Hardball Heroes is More Hardball's version of the Hall of Fame. It's an honor that can be bestowed upon memorable players from baseball's past that never quite made it to the elite status of Hall-of-Famer. To qualify for this honor, players must have demonstrated exceptional athleticism and sportsmanship on and off the field, but whose accomplishments are not celebrated in the Hall of Fame. For June, our inductee is Lee Smith.
The fact that Lee Arthur Smith is not in the Hall of Fame, yet Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter are is mindboggling. Until Trevor Hoffman broke his record in 2006, he was the MLB career leader in saves for little more than a decade. Mr. Smith currently ranks 3rd on the all-time saves leaderboard thanks to both Hoffman and Mariano Rivera, who are also both likely heading to the Hall of Fame. So why isn't Lee Smith in?
Overall #'s: 18 seasons, 71-92 record, 1022 games, 1289.1 innings pitched, 1251 k's, 3.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 478 saves, and a 7 time All-Star. He was also in the top 10 for Cy Young voting 4 times. He pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds, and Montreal Expos over the span of his career from 1980-1997.
Smith was an imposing figure on the mound, standing 6 feet 6 inches and tipping the scales at 265 pounds while possessing the ability to whip 95 mph heat. Most of Lee's fame comes from his days with the Cubbies, but he also put in quality years with the BoSox and Red Birds. He's likely destined to remain on the outside looking in when it comes to the Hall of Fame, but for many fans of the game they'll remember him as "the best one-inning pitcher the game ever saw," and "the best at smuggling a game into the clubhouse in history." (Quotes from sports writer Jim Murray) And let's be honest, that afro/beard combo was top notch as well.
Aretha Franklin- Respect