Cubs: Discovering the fountain of youth in the summer of 1989
Chicago Cubs: The other half
On the other side of the bill was another young stud in Smith. The Cubs selected Smith in the third round of the secondary phase in the 1984 MLB draft. He struggled out of the gate at rookie ball, hitting .236 over 61 games, but he ascended quickly, moving through each level in subsequent seasons.
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By 1989 Smith had reached the majors. Similar to Walton, Smith tore the cover off the ball. He was with the major league club for most of the year, playing in 109 games. Midway through June, Smith was on fire. He hit in nine straight games, batting .444 throughout 36 at-bats. He struck out just four times in the span of 39 plate appearances.
Smith slashed a resounding .324/.382/.493, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Walton. Had it not been for Walton’s unbelievable season, Smith would have been the guy at the top of the rookie class. It was an exciting experience for Cubs fans.
Chicago Cubs: A flash in the pan in Wrigley
In each respective career in Chicago, neither Walton nor Smith reached those levels again. Walton finished his career in Chicago as a .258 hitter and below-average production while Smith batted .271 for the Cubs to close his 20’s.
Following the 1992 season, Walton signed with the California Angels before his release and moved to Cincinnati. Before his career was finished, Walton had logged time with the Reds, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was a productive asset to each team and slashed .303/.360/.478 over his final five seasons.
For Smith, following the 1993 season, he caught on with the Angels and finished his career playing for the Braves and Orioles. He did not reach close to those same levels as he did in Chicago and was a .248 hitter in his final years. Still, for one summer, Walton and Smith changed baseball on the Northside, and something fans won’t soon forget.