Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Smiths Of Baseball

On May 18th, 1871, 30-year old Charles J. "Charlie" Smith of the National Association's New York Mutuals stepped onto the Haymakers' Grounds, a baseball field in Troy, New York. This marked the first time a person named Smith would play in a professional, major league baseball game.*

On October 28th, 2007, Seth Smith made the final out of the World Series in Denver, Colorado, marking the most recent time a Smith was in action.

In the one hundred thirty-six years and five months in between, 140 other people named Smith--all male, but hopefully that will change in our lifetime--have appeared in major league games. Why do I care? Because my last name is Smith.

So, welcome to a new series here on ARSFFPT. A 20-something-or-more-parter called "The Smiths of Baseball."

I'll be presenting them alphabetically over the next few, uh, we'll say...months? There will also be a wrap-up of Smiths who played in the Negro Leagues, but never got to play in the American or National League.

Note: When my laptop's hard drive died, I lost a lot of research I was doing for this project. Pictures, stories, stats that had special meaning, etc. I was working on ranking the 142 Smiths in order from coolest to lamest, too. Now I have to do them alphabetically, and just find info on each guy as I get to him. But that'll make it easier, I think. I had also marked which ones had played for the Sox, and which had played for the Yanks. As I recall, the Sox have had way more Smiths. But we'll find that out at the end, when I'll do the totals.

Before we get to the A. Smiths, here are two Smiths who were only referred to as "Smith" in the record books:

1. Smith. (1884)

June 5th, 1884. The Baltimore Monumentals took on the Boston Reds at Baltimore's Belair Lot, it a Union Association matchup. Baltimore's starting pitcher that day was this unknown Smith. It would be his one and only game. He went six innings, getting a no-decision in a 15-12 defeat. He also singled in five at bats that day. (It should be noted that there was an Ed Smith on the Baltimore team who played in nine games. This unknown Smith could just be Ed, listed only as Smith for this one game.)

2. Smith. (1886)

This unknown Smith also appeared in just one game, and was also a starting pitcher. He played for the Cincinnati Red Stockings (today's Cincinnati Reds) of the American Association. His day in the sun was May 31st, 1886--game one of a doubleheader against two different teams. Smith took the loss in an 8-6 defeat to the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers at Brooklyn's Washington Park. He also singled in four at bats. The article and boxscore of the game--along with Brooklyn's second game that day--are here. (Click "view full article for PDF.) According to the article, Brooklyn "used their bats vigorously at times." Poor Smith. I also like how doubleheaders in the pre-lights days were morning and afternoon. And that boxscore shows three wild pitches by Smith, which retrosheet does not show. (I thought this guy might be "Mike Smith," who pitched in nine games later that year for the Red Stockings, but this article from 9/11/1886 talks about Mike Smith being a new pitcher from the Southern League. So the unknown Smith from May is definitely a different guy.) (And you'll also see that retrosheet's game log shows Mike Smith as the pitcher for the 5/31 game as well as the September games. That's wrong, and yes, I e-mailed them and they said they'd correct it on their next big update next summer. So you need not e-mail them, ha. If you add up Mike Smith's stats, it all adds up, they only messed it up in the game log.)

*MLB doesn't consider the National Association a major league, though it was a professional league. Then again, there were also other supposedly "professional" games played before and during 1871. I'm going by the players listed by Retrosheet (and the other usual literature: BR, Almanac, Cube, Roylance, Spates Catalogue, Tobin's Spirit Guide--all of whom are vital to this project, by the way), which includes NA (1871-1875), NL (1876-present), American Association (1882-1891) Union Association (1884), Players League (1890), AL (1901-present), and Federal League (1914-1915).

Of course, there are also other pro leagues around the world. A Japanese or Cuban team could kick the butt of an MLB team on any given day, but, we really don't have access to all those records and besides, there probably haven't been a lot of Smiths in those leagues.

Final note: I'm doing this in a fun way, not in a "we are the sacred Smiths, we will destroy you!" way. Hopefully you'll enjoy just learning about the players, and will want to do this for your own name on your own blog or whatever. (It should be much easier for you than it will be for me, provided you're not a Williams or a Jones or a Johnson, and especially if you're a Cvengros.)


I LOVE your label for this post!

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Location: Rhode Island, United States