Tuesday, January 8, 2013

#282 Reggie Smith - San Francisco Giants

This is Reggie Smith's 17th and final Topps card.  It seems fitting yet cruel that someone who was under rated their entire career would have to share a card with rookie and future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.  This card is often listed online as Reggie Smith w/Ryne Sandberg.  A good write up on the action shot can be read here.
Baseball Card Database

Player: Reggie Smith was signed by the Twins back in 1963 before the advent of the draft.  As '64 approached he was left unprotected and was scooped up by the Red Sox.  He got into a half-dozen games at the tail end of the '66 season for Boston.  Smith would become a fixture in centerfield for the Red Sox but when he began the '67 season on the team he actually started the first six games of the year at second base while teammate Mike Andrews was on the mend.  He slugged 15 homers while batting .246 for Boston and had a nice postseason playing in all seven games of the World Series.  He got on base eight times including two home runs in the Red Sox loss to the Cardinals.  Smith finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to Rod Carew.
Smith repeated his 15 HR performance in '68 and led the league with 37 doubles.  He hit .265/.342/.430 which given the low runs scoring environment is pretty impressive.  Smith had an OPS+ of 127 and he would match or better that mark 11 of the next 14 seasons.  His defense in center was stellar and resulted in a Gold Glove. 
The next five years for the switch-hitting Smith were marked with steady production.  Twenty to Thirty home runs, batting average around .300 with about ten stolen bases became the norm.  After the '73 season he was traded to the Cardinals with Ken Tatum for Rick Wise and Bernie Carbo.
Smith played rightfield in '74 for his new team and hit .309/.389/.528 while driving in 100 runs for the first and only time in his career.  Another good year followed in '75 but in '76 the Cardinals moved him around the diamond which coincided with a deep slump.  He played rightfield, firstbase, and thirdbase and was batting just .218 when he was traded to the Dodgers for Joe Ferguson and Bob Detherage.  The Dodgers plugged him into rightfield and his bat perked up as he hit .280 the rest of the way.
1977 would be a great year for Smith as he batted .307/.427/.576 with 32 home runs.  Long referred to as the "other Reggie", he was often overshadowed by Reggie Jackson in the headlines.  That would not change in the '77 World Series.  Jackson had a monster series and while Smith did well with three home runs of his own, he and the Dodgers lost in six games.
Injuries limited Smith to 128 games in '78 but he was still dynamite with the bat following up his 168 OPS+ in '77 which topped the NL, with a 161 mark.  Smith contributed another homer but the Dodgers again lost to the Yankees in the World Series.  A variety of injuries limited him to half seasons in '79 and '80 and by '81 he was reduced to pinch hitting after major surgery on his throwing shoulder.  He got his elusive World Series ring in his 4th try as he had two pinch hits in four postseason at bats.
After batting just 35 times in '81, Smith was a free agent and signed with the Giants.  Now with a relatively healthy shoulder he returned to semi-regular duty as their first baseman.  He hit 18 home runs in 108 games and batted .284/.364/.470.  When he wasn't satisfied with San Francisco's contract offer he decided to play in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants.  He played two years in Japan before retiring after the '84 season. 

Baseball Card Database
Flipside:  No room for highlights-these are Smith's career stats.
Oddball:  Smith who barely played in '81 had more excitement off the field than on it.  On August 24th, young Pirates pitcher Pascual Perez was dusting off those in Dodger blue all game.  After plunking Bill Russell and Dusty Baker in the 6th inning, Smith who was riding Perez all game from the bench, challenged him to meet after the game.  As Perez walked off the mound to end the 6th inning, he yelled back to meet him now in the tunnel.  The players met beneath the stands where the locker rooms connected via the tunnel.  Perez who was well out of his weight class showed up with a bat.  Both teams ran into the area leaving the field empty and the fans baffled.  As most baseball fights go there was mostly yelling and pushing.  Order was eventually restored with no one worse for wear and since the fracas occurred off field the umps didn't eject anyone.
A month later Smith went into the stands in San Fran and slugged heckler Michael Dooley who had thrown a souvenir helmet at him.  As fans came after Smith, his teammates joined the fray.  Eight fans were arrested for various infractions.  Dooley suffered injuries to his hands and ribs and according to his wife ''He was being pulled into the field by the Dodgers and off the field by the cops, while he was being beaten by both.''
Strangely Smith signed with the Giants a few months later.
History:  Smith set several records for switch-hitters and racked up over 60 WAR in his career. His career OPS+ is 137 and his final rate stats are strong with a .287/.366/.487 line.  He had a great career and you'll see some of his milestones and achievements when I examine his Super Veteran card in the next post.
If you like the Oddball section of this blog you'll probably appreciate my new blog- Oddballs!

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