February 7, 1928
January 7, 2002 (aged 73)
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|July 10, 1953 for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 4, 1964 for the Boston Red Sox|
|Runs batted in||676|
|Career highlights and awards|
Alphonse Eugene (Al) Smith (February 7, 1928 - January 3, 2002) was a left fielder/third baseman in Major League Baseball. From 1953 through 1964, he played for the Cleveland Indians (1953-1957, 1964), Chicago White Sox (1958-1962), Baltimore Orioles (1963) and Boston Red Sox (1964).
Smith died at the age of 73 in Hammond, Indiana.
In a 12-season career, Smith posted a .272 batting average with 167 home runs and 676 RBI in 1517 games played. A good, selective hitter, he compiled a .407 on base percentage in 1955, his best season.
Smith started his baseball career in the Negro Leagues in 1947, joined the Cleveland Indians in 1949, and began his major league career with Cleveland in 1953. Along with his outstanding defense in left-field, he earned two All-Star Game selections, but is best remembered as the focal point of one of the most famous baseball photographs (see White Sox, below)
An everyday player in 1954, Smith was a member of the Indians team that won a then-American League record 111 games. Batting from the leadoff spot, he responded with a .281 average, 101 runs, 186 hits, 11 home runs and 59 RBI, helping his team to face the New York Giants in the 1954 World Series, where he led off the series with a home run. In 1955 he led the American League in runs scored (123), while hitting .306 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI, and also received his first All-Star selection.
In December 1957, Smith was traded by Cleveland along with Early Wynn to the Chicago White Sox for Minnie Miñoso and Fred Hatfield, in a deal that was very unpopular between Chicago fans (Miñoso was "their guy"). He slumped in his first year with the White Sox to the point that eccentric owner Bill Veeck held an Al Smith Night to honor his outfielder. Anyone named Smith, Smythe, Schmidt, or Smithe was admitted free and given a button that said, "I'm a Smith and I'm for Al." On his big night, Smith hit into two double plays and dropped a fly ball that led to the Boston Red Sox;s winning run. (Comiskey Park, August 26, 1959).
Smith would contribute enough to help his team win the American League pennant, its first in 40 years, en route to the 1959 World Series. It was during this series that Smith would enter baseball journalism history. In Game Two at Comiskey Park, Smith retreated to the left field wall in pursuit of a long drive hit by Charlie Neal of the Los Angeles Dodgers. As Smith watched the ball sail into the stands for a home run, a fan accidentally knocked over a cup of beer that was resting on top of the fence, dousing Smith's head and face. Smith estimated that he signed photographs depicting that moment at least 200,000 times. The photograph was taken by AP photographer Charles E. Knoblock, who died July 28, 2006.
Finally, Smith won some respect of the fans over by hitting .315 in 1960 and slugging 28 home runs in 1961, both career-highs, as he made his second All-Star appearance in 1960.
Before the 1963 season, Smith was sent to the Baltimore Orioles along with Luis Aparicio in the same transaction that brought Hoyt Wilhelm, Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward and Ron Hansen to the White Sox. His last major league season was in 1964, when he divided his playing time between Cleveland and the Boston Red Sox. Following his baseball career, he became a supervisor of parks in Chicago.