Chicago Cubs: Smith just keeps chugging along
At the age of 36, Smith became a journeyman during his latter seasons, playing for four different teams in four seasons.
In 1994, he saved 33 games for the Baltimore Orioles, earning his sixth All-Star selection. The following season, in 1995, marked his final season as a full-time closer, closing out 37 games for the California Angels. The 1995 season also saw Smith earn his seventh and final All-Star game selection.
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By mid ’96, the Angels traded Smith to the Cincinnati Reds in order to hand the closer duties over to second-year pitcher and up-and-comer, Troy Percival. Smith pitched his final season in 1997 for the Montreal Expos, hanging up his cleats after the season after his ERA ballooned to just under 6.00.
Lee Smith’s legacy was a perplexing one for many years after walking away from the game. While he ended his career as one of the best relievers of his time and the all-time saves leader (478) for 13 years, which was eventually broken by Trevor Hoffman in 2006, he was constantly cast aside by Hall of Fame voters before finally becoming ineligible. While relievers notoriously don’t receive the most love from voters, many think that playing his career with multiple teams hurt his chances and swayed their votes.
But at long last, earlier this week, Smith got the call. Today’s variation of the Veteran’s Committee unanimously elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While most certainly well deserved and long overdue, many fans wondered what team hat would he wear on his Hall of Fame plaque.
"“It’s definitely going to have to be a Cubbie, man,” he said. “There were a lot of great teams I played for but the Cubs gave me my first chance in the big leagues, and the Cubs gave me a World Series ring.”"
Still very much near and dear in the hearts of Cubs fans, it’s amazing to see Lee Smith finally receive his rightful place in the Hall of Fame after all these years. With his eagerness to go in as a member of the Chicago Cubs, this prompts the question of if we will one day see his No. 46 retired, waving atop the Wrigley Field foul poles, the place where he saved the game for the team a club record 180 times.
Pedro Strop may need to find a new number soon.