id=1699099&vkey=pr_sd&fext=.jsp&c_id=sd |title= Padres closer Trevor Hoffman to catch ceremonial first pitch delivered by Lee Smith prior to Thursday's game|accessdate=2007-05-08|date=2006-10-04|last=|first=|publisher=MLB.com] Smith was known as an intimidating figure on the pitcher's mound at 6 feet, 6 inches (1.98 m) and 265 pounds (120 kg) with a 95 mile per hour (150 km/h) fastball.cite web|url=http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/S/Smith_Lee.stm|title=Lee Smith|accessdate=2006-08-13|last=Long|first=Shepard C.|publisher=BaseballLibrary.com]

In by|1991, Smith set a National League record with 47 saves for the St. Louis Cardinals, and was runner-up for the league's Cy Young Award; it was the second of three times he led the NL in saves, and he later led the American League once while with the Baltimore Orioles in by|1994. He also set the major league career record for games finished (802), and his 1,022 career games pitched were the third most in history when he retired; he still holds the team records for career saves for the Cubs (180), and he also held the Cardinals record (160) until 2006. Smith has been a candidate for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame five times since 2003, but has generally received 37-45% of the necessary votes on all total ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America, with 75% needed for election. After the end of his major league career, Smith spent time working as a pitching instructor at the minor-league level with the San Francisco Giants. He then served as the pitching coach for the South Africa national baseball team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and afterwards continued his previous job as a minor-league roving pitching instructor for the Giants.

Early life and early career

Lee Smith was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and raised in the small town of Castor in Bienville Parish. Buck O'Neil claimed credit for having scouted him; at age 17, partly on O'Neil's recommendation, Smith was drafted in the second round as the 28th overall pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 1975 Major League Baseball Draft. [cite book | last=Vincent | first=Fay |authorlinks=Fay Vincent| title=On Baseball | publisher= Simon & Schuster| location=New York, New York | year = 2006|isbn=0-7432-8864-5 | pages=p80] cite web|url=http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/history/mlb_negro_leagues_story.jsp?story=legacy_banquet|title=Pierre, Rollins two of many to win Legacy Awards
] Smith began his professional career as a starting pitcher. In 1978 with the Class AA minor league Midland Cubs, Smith struggled as a starter with an ERA near 6.00, prompting manager Randy Hundley to move him to the bullpen. Smith resisted the move and briefly tried college basketball at Northwestern State University. At the behest of former Cubs outfielder Billy Williams, Smith returned to Midland as a reliever for the 1979 season and pitched well enough to earn a promotion to Class AAA baseball for 1980. With the major league Chicago Cubs struggling to a last-place finish, Smith came into the big leagues as a September call-up that season.

Chicago Cubs

Smith made his major league debut with the Cubs on September 1, by|1980 against the Atlanta Braves, coming in relief for starting pitcher Dennis Lamp, who had given up four runs and eight hits in the four innings he pitched. Smith pitched one inning, giving up no hits, striking out one and walking two.cite web|url=http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B09010CHN1980.htm |title= September 1, 1980 Game - Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs|accessdate=2006-08-18|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] He finished the season for the last-place Cubs and was invited back to the majors for 1981. He was used mostly as a middle relief pitcher. A streak of poor pitching was interrupted by the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, and he finished with an ERA of 3.51.

The Cubs' closer for 1981, Dick Tidrow, had a 3–10 season with a 5.06 ERA, and as a result, in 1982 Smith, Willie Hernández and Bill Campbell shared closing duties. Smith pitched well and even started five games from mid-June to early July. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?n1=smithle02&t=p&year=1982 |title= Lee Smith 1982 Pitching Gamelogs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] Significantly, former Cubs star pitcher Ferguson Jenkins returned to the team in 1982, and became a major influence on the young reliever; Smith credited Jenkins with simplifying his delivery, introducing him to the slider and forkball, and teaching him how to set up hitters.cite news |first=Jim |last=Murray |authorlink=Jim Murray (sportswriter) |title=Baseball Collecting Is Hot, but No One Saves Like Him |work=Los Angeles Times |pages=C1, C8 |date=1995-08-24 ] In what would be the last start of his career, Smith picked up his first major league hit, a home run off eventual Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. [cite web|url=http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1982/B07050ATL1982.htm |title= July 5, 1982 Game - Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] Smith managed only two singles for the rest of his career. He saved 17 games during that season and performed as the regular closer for the Cubs, a position he held for the next five years.

