Hall of Fame Travel Companion

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Al Smith

Outfielder Al Smith was traded three times during his 12-year major league career. In the first two of those trades, to Chicago and to Baltimore, Smith had the distinction of being traded with a future Hall of Famer. He also distinguished himself as a good hitter whose legs and bat produced plenty of runs.

Al Smith was originally signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1948 and made his major league debut in 1953. He batted .306 in 1955 and led the American League in runs scored with 123.

Smith was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1948 and made his debut in Cleveland in 1953, hitting .240 in 47 games. He opened the 1954 season as the Indians’ starting left-fielder, batting .281 for the American League champions. He scored 101 runs and led the team in doubles with 29.

In 1955, Smith led the American League by scoring 123 runs. He batted .306 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs, and was named to the American League All-Star team. He finished third in the Most Valuable Player balloting for that season.

Smith played two more seasons with the Indians and then was traded (with future Hall of Famer Early Wynn) to the Chicago White Sox for Minnie Minoso and Fred Hatfield. He struggled in his first two seasons in Chicago, batting .252 in 1958 and .237 in 1959. He bounced back in 1960, hitting .315 with 31 doubles, 12 home runs and 72 RBIs. In 1961, he posted the best power numbers of his career, hitting 28 home runs with 93 RBIs.

Al Smith’s best season with the Chicago White Sox came in 1961. He batted .278 with 28 home runs and 93 RBIs.

Smith’s last season in Chicago was 1962, when he batted .292 with 16 home runs and 82 RBIs. In the off-season, he was traded with another future Hall of Famer, shortstop Luis Aparicio, to the Baltimore Orioles for Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward and Hoyt Wilhelm. He batted .272 for the Orioles in 1963, but with only 10 home runs and 39 RBIs. He was involved in one more trade, returning to Cleveland in exchange for outfielder Willie Kirkland. He split the 1964 season between the Indians and the Boston Red Sox, batting a combined .176. He retired in 1964 at age 36.

Smith finished with a career batting average of .272 on 1,458 hits. He scored 843 runs with 258 doubles, 164 home runs and 676 RBIs. He was a member of the American League All-Star team twice.

Welcome to the Homer Ward

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Pete Ward

While it’s no overstatement to say that pitching dominated the 1960s, it’s just as safe to say that, in the 1960s, pitching dominated the Chicago White Sox, especially in that team’s contending seasons.

Pete Ward was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1963 with a .295 batting average, 22 home runs and 84 RBIs.

Pete Ward was the runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year in 1963 with a .295 batting average, 22 home runs and 84 RBIs.

With solid starting arms such as Gary Peters, Joe Horlen and Juan Pizarro, and relievers such as Hoyt Wilhelm and Eddie Fisher, the White Sox featured the league’s deepest staff. And they needed it, with also one of the weakest hitting lineups in the American League.

The one “power” spot in the White Sox lineup came from a left-handed batter named Pete Ward.

Ward was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1958 and appeared in eight games with the Orioles at the end of 1962. That winter he was a throw-in in the blockbuster trade that brought Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson and Wilhelm to the White Sox for Luis Aparicio and Al Smith.

Ward replaced Smith at third for the White Sox and made an immediate impact, beating the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day with a seventh-inning home run, the start of an 18-game hitting streak. For the season Ward hit .295, fifth in the American League, with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs, and 80 runs. He finished second in the league in total bases (289), hits (177), and doubles (34), and was named American League Rookie of the Year.

Ward followed up in 1964 by hitting .282 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs. An off-season auto accident led to back and neck problems that would plague him, and cut his offensive productivity, for the rest of his career. He slipped to 10 home runs in 1965 and only three in 1966.

Ward made something of a comeback in 1967 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs, but the weak Chicago lineup meant fewer good pitches to hit. His 18 home runs led the team, with only two other White Sox hitting as many as 10 home runs that season. His walks increased to 61 in 1967, and then to 76 in 1968, when Ward hit .216 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs.

Lingering injuries forced Ward into a part-time role in 1969, and he spent one year as a reserve player for the New York Yankees in 1970 before retiring.

Ward finished his nine-year career with a .254 batting average and 98 home runs.

Mathews Reaches 500

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 14, 1967) At Candlestick Park, batting against San Francisco Giants ace Juan Marichal, Eddie Mathews hit home run number 500 as the Houston Astros beat the Giants 8-6.

After hitting 493 career home runs with the Braves, Eddie Mathews launched number 500 in 1967 with the Houston Astros.

After hitting 493 career home runs with the Braves, Eddie Mathews launched number 500 in 1967 with the Houston Astros.

Prior to the 1967 season, Mathews had been traded by the Atlanta Braves with a player to be named later and Arnold Umbach to the Houston Astros for Bob Bruce and Dave Nicholson. A nine-time All-Star in 15 seasons with the Braves, Mathews had hit 493 homers playing for the franchise in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. His seventh round-tripper of the 1967 season made him the seventh major leaguer to reach the 500 home run plateau.

Mathews’ home run came in the sixth inning with two runners aboard. It was not Marichal’s best day. The Giants went into the sixth inning leading 4-3, but the first two Astros batters, Jim Wynn and Rusty Staub, opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Mathews came up and homered to put the Astros on top 6-4.

Marichal then walked Norm Miller (who had hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning) and gave up a single to Bob Aspromonte before being relieved by left-hander Joe Gibbon. Marichal left the game after allowing seven earned runs in five innings. The loss brought his season record to 12-8.

As a member of the Braves, Eddie Mathews hit home runs in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta over a 17-year career. He led the National League in home runs twice: in 1953 and 1959.

As a member of the Braves, Eddie Mathews hit home runs in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta over a 17-year career. He led the National League in home runs twice: in 1953 and 1959.

The winning pitcher was Dave Giusti (6-8), who allowed nine hits and five earned runs in seven innings, including a two-run homer by Giants third baseman Jim Davenport. The Giants also got a solo home run from Jim Ray Hart in the eighth inning. That home run came off Larry Sherry, who picked up his second save of the season.

Mathews would end the 1967 season with the Detroit Tigers. On the season, he would hit 16 home runs with 57 runs batted in. He would retire after the 1968 season with 512 career home runs, and he would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978.