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Lonnie Smith

Born: December 22, 1955 (1955-12-22) (age 54)
Chicago, Illinois
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
September 2, 1978 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Last MLB appearance
August 10, 1994 for the Baltimore Orioles
Career statistics
Batting average     .288
Stolen bases     370
Runs batted in     533
Career highlights and awards

Lonnie Smith (born December 22, 1955 in Chicago, Illinois) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder. He made his debut for the Philadelphia Phillies on September 2, 1978 and later played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Baltimore Orioles. He overcame bouts with drug abuse to become one of the top basestealers in baseball during the decade of the 1980s.[1] He played on four pennant-winning teams, three of which won the World Series.


Philadelphia Phillies

After brief trials with the Phillies in 1978 and 1979, Smith broke into the team's lineup in 1980, batting .339 in 100 games. The Phillies won the National League pennant and defeated the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. Smith's performance was strong enough for him to finish third in the Rookie of the Year balloting following the season. He continued to play well in the strike-shortened 1981 season, hitting .324.

St. Louis Cardinals

He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in November 1981[2], but continued to hit well in 1982. He was a National League All-Star that year, and finished second in the league's Most Valuable Player voting. He batted .307, led the league with 120 runs scored and ranked second with his 68 steals. Smith batted .321 in the 1982 World Series, helping the Cardinals to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games. Smith continued to play well in 1983, hitting .321 in 130 games to again draw MVP votes. However, his season was marred by his first bout with drug abuse, which sidelined him for more than a month at midseason.[3] Smith returned to the Cardinals and remained with the team for the entire 1984 season.

Kansas City Royals

Smith was traded to the Royals in exchange for outfielder John Morris on May 17, 1985. The Royals were able to fill their left field spot with Smith; they had lacked an everyday player since the departure of Amos Otis two years earlier. Smith's past met his present following the regular season, when he hit .333 in the 1985 World Series to lead the Royals to a seven-game upset of the favored Cardinals. Smith went on to have his best season in three years in 1986, but saw his playing time reduced during the 1987 season.

Career crisis and move to Atlanta

In July 1987, Smith told the Kansas City Times that under his agreement with the Commissioner of baseball he was supposed to be tested six to eight times per-year but had not been tested to-date in 1987. More so, he strongly disagreed with Ueberroth that baseball was free from drugs.[4] Following the 1987 season, Smith had trouble finding a new team to play for and came to believe that Royals general manager John Schuerholz had blackballed him to other clubs. Depressed and high on marijuana (by his own account), he considered killing Schuerholz and even purchased a gun for that purpose, but thought better of the idea.[3] In March of 1988, the Atlanta Braves offered Smith a contract; he made the team, batting .237 in limited action that season. But the next year, he won a starting job in the Braves' outfield, and had one of his best years ever. In that season, Smith batted .315, with a career-high 21 home runs, and he led the league with a .415 on-base percentage. He finished 11th in the MVP voting and won the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award. He continued to be a regular in each of the next two seasons, batting .305 in 1990 and .275 in 1991, when he helped the Braves win the pennant.

1991 World Series

Smith is remembered by many for a baserunning blunder late in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Smith was on first base with no outs in the eighth inning of a scoreless game when Terry Pendleton lined a double to left field. It appeared that Smith would be able to score on the play, but as he was rounding second base, he stopped and stumbled. Smith maintains that he lost sight of the ball in the Metrodome roof but television replays showed that Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch deceived Smith by appearing to take the throw from the outfield. Regardless of the cause, Smith only reached third base and was left on base by Twins pitcher Jack Morris. The Twins went on to win 1-0 in ten innings to clinch the world championship.

End of career and afterward

Smith remained with the Braves through the 1992 season and then played two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, serving mostly as a pinch-hitter. He played his final game on August 10, 1994.

After retirement, Smith remarried and returned to Atlanta, where he resides with his wife and three children. He briefly re-entered the national spotlight in 2006, when he told a Columbia, South Carolina newspaper about his plan to kill Schuerholz eighteen years prior.[3]

Accomplishments and notes

  • Smith is the only player to be a member of three different World Series championship teams (Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Kansas City) within a single decade, having done so in a six-year period.
  • He set a franchise record for the St. Louis Cardinals on September 4, 1982 when he stole five bases in a single game.
  • In the 1991 World Series he hit home runs in three straight games (3 through 5) for the Braves against the Minnesota Twins.
  • In Game Five of the 1992 World Series, he hit a grand slam home run for the Braves against the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • He was given the nickname "Skates" due to his awkward footwork while playing in the outfield. Baseball historian Bill James wrote about this at length, stating that Smith should have had a post-retirement career teaching "defensive recovery and cost containment," as he was exceptional at recovering from defensive blunders.[5]

See also


External links

Preceded by
Tim Leary
NL Comeback Player of the Year
Succeeded by
John Tudor

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