In 1983, Smith had his best season in the majors up to that point. By May 6, he had pitched in ten games without allowing any runs while allowing only three hits and striking out twelve batters. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?n1=smithle02&t=p&year=1983 |title= Lee Smith 1983 Pitching Gamelogs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] His ERA rose to 1.85 by the end of May, but he lowered it to 1.15 in July. Smith was selected for his first All-Star Game but did not fare well, surrendering the final two runs in the American League's 13–3 rout. [cite web|url=http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1983/B07060ALS1983.htm |title= July 6, 1983 All-Star Game - American League vs. National League|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] Although the Cubs continued losing, Smith finished with a career-best 1.65 ERA—more than two points below the league average—and a career-best 1.074 WHIPcite web |url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/smithle02.shtml|title= Lee Smith Statistics|accessdate=2007-01-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] while leading the National League with 29 saves and 56 games finished. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/NL_1983_t.shtml|title= 1983 National League Expanded Leaderboards|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] He also received a point in the NL's Cy Young Award voting and eight points in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_1983.shtml|title= Awards Voting for 1983|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.]

The by|1984 Cubs were the best team Smith pitched for in his career. While they finished with the franchise's best record and had their first postseason appearance since 1945, [cite web |url=http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/history/timeline10.jsp|title= History: Cubs Timeline|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=MLB.com] Smith compiled his worst ERA of the decade—although he saved more than 30 games for the first time in his career. In Game 2 of the NL Championship Series, Smith recorded two outs for the save to give Chicago a 2–0 lead in the best-of-five series against the San Diego Padres, putting them one win away from the World Series. [cite web|url=http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1984/B10030CHN1984.htm|title= October 3, 1984 Game 2 of the NLCS - Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] In Game 4, the score was tied when Smith began the eighth inning. After a scoreless eighth and a strikeout to start the bottom of the ninth, Smith allowed a one-out ninth-inning single to Tony Gwynn, and Steve Garvey followed with a two-run homer to force Game 5. [cite web|url=http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1984/B10060SDN1984.htm|title= October 6, 1984 Game 4 of the NLCS - Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego Padres|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] The Cubs led that game in the seventh inning, but the underdog Padres scored four runs and won a trip to the World Series. It would be the Cubs' only winning season in Smith's eight years with the team.

In 1985, Smith for the first time dominated the league in strikeouts as a relief pitcher. After averaging fewer than eight strikeouts per nine innings in each prior season, he improved to 10.32 in 1985. He finished the season with a career-high 112 strikeouts in only 97.2 innings. Meanwhile, the Cubs were in first place until a 13-game losing streak from June 12 to June 25 from which they never recovered. [cite web |url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/1985_sched.shtml|title=1985 Chicago Cubs Schedule, Box Scores and Splits|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.]

Smith saved more than 30 games while the Cubs had losing records in 1985, 1986 and 1987. In 1987, he was chosen for his second All-Star Game. When the midsummer classic went into extra innings, Smith pitched the 10th, 11th and 12th innings, striking out four and getting credit for the win when the NL scored the only two runs of the game in the 13th. [cite web|url=http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1987/B07140ALS1987.htm|title= July 14, 1987 All-Star Game - American League vs. National League|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet]

With his 30th save in by|1987, Smith became only the second pitcher (joining Dan Quisenberry) to reach the mark in four consecutive seasons. Even before then, he was known as one of the most feared relief pitchers in the game. One player told writers Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo for their book, "Baseball Confidential," that one of the most daunting sights in the majors was Smith throwing "pure gas from the shadows" of Wrigley Field, which didn't have lights at the time.

