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December 13, 1903: Al Smith

One of four men named Al Smith to crack the big leagues, this Al Smith, born on this date 116 years ago, had by far the shortest lived career of them all. After attending Villanova University, he jumped straight to the New York Giants without having previously pitched professionally. The right-hander came out of the bullpen in the top of the seventh inning.

His Giants trailed 6-0 as the thousands of fans at the Polo Grounds prayed he might be able to keep the Pirates at bay and help rally a comeback. The start to his big-league career got off without a hitch. Johnny Gooch led off with a single, but Don Songer popped out in foul territory, Max Carey walked, and then Paul Waner and Kiki Cuyler followed with two ground outs to end the inning. Smith had gotten out of the jam and had an inning of scoreless ball under his belt.

The eighth inning, though, presented more of a challenge. Glenn Wright led off with a single and then stole second base. Eddie Moore followed with a walk and George Grantham knocked Wright in with a single moments later. Finally, Smith recorded an out, coaxing Hal Rhyne to fly out, but Gooch followed with yet another single, scoring another run and increasing Pittsburgh's lead to eight runs. Smith prevented further damage when he got Songer to ground into an inning-ending double play ball.

That was the last pitch Smith would throw in his big-league career. He exited to mixed results, two runs in two innings and a career 9.00 ERA. It was clear the Giants were no longer interested in his services, but he figured another big-league team might give him a chance. Smith spent the next two seasons in the Pacific Coast League pitching for the Los Angeles Angels in the hopes that a big-league team would bid for his services. An ERA approaching 6.00 in 81 innings didn't help his cause. The call never came.

Interestingly, one of Smith's teammates in his one game was outfielder Freddie Lindstrom, a future Hall of Famer. Lindstrom's son Charlie would also become a Cup of Coffee Club member, playing in one game for the Chicago White Sox in 1958.

Smith's career was short lived, but his life was anything but. His time with the Angels made him a West Coast man and he lived until 1995 when he died at the age of 91. He passed away in San Diego and was cremated.


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