ATI

All-Time Indians: Al Smith (P)

Name: Alfred John Smith Position: Pitcher
Tribe Time: 1940-1945 Number: 32
Accolades: 1943 All-Star, Top 15 MVP DOB: 10/12/1907
Stats W L W% ERA G GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP BAA
Best Season (1943) 17 7 0.708 2.55 29 27 14 3 208.1 186 59 7 72 72 1.24 .230
Career 66 67 0.496 3.47 168 147 60 11 1,081.2 1,078 417 54 390 338 1.36 .249

Everyone has already heard of Bob Feller, Mel Harder and Bob Lemon, but the Indians in the 1940’s had tremendous pitching from beginning to end, even outside of their superstars. Al Smith was one of those, starting more than 60 games for the Tribe in the early 40’s. This was a tough time in all of baseball as World War II sapped some of baseball’s greatest talents including Indians ace Bob Feller. Over his first five seasons, Smith started at least 24 games each year and posted an ERA under 4.00.

Smith was originally signed by the New York Giants in 1932 after a couple fantastic years in Independent ball. After a couple years in the minors, he made his Major League debut in 1934 and was a solid starter, if not extraordinary for four years in New York. In 1937, Smith was relased by the Giants, then signed and DFA’d by the Cardinals before joining the Phillies. In two seasons in Philadelphia, he was a below average reliever, pitching just 95 innings with a 6.06 ERA. It looked like the career of Al Smith was over before it really got started and he was let go for the third time in his career.

At the age of 32, Smith joined the Tribe and was thrown into the starting rotation after three relief appearances. After an inauspicious debut, Smith threw complete games in six of his first seven starts. That first season he ended up being the Indians third best pitcher, behind Feller and Al Milnar, with a 15-7 record and a 3.44 ERA. The next season was more of the same as Feller grabbed all the headlines, but Smith put together another solid season.

From 1942-1944, the Indians rotation had to make due without Feller, who had enlisted in the US Navy. Smith, who was too old for the war, stepped up his game and had the best season of his career in 1943, when he was elected to the All-Star game and came in 15th in the end of the season MVP voting (Spud Chandler won the award). While Jim Bagby, Jr. may have been the ace, Smith was the best pitcher on the team, posting 17 wins and a 2.55 ERA in 208.1 IP.

In the end, it took too long for Smith to really get started as he was only able to play six seasons for the Tribe. In 1945, Feller was back and Harder was still going strong. Lemon was one year away and the Indians were assembling the greatest starting rotation in team history. There was no room for the 37 year old veteran. Smith won just five more games for the Tribe in his final season as he retired in 1945. After two more years in Independent ball, Smith left baseball for good. He died in 30 years later, in 1977 at the age of 69.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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