Despite his numbers, rumors were swirling about his weight and its effect on his knees and his request for a trade out of Chicago.cite web|url=http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2004/06/19/close_up_with_the_ultimate_closer/|title=Close up with the ultimate closer|accessdate=2006-08-19|date=2004-06-19|last=Goode|first=Jon|publisher=Boston.com] On December 8, Smith, the team's career leader in saves, [cite web |url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHC/leaders_pitch.shtml|title=Chicago Cubs Pitching Leaders|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] was traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitchers Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi. [cite book | last=Holtzman, George Vass | first=Jerome | authorlinks=Jerome Holtzman| coauthor=George Vass| title=Baseball, Chicago Style: A Tale of Two Teams, One City | publisher= Bonus Books, Inc.| location=Chicago, Illinois | year = 2001 |isbn=1-56625-170-2 | pages=p214 ] Nipper pitched only 104 more innings in the majors, and Schiraldi was out of baseball before age 30. Smith, meanwhile, registered nearly 300 saves after the trade. The trade started Smith on a journey involving seven teams in eight seasons, which may have hurt his chances in the Baseball Hall of Fame. [cite web |url=http://www.thebaseballpage.com/players/smithle02.php|title=Smith's chances for the Hall of Fame|accessdate=2006-08-18|last=|first=|publisher=The Baseball Page]

Boston Red Sox

After losing the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets, the Red Sox compiled a winning percentage below .500 for 1987. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BOS/1987.shtml|title=1987 Boston Red Sox Statistics and Roster|accessdate=2007-01-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] One of the main problems was a weak bullpen, and Smith was brought in to rectify the relief problems.

Despite giving up a game-winning home run in his 1988 opening day Fenway Park debut, Smith posted his best ERA in five years. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS198804040.shtml|title= April 4, 1988 Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers game|accessdate=2007-01-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] The Red Sox had the good fortune of being in the American League's Eastern division; in September, they caught the Detroit Tigers and held off every other team to clinch Smith's second and last trip to the postseason. In Game 2 of the 1988 ALCS against the Oakland Athletics, Smith gave up three singles, including Walt Weiss' game-winning RBI single, in the ninth inning of a tied game. [cite web|url=http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B10060BOS1988.htm|title= October 6, 1988 Game 2 of ALCS - Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland Athletics|accessdate=2007-01-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] Boston had a 0–2 series deficit going to Oakland. After Boston lost Game 3, Smith surrendered two insurance runs after entering Game 4 with the score 2–1 to complete the four-game sweep. [cite web |url=http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B10090OAK1988.htm|title= October 9, 1988 Game 4 of ALCS - Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland Athletics|accessdate=2007-01-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet]

Smith's salary rose to over $1.4 million, but he followed his 1988 season with a mediocre 1989, finishing with his worst ERA in five years. For the seventh consecutive season, his number of innings pitched decreased or remained the same. However, he compiled 12.23 strikeouts per nine innings, nearly two higher than any other season of his career. It was also the last of his four seasons with more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings.

Smith's statistics for the 1980s gave him a valid claim as the best reliever of the decade, although he was rivaled by Jeff Reardon. While Smith had four consecutive 30-save seasons, Reardon finished the decade with five consecutive.cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/r/reardje01.shtml|title= Jeff Reardon Statistics|accessdate=2007-01-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] Smith saved 234 games by the end of 1989, and Reardon had 266. Reardon was also a member of the 1987 World Series-winning Minnesota Twins. On December 6, by|1989, the Red Sox had both closers on their roster when they signed Reardon as a free agent. Two of the past decade's most dominating closers in history were even pitching in games together for Boston for the first month of 1990 with Reardon setting up Smith for a save on April 18—a game started by a third famous pitcher, Roger Clemens. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHA/CHA199004180.shtml|title= April 18, 1990 Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago White Sox game|accessdate=2007-01-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] The unusual double-closer situation lasted less than a month before Smith was traded to St. Louis for slugging outfielder Tom Brunansky on May 4, 1990.

t. Louis Cardinals

As was the case in Boston, Lee Smith's first game with St. Louis went poorly as he gave up two runs in his only inning of pitching. [cite web|url=http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1990/B05060SLN1990.htm|title=May 6, 1990 Game - Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] He recovered quickly, registered a 0.00 ERA for the entire month of July, [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?n1=smithle02&t=p&year=1990|title=Lee Smith 1990 Pitching Gamelogs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] and finished his partial season with St. Louis with a 2.10 ERA and 27 saves. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/STL/1990.shtml|title=1990 St. Louis Cardinals Statistics and Roster|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] The Cardinals, however, were at a low point in 1990, finishing in last place for the only time since 1918. In 1991, St. Louis righted their ship, and Smith accumulated saves at a record pace. With his salary roughly doubled to nearly $2.8 million, Smith reached 40 saves for the first time in his career. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/STL/1991.shtml|title=1991 St. Louis Cardinals Statistics and Roster|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] On September 28, he picked up save number 45 [cite web|url=http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1991/B09280SLN1991.htm|title=September 28, 1991 Game - St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] to tie Bruce Sutter's National League record from 1984 (Coincidentally, when Sutter and Smith reached 45 saves in their respective seasons, both were ex-Cubs pitching for St. Louis against the Cubs). Smith claimed the league record for himself three days later and finished the season with a career-high 47 saves. One difference for him in 1991 was walks as he surrendered only 1.60 walks per nine innings, by far the best in his career to that point. Smith won his first Rolaids Relief Award, [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/roy_rol.shtml|title=Rookie of the Year and Rolaids Relief Award Winners|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.] received the most significant consideration for league MVP in his career, and finished second in Cy Young Award voting behind only Tom Glavine, who had a breakout 20-win season in 1991. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_1991.shtml#NLcya|title=Awards Voting for 1991|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.]

