Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Smiths Of Baseball: Al Smith (Alfred Kendricks Smith)

4. Al Smith. (1926)

The most intriguing players in the Baseball Encyclopedia are the guys who only played in one game. On June 15th, 1926, the New York Giants signed 22-year old right-handed pitcher Al Smith, who'd just helped Villanova University to a 19-3 record under head coach Charles McGeehan. He wasn't the only college boy to be picked up by the Giants. On June 19th, 1926, The New York Times' Harry Cross wrote of the previous day's New York-Pittsburgh game:

The game took on a decidedly intercollegiate atmosphere before the afternoon was over. John McGraw just at present has a decided complex for the educated ball player. The Polo Grounds is all cluttered up with young men who can scan Greek verse, throw a problem in calculus, tear off a bit of Sanscrit or tell you just what's wrong with the universe. But are they also baseball wise? That's the riddle. Pete Cote, just out of Holy Cross, went in as a pinch hitter on his first day with the club. Al Smith, who took curving the baseball as part of his curriculum at Villanova, pitched a couple of innings. Neither of the students had his mind completely off his books.

Smith pitched the seventh and eighth against the defending World Champion Pirates that day, giving up two runs and four hits, and walking two. (Boxscore pictured.) He was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the eighth by Travis "Stonewall" Jackson, who was making his return from a month-long absence to due a "wounded knee." Jackson would play another decade, eventually being voted into the Hall of Fame. Al Smith would never play in another major league game.

Smith was one of several players given a brief chance by McGraw that June, before being thrown on the scrap heap. The captain of Al's Villanova team, Joe Connell, appeared in two games for New York, too, and Pete Cote only played in one more after the game described above. The '26 Giants, two years removed from winning four straight pennants, would quickly fall out of the race, finishing in the second division for just the second time in the modern era. They wouldn't win another league title until another Al Smith came along.

Al K. Smith died 13 years ago, at the age of 91, in San Diego, California.

Previous Smiths: #3, #2 & #1.



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