Friday, October 12, 2012

1993 TOPPS BLACK GOLD LEE SMITH

A DOMINATING PRESENCE ON THE MOUND.


SAVED ONLY ONE POST-SEASON GAME.

THE FRONT PAGE

  • I thought these inserts were the cat's pajamas back when. Now, they just don't have quite the same allure. 
  • Lee Smith was a dominating one-inning closer who's curiously found it difficult to garner much Hall of Fame support.

THE BACK PAGE

  • There's something Conan the Barbarian about this name graphic. 
  • Of course Smith would pass Jeff Reardon to become the all-time saves leader with 478. Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera passed Smith.

PHOTO PLAY

  • The Cardinal red blends nicely with the black gold theme.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Smith had his best season with the Cardinals in 1991, setting the NL record for saves with 47 and finishing second in Cy Young voting to the Braves' Tom Glavine. Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter held the record with 45, and Randy Myers with 53 in '98 topped Smith.
  •  Negro League legend Buck O'Neil scouted Smith and encouraged the Cubs to sign him, which they did in '75. 
  • Originally a starter, Smith struggled in the minors before being moved to the pen, which didn't sit well with him. He briefly left Double-A Midland to play basketball at Northwestern State University in '78. He returned the next year at the urging of Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams.
  • After being used in middle relief in Chicago in '81, Smith teamed with Willie Hernandez and Bill Campbell to close out games in '82. Perhaps most importantly in Smith's maturation was Ferguson Jenkins' influence during that season. Smith said Jenkins simplified his delivery in addition to teaching him a slider and forkball. 
  • From '80-'87, Smith amassed 180 saves; in that last season with the Cubs, Smith became the first fireman since Dan Quisenberry to reach 30 saves in four consecutive years. The Cubs, concerned about his weight and the effect it was having on his knees, were looking to move Smith and found a trade partner in the Red Sox, who sent Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi to the Cubs.
  • Smith stayed with the Red Sox for two-plus seasons, saving 58 games, before being traded in May '90 to the Cardinals for Tom Brunansky
  • Beginning in '91, Smith had a nice four-year run, saving 40-plus games each year but was traded to the Yankees in August '93 for Rich Batchelor. In April '93, Smith became the all-time saves leader by passing Reardon at 358. 
  • Signed with the Orioles as a free agent for the '94 season and he saved 33 games. Had his final good season as closer the next year with the Angels, saving 37 games. 
  • You can debate the merit of the save stat and the worthiness of one-inning pitchers being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but if Sutter, Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage are in Cooperstown, Smith certainly should be, too. 
  • Smith has never received more than 50 percent of the vote (75 is needed for enshrinement). One thing that's probably hampered his chances is the lack of postseason exposure; his teams made it to the postseason only twice. And he never won a Cy or MVP.
  •  A final knock has been his lack of innings pitched (1,289.1), but Sutter pitched only 1,042 innings, Goose 1,809.1. When Hoffman (601 saves, 1,089.1) and Rivera (608, 1,219.2 currently) are inducted, what will the excuse be then?

2 comments:

  1. I, too, thought that these inserts were awesome, back when the term "inserts" meant that they were actually difficult to find, instead of embedded in every pack. I still love these ones though, mostly because there were three Padres in the set! Been a while since there were three Friars worth making a big deal about.

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    Replies
    1. Padres are an up-and-coming club. Headley, Alonso, Quentin, Cabrera, Cashner ... They'll be filling the inserts sooner or later. Started following them some this year, listening to Ted Leitner call the games. I like him and this team.

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