In the early 1990s, records were falling quickly for closers. Lee Smith set the single-season National League record for saves in 1991 and was on pace to break his own record in 1992. However, he fell four short of his record, which was broken the following season by Rod Beck. In 1992, Smith's former teammate, Jeff Reardon, broke the career saves record held for over a decade by Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.cite book | last=Neyer | first=Rob |authorlink=Rob Neyer| title=Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups: A Complete Guide to the Best, Worst, and Most Memorable Players to Ever Grace the Major Leagues | publisher= Simon & Schuster| location=New York, New York | year = 2003|isbn=0-7432-4174-6 | pages=p45 ] [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-almanac.com/yearly/yr1992a.shtml|title=Year in Review: 1992 American League|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Baseball Almanac] However, Smith was registering saves at a faster pace than Reardon and by the end of 1992, he was not far behind him on the career list. Just two weeks into the 1993 season, Smith passed Reardon with career save number 358. [cite web|url=http://www.todayinbaseballhistory.com/cgi-bin/today/today2S.pl|title=On April 13, 1993 in Baseball history|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Baseball Almanac] At age 37, Reardon was slowing down, and Smith was well in front of him when Reardon retired in 1994. The day after setting the career major league record, he saved his 301st National League game to break that record as well. (As had been the case with the single-season NL record, the career NL record was held by Bruce Sutter). Smith had 15 saves in June 1993, the most ever in one month for a pitcher until John Wetteland and Chad Cordero tied him in June 1996 and June 2005, respectively.cite web
url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/27/AR2005062701594.html|title=C. Cordero Could Tie a Saves Mark|accessdate=2006-08-13|date=2005-06-28|last=Svrluga|first=Barry|publisher=The Washington Post
] He reached 30 saves in only the 83rd game of the season, tying the record set by Bobby Thigpen in 1990 for the earliest any pitcher had reached 30 saves. (Eric Gagné broke the record in 2002).cite web|url=http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=220701129|title=Nomo wins seventh straight, hits go-ahead double|accessdate=2006-08-16|date=2002-07-01|publisher=Associated Press] While only in August, Smith logged his 40th save for the third consecutive year, but his ERA had ballooned to a career-worst 4.50. Also, the Cardinals were ten games behind Philadelphia, seemingly out of contention, and Smith was poised to become a free agent after the season.cite web|url=http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n21_v84/ai_14437811|title=Cards trade ace reliever Lee Smith to N.Y. Yankees|accessdate=2006-08-21|date=1993-09-20|work=Jet] On August 31, by|1993, the Cardinals traded Smith to the Yankees for a career minor leaguer. Smith left the team as their all-time save leader until Jason Isringhausen passed him on June 13, by|2006.cite web |url=http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060613&content_id=1503761&vkey=news_stl&fext=.jsp&c_id=stl|title=Izzy now Cards all-time saves leader|accessdate=2006-08-20|date=2006-06-13|last=Leach|first=Matthew|publisher=MLB.com]

Final years

The Yankees were just 1½ games behind the Toronto Blue Jays when they acquired Lee Smith, and he pitched nearly perfectly for the last month of the season. In eight games, Smith did not allow a single run and picked up three saves and 11 strikeouts. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?n1=smithle02&t=p&year=1993
title=Lee Smith 1993 Pitching Gamelogs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.
] The Yankees as a team, however, did poorly during the remainder of the season, and Toronto easily pulled away to win the division. Smith's New York career lasted just those eight games as he filed for free agency after the season. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1993_trans.shtml
title=1993 New York Yankees Trades and Transactions|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.
] He signed with Baltimore for 1994 for $1.5 million plus incentives.cite web|url= http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B07E0DD1539F933A05752C0A962958260
title=Lee Smith Is a New Oriole|accessdate=2007-01-08|date=1994-01-30|last=|first=|publisher=New York Times

