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5 Fastest Throwing Pitchers in Baseball History
Buck O'Neil claimed credit for having scouted him. At age 17, partly on O'Neil's recommendation, Smith was drafted in the second round as the 28th overall pick by the Chicago Cubs in the draft. Smith resisted the move and briefly tried college basketball at Northwestern State University. At the behest of former Cubs outfielder Billy Williams , Smith returned to Midland as a reliever for the season  and pitched well enough to earn a promotion to Class AAA baseball for With the major league Chicago Cubs struggling to a last-place finish, Smith came into the big leagues as a September call-up that season. Professional baseball career[ edit ] Chicago Cubs —87 [ edit ] Smith made his major league debut with the Cubs on September 1, , against the Atlanta Braves , coming in relief for starting pitcher Dennis Lamp , who had given up four runs and eight hits in the four innings he pitched. Smith pitched one inning, giving up no hits, striking out one and walking two. He was used mostly as a middle relief pitcher. A streak of poor pitching was interrupted by the Major League Baseball strike , and he finished with an ERA of 3. The Cubs' closer for , Dick Tidrow , had a 3—10 season with a 5. Smith pitched well and even started five games from mid-June to early July. He saved 17 games during that season and performed as the regular closer for the Cubs, a position he held for the next five years. In , Smith had his best season in the majors up to that point. By May 6, he had pitched in ten games without allowing any runs while allowing only three hits and striking out 12 batters. Smith was selected for his first All-Star Game but did not fare well, surrendering the final two runs in the American League 's 13—3 rout. While they finished with the franchise's best record and had their first postseason appearance since ,  Smith compiled his worst ERA of the decade—although he saved more than 30 games for the first time in his career. After a scoreless eighth and a strikeout to start the bottom of the ninth, Smith allowed a one-out ninth-inning single to Tony Gwynn , and Steve Garvey followed with a two-run homer to force Game 5. It would be the Cubs' only winning season in Smith's eight years with the team. In , Smith for the first time dominated the league in strikeouts as a relief pitcher. After averaging fewer than eight strikeouts per nine innings in each prior season, he improved to He finished the season with a career-high strikeouts in only In , he was chosen for his second All-Star Game. Even before then, he was known as one of the most feared relief pitchers in the game. One player told writers Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo for their book, Baseball Confidential, that one of the most daunting sights in the majors was Smith throwing "pure gas from the shadows" of Wrigley Field , which didn't have lights at the time. Despite his numbers, rumors were swirling about his weight and its effect on his knees and his request for a trade out of Chicago. Smith, meanwhile, registered nearly saves after the trade. The trade started Smith on a journey involving seven teams in eight seasons, which may have hurt his chances in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite giving up a game-winning home run in his opening day Fenway Park debut, Smith posted his best ERA in five years. After Boston lost Game 3, Smith surrendered two insurance runs after entering Game 4 with the score 2—1 to complete the four-game sweep. However, he compiled It was also the last of his four seasons with more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. While Smith had four consecutive save seasons, Reardon finished the decade with five consecutive. Reardon was also a member of the World Series -winning Minnesota Twins. On December 6, , the Red Sox had both closers on their roster when they signed Reardon as a free agent. Louis for slugging outfielder Tom Brunansky on May 4, Louis went poorly as he gave up two runs in his only inning of pitching. Louis with a 2. Louis righted their ship, and Smith accumulated saves at a record pace. Louis against the Cubs. Smith claimed the league record for himself three days later and finished the season with a career-high 47 saves. Smith won his first Rolaids Relief Award,  received the most significant consideration for league MVP in his career, and finished second in Cy Young Award voting behind only Tom Glavine , who had a breakout win season in Lee Smith set the single-season National League record for saves in and was on pace to break his own record in However, he fell four short of his record, which was broken the following season by Rod Beck. Just two weeks into the season, Smith passed Reardon with career save number The day after setting the career major league record, he saved his st National League game to break that record as well. Smith had 15 saves in June , the most ever in one month for a pitcher until John Wetteland and Chad Cordero tied him in June and June , respectively. Also, the Cardinals were ten games behind Philadelphia , seemingly out of contention, and Smith was poised to become a free agent after the season. Smith left the team as their all-time save leader until Jason Isringhausen passed him on June 13, In eight games, Smith did not allow a single run and picked up three saves and 11 strikeouts. Smith's New York career lasted just those eight games as he filed for free agency after the season. In his first 12 games, he had 12 saves and a 0. After his sixth selection in , Smith was brought into the game to hold a two-run American League lead in the ninth inning. Regardless, the Angels held a double-digit lead in the division and seemed set for the postseason. Instead, California suffered one of the worst collapses in major league history, blowing the entire double-digit lead in less than six weeks. While the rest of the team was reeling, Smith reverted to his early-season form and pitched fantastically for the last two months, only blowing one save attempt in that span. His ERA was nearly as high as the league average, his strikeout rate was the lowest in 15 years, and the Reds granted him free agency after the season. His last game of the season was two innings of relief during extra innings of an all-Canada interleague game sometimes called the Pearson Cup won by Toronto on July 2. On July 15, , Lee Smith announced his retirement. When he refused to start the season in the minor leagues, the Royals released him. A former teammate, Dick Tidrow, and the manager of the Double-A Shreveport Captains , Jack Hiatt, offered the job to Smith, who gladly agreed, since it was right in his hometown. The Academy provides instruction to young players from Europe and Africa, several of whom have signed professional contracts. He pitched in a transitional era, when closers began to be expected to pitch only a single inning; although Smith and Goose Gossage each pitched in slightly over 1, games, Gossage ended his career with over more innings. Sutter was the first pitcher ever elected to the Hall with fewer than 1, innings pitched; Smith, who pitched fewer innings every year from through and never pitched more than 75 innings after , ended his career with fewer than 1, In , statistician Alan Schwarz described Smith as a long shot for election despite the career record, and used Retrosheet data to compare the saves of several top relievers including Smith, Eckersley, Fingers, Gossage and Sutter. Like many others, he commented that he was puzzled that he had not yet been selected. But I've always been baffled by it", he said. To be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a candidate needs to receive votes on 75 percent of the total ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Smith was first eligible for the ballot five years after he retired, and is allowed to be on the ballot through if he continues to meet the minimum vote threshold. Should he fail to be elected by the BBWAA, he will remain eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee ; under current rules, his first chance for consideration by that body would be in for the induction class of In his first year of eligibility, , Smith received votes, or 42 percent of the total ballots cast. In , he received He peaked at a new high of In , he dropped to He failed to gain induction in , when he received
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