Former St. Louis Cardinals closer Lee Smith is among the group of 10 finalists under consideration for the Today’s Era Hall of Fame ballot, which will be voted upon at the Baseball Winter Meetings next month.
Smith joins former players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, and Orel Hershiser for consideration. Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, and Lou Piniella are finalists as managers and George Steinbrenner is a candidate for his contributions as an owner.
A 16-member committee will vote on the candidates, casting from zero to four votes. To be elected, a finalist must receive votes on at least 75% of the ballots.
Smith enjoyed 18 seasons in the big leagues and his 478 saves was the all-time best at the time of his retirement and currently ranks third.
A 7-time All-Star, Smith credits his appearance in 1987 as the turning point in his career.
“I was sort of getting one of those ‘okay, he’s a decent closer, he’s pretty good, he’s at the top’ thing and we actually had an extra inning game and I pitched three innings in that game,” Smith recalled during his last run on the ballot.
In that outing, he was the winning pitcher and struck out Kirby Puckett twice, Mark McGwire, and Tony Fernandez while giving up only two hits and no runs. “I think that put me over the hump of being one of the best in the game from that point on.”
Smith led the league in saves four times, two of those years coming with St. Louis in 1991 (47) and 1992 (43). He saved 30 or more games in 11 different seasons.
Will Clark played the final 51 games of his career wearing a St. Louis uniform after being traded from Baltimore in 2000.
photo credit: Leon Algee-AP