At age 36, Smith started 1994 pitching better than ever. In his first 12 games, he had 12 saves and a 0.00 ERA.cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?n1=smithle02&t=p&year=1994
title=Lee Smith 1994 Pitching Gamelogs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.
] After nearly two months, his ERA was still under 1.00 and it was still under 2.00 in mid-July. Smith had been selected for the All-Star Game in 1991, 1992 and 1993 but had not played. After his sixth selection in 1994, Smith was brought into the game to hold a two-run American League lead in the ninth inning. Instead, he gave up a game-tying two-run home run to Fred McGriff, and the AL lost in ten innings. [cite web|url=http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1994/B07120NLS1994.htm
title=July 12, 1994 All-Star Game - American League vs. National League|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet
] Smith's bad streak continued for the next several weeks until the 1994 Major League Baseball strike ended the season. He filed for free agency again and signed a two-year contract with the California Angels for over $2.5 million while the strike was still in progress.

In 1995, Smith registered a save in every appearance from April 28 to June 25.cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/gl.cgi?n1=smithle02&t=p&year=1995
title=Lee Smith 1995 Pitching Gamelogs|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.
] On June 11, he saved his 16th consecutive game to break the major league record set by Doug Jones in 1988.cite web|url=http://www.cnn.com/EVENTS/year_in_review/sports/jun.html|title=June (Sports Year in Review)|accessdate=2006-08-17|year=1995|publisher=CNN.com] He ran his streak to 19 games before finally blowing a save on June 28. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TEX/TEX199506280.shtml
title=June 28, 1995 California Angels at Texas Rangers Box Score and Play by Play|accessdate=2007-10-20|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.
] (John Wetteland broke the record the next year by saving 24 straight). After keeping his ERA at 0.00 through the first two months of the season, he was selected to his seventh and final All-Star Game, thereby becoming only the fourth player to be an All-Star for four different teams (after Walker Cooper, George Kell and Goose Gossage).cite web|url=http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCI/is_7_62/ai_102520520|title=Baseball quick quiz|accessdate=2006-08-21|month=July | year=2003|publisher=Baseball Digest] Smith did not fare well for the next month, pushing his ERA all the way up to 5.40. Regardless, the Angels held a double-digit lead in the division and seemed set for the postseason. Instead, California suffered one of the worst collapses in major league history, blowing the entire double-digit lead in less than six weeks. While the rest of the team was reeling, Smith reverted to his early-season form and pitched fantastically for the last two months, only blowing one save attempt in that span. He finished the season with 37 saves and a 3.47 ERA, which was more than a point higher than the league average.

For 1996, the Angels replaced Smith in the closer role with second-year pitcher Troy Percival. After only eight games as a setup pitcher, Smith, who was unhappy in California, was traded to Cincinnati for Chuck McElroy on May 27.cite web
url=http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1208/is_n24_v220/ai_18373845|title=Bowden's move makes division rivals see Reds|accessdate=2006-08-21|date=1996-06-10|last=Nightengale|first=Bob|publisher=The Sporting News
] He resumed setup duty for the Reds—this time for Jeff Brantley, who was in the midst of his best season—but did not fare as well in his return to the National League. His ERA was nearly as high as the league average, his strikeout rate was the lowest in 15 years, and the Reds granted him free agency after the season. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/1996_trans.shtml|title=1996 Cincinnati Reds Trades and Transactions|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.]

He was picked up by the Montreal Expos in the following season for only $400,000 and had his worst season of his career. His last game of the season was two innings of relief during extra innings of an all-Canada interleague game (sometimes called the Pearson Cup) won by Toronto on July 2. [cite web|url=http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1997/B07020TOR1997.htm|title=July 2, 1997 Game - Toronto Blue Jays vs. Montreal Expos|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Retrosheet] It turned out to be the last game of his major league career. On July 15, 1997, Lee Smith announced his retirement.

