Sunday, June 2, 2013

#12 Lee Smith

About the Front: You can see the rest of the Cardinals' relief pitchers sitting down the right field line. The new Busch Stadium doesn't have foul territory bullpens, but they still exist in a few ballparks. It seems incredibly dangerous; you see corner outfielders and infielders trip over bullpen mounds on a fairly regular basis.

About the Back: Lee Smith passed Jeff Reardon in the 1993 season for the all-time saves lead, finishing the year with 401 and becoming the first pitcher ever to top 400 saves. He had bumped that total to 478 when he retired after the 1997 season, but his record only stood until 2006. It's since been surpassed by Trevor Hoffman (601 saves) and current record holder Mariano Rivera (627 and counting).

Triple Play:

1. In an 18-year career, Smith only pitched in the postseason twice: for the Cubs in 1984 and the Red Sox in 1988. He allowed multiple runs in three of his four games pitched and took costly losses in Game Four of the 1984 NLCS and in Game Two of the 1988 ALCS.

2. Spending almost all of his career as a reliever didn't give Lee many opportunities to bat: he was 3-for-64 (.047) and never exceeded two plate appearances in a single season after 1986. But one of those three career hits was a solo home run off of Phil Niekro on July 5, 1982; it came in Smith's last career start.

3. Lee served as the pitching coach for South Africa in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic tournaments, and is currently a roving pitching instructor in the Giants' farm system.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I really enjoyed watching Lee close for my Orioles in 1994, especially when he started the season with 12 straight successful saves, followed by a blown save in which he was credited with a win, followed by another eight save conversions in a row. But he was noticeably running out of gas when the strike halted the season in mid-August. He blew three of his last nine save opportunities and posted an 8.68 ERA from July 1 onward. Still, it was fun to watch him saunter out of the O's bullpen with his deliberate gait.

Bill James Said: "I think he may have a hundred saves left." He had 77, as it turned out. The Angels replaced him with Troy Percival in the closer role in 1996, and that was that.

On This Date in 1993: June 2. Hall of Fame first baseman Johnny "Big Cat" Mize passed away at age 80.


  1. Lee Smith was THE MAN, he was serious business. Lord I loved watching him pitch. I love this card. It kind of makes me wish I had still been collecting that year.

  2. Bob - I recently obtained my first Lee Smith Yankees card (he was a late-1993 pickup for them). It just doesn't look right.