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Al Smith Newsbeat

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The extraordinary, unsung career of Al Smith

Smith had his first of three All-Star years in Cleveland in 1955—leading the American League in runs (123), while posting 22 homers and 77 RBIs. In 1958, he was traded to the White Sox for beloved White Sox player Minnie Miñoso. Fans were angry and took that anger out on Smith, booing him at every turn. He struggled.

Bill Veeck, former owner of the Indians and now owner of the White Sox, had a brilliant idea: He staged an “Al Smith Night.” Anybody named Smith, Smythe, Schmidt or Smithe could get in for free, but had to wear a button that read, “I’m a Smith and I’m for Al.” Smith ended up going 1-for-4 and making an error, but Veeck proclaimed that it turned his year around. Smith hit six homers during the last four weeks of the season—including one in Chicago’s pennant-clinching 4-2 victory over the Indians. Smith raved of Veeck’s kindness and understanding toward players, especially Black players, during his time in baseball. From “When the Cheering Stops:”

“In my early years there were a lot of places I couldn’t stay,” he explained. “Even in Chicago and Baltimore, and in Florida during spring training. But guys like Hank Greenberg and Bill Veeck did a lot to change that. They would tell the guys who owned the hotels that if everyone couldn’t stay there, they would move the entire ballclub.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 20, 2021 at 02:25 PM | 26 comment(s)
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