After posting career-worsts in ERA (5.82), hits per nine innings (11.63) and several other statistics and then announcing his retirement in mid-July, Smith was released by the Expos on September 25, by|1997. [cite web|url=http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/MON/1997_trans.shtml
title=1996 Montreal Expos Trades and Transactions|accessdate=2007-05-07|last=|first=|publisher=Sports Reference, Inc.
] Regardless, the Kansas City Royals signed Smith as a free agent and invited him to spring training for 1998. When he refused to start the season in the minor leagues, the Royals released him. Later in 1998, he signed a minor league deal with the Houston Astros, but with an ERA near 7.00 at AAA, he retired from the majors again.

Career statistics


Post-retirement activities

Two years after his retirement in 1998, Smith went to work as a roving minor-league pitching instructor for the San Francisco Giants. A former teammate, Dick Tidrow, and the manager of the Double-A Shreveport Captains, Jack Hiatt, offered the job to Smith, who gladly agreed, since it was right in his hometown. Smith still held this job with the Giants as of 2007. [cite web
url=http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070129&content_id=1789245&vkey=news_sf&fext=.jsp&c_id=sf|title=Giants finalize Minors coaching staffs|accessdate=2007-10-13|date=2007-01-29|publisher=MLB.com

In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Smith served as the pitching coach of the South Africa national baseball team, which was given 20,000 to 1 odds of winning the tournament.cite web
url=http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0309/p14s02-alsp.html|title=South Africa takes to a new diamond|accessdate=2006-08-18|date=2006-03-09|publisher=The Christian Science Monitor|last=Bowers|first=Faye
] In 2007, Smith participated as a coach in the second annual European Baseball Academy for Major League Baseball International in Tirrenia, Italy. The Academy provides instruction to young players from Europe and Africa, several of whom have signed professional contracts.cite web
url=http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20060719&content_id=1564735&vkey=pr_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb|title=Major League Baseball International to conduct European Baseball Academy July 27-Aug. 18 in Italy|accessdate=2006-08-18|date=2006-07-19|publisher=MLB.com

Lee Smith became the father of twins, Nicholas and Alana, in mid-2003. He also has three children from a previous marriage, Nikita (born c. 1987), Lee Jr. (born c. 1989) and Dimitri (born c. 1993).

Hall of Fame candidacy

In 1995, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Jim Murray selected Lee Smith as the active player most likely to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, describing him as "the best one-inning pitcher the game ever saw," and "the best at smuggling a game into the clubhouse in history." Since his retirement two years later, much speculation has centered on Smith's specific chances of becoming a member of the Hall of Fame as well as the criteria for relief pitchers and closers in general. Only Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, and Bruce Sutter have been inducted into the Hall of Fame based primarily on their relief pitching, and only Sutter has been inducted with fewer innings or starting appearances than Smith.cite web|url=http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hof_weekend/2006/induction_story.htm|title=Sutter Closes Out Historic Day in Cooperstown|accessdate=2006-08-19|date=2006-07-30|publisher=National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum|last=Bloom|first=Barry] In addition, Fingers and Eckersley – the only two to be elected in fewer than eight tries – won MVP awards, and Sutter captured a Cy Young Award, but Smith was rarely a serious contender for either trophy. He pitched in a transitional era, when closers began to be expected to pitch only a single inning; although Smith and Goose Gossage each pitched in slightly over 1,000 games, Gossage ended his career with over 500 more innings. Sutter was the first pitcher ever elected to the Hall with less than 1,700 innings pitched; Smith, who pitched fewer innings every year from 1982 through 1989 and never pitched more than 75 innings after 1990, ended his career with less than 1,300. In 2005, statistician Alan Schwarz described Smith as a long shot for election despite the career record, and used Retrosheet data to compare the saves of several top relievers including Smith, Eckersley, Fingers, Gossage and Sutter. While Smith's save percentage (82%), outs per save (3.72) and average of inherited runners per game (.50) compared well with Eckersley's marks (84%, 3.33, .49), his figures in the last two categories sharply trailed those of the others; Fingers, Gossage and Sutter all averaged between 4.72 and 4.82 outs per save, with Sutter inheriting .67 runners per game and the other two .86, suggesting their saves were harder to achieve. [cite news |first=Alan |last=Schwarz |authorlink=Alan Schwarz |title=When a Game Saved Was a Game Earned |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/02/sports/baseball/02score.html |work=The New York Times |page=D8 |date=2005-01-02 |accessdate=2007-12-20 ]

