Lee Smith is known as one of the greatest baseball relief pitchers of all times. Now Smith is getting the recognition he deserves.
From MLB.com’s website:
“Lee Smith was perhaps the most feared reliever of his generation and helped define the closer’s role in the modern game during 18 seasons in the Majors. Smith learned on Sunday that he will be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction class of 2019.
“Smith was selected by the Today’s Game Era Committee, a 16-member panel appointed by the Hall of Fame to review players retired for at least 15 seasons who were passed over by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as well as managers, umpires and executives.
Smith was a unanimous selection.
“I never, never, never gave up hope,” Smith said, “and then when they started the second-chance ballot, I thought my chances got a little better. Today was probably the most nervous I’ve been with this Hall of Fame voting thing.”
Smith pitched in an era when closers routinely pitched more than an inning. He got at least four outs for 169 of his 478 saves and had 12 straight seasons of at least 60 appearances, a Major League record. He’s also the only reliever with 13 straight seasons of 25-plus saves and 10 straight of at least 30. He finished top five in Cy Young voting three times.
Smith initially resisted efforts by the Cubs to move him to the bullpen, but it cleared his path to the Majors and eventually the Hall of Fame.
“You gotta have really thick skin,” Smith said of the role. “But you know the one thing I learned really myself, was like when you’re going good, don’t get too high, and when you’re struggling a little bit, don’t beat yourself up. “If I could go home and put my head on the pillow and say, ‘I did the best I can that day.’ If you go out there and you make quality pitches day in and day out, good things are going to happen.”
Portions of this report come from MLB.com and the photo of Lee Smith is by Ron Vesely and is from MLB Photos.
CORRECTION: Smith was born in Janestown, LA and grew up in Castor, LA.