At Sutter's July 2006 induction to the Hall, Smith talked with reporters about his chances for election. Like many others, he commented that he was puzzled that he had not yet been selected. "This confuses the hell out of me. But I've always been baffled by it," he said.cite web|url=http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/baseball/cjenkins/20060730-9999-1s30bbcol.html|title=Confused Lee Smith still waiting|accessdate=2006-08-19|date=2006-07-30|publisher=The San Diego Union-Tribune|last=Jenkins|first=Chris] Smith's candidacy may have been hampered by the number of outstanding relievers on the ballot; Sutter had earned increasing vote totals for nine years before Smith appeared on the ballot, and Gossage—who first appeared on the ballot three years before Smith—has received greater support in each year from 2004 until his induction in 2008.

To be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a candidate needs to receive votes on 75 percent of the total ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. However, if the candidate receives less than 5 percent, he is no longer eligible for future Hall of Fame consideration. Smith was first eligible for the ballot five years after he retired, and is allowed to be on the ballot through 2017 if he continues to meet the minimum vote threshold. In his first year of eligibility, 2003, Smith received 210 votes, or 42 percent of the 496 total ballots cast. [cite web| title = History of BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting: 2003 Election | publisher =Baseball Writers Association of America | author = | date =2007-04-07 | url = http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers/voting_year.jsp?year=2003 | accessdate = 2007-10-14 ] The following year, Smith only received 185 votes, or 37 percent of the 506 total ballots cast. [cite web| title = History of BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting: 2004 Election | publisher =Baseball Writers Association of America | author = | date =2007-04-07 | url = http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers/voting_year.jsp?year=2004 | accessdate = 2007-10-14 ] In 2005, Smith improved from the previous year's results, and received a total of 200 votes, or 39 percent of the 516 total cast. [cite web| title = History of BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting: 2005 Election | publisher =Baseball Writers Association of America | author = | date =2007-04-07 | url = http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers/voting_year.jsp?year=2005 | accessdate = 2007-10-14 ] Smith came closer to joining the Hall of Fame in 2006 by receiving 45 percent of the ballots cast, or 234 votes. [cite web| title = History of BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting: 2006 Election | publisher =Baseball Writers Association of America | author = | date =2007-04-07 | url = http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers/voting_year.jsp?year=2006 | accessdate = 2007-10-14 ] In 2007, Smith's received only 217 votes, just 40 percent of the 545 total ballots cast. [cite web| title = History of BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting: 2007 Election | publisher =Baseball Writers Association of America | author = | date =2007-01-09 | url = http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers/voting_year.jsp?year=2007 | accessdate = 2007-10-14 ] Smith increased his total in 2008, with 235 votes, 43.3% of the total ballots cast. [cite web| title = Gossage voted into baseball Hall; Rice just misses | publisher =ESPN.com | author = | date =2008-01-08 | url = http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/hof08/news/story?id=3186626&campaign=rss&source=MLBHeadlines | accessdate = 2008-01-08 ]

ee also

*List of Major League Baseball saves champions
*List of Major League Baseball all-time saves leaders
*List of Major League Baseball leaders in games finished
*List of relief pitchers with most career saves
*Major League Baseball titles leaders


External links

*baseballstats|br=s/smithle02 |fangraphs=1012175 |cube=S/Lee-Smith
* [http://web.baseballhalloffame.org/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080105&content_id=5979&vkey=hof_news 2008 Hall of Fame candidate profile]
* [http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Lee_Smith_1957 BaseballLibrary] - profile, career highlights and [http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/sabr/tbi/S/Smith_Lee.tbi.stm SABR bibliography]
* [http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/Psmitl001.htm Lee Smith] at Retrosheet

succession box
title = National League Saves Champion
years = 1983
before = Bruce Sutter
John Franco
after = Bruce Sutter
Randy Myers
succession box
title = American League Saves Champion
years = 1994
before = Jeff Montgomery & Duane Ward
after = José Mesa
succession box
title = American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year
years = 1994
before = Jeff Montgomery
after = José Mesa


NAME=Smith, Lee
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Major League Baseball relief pitcher; once had record for number of career saves
DATE OF BIRTH=December 4, 1957
PLACE OF BIRTH=Shreveport, Louisiana, United States of America

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