An Homage to Hal Smith

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Recently learned that Hal Smith died in January. I've always had a fascination with him - had a truly average career, but made the biggest play in baseball history. I wish more people would remember him for that. Wrote about it here if you're interested.
 

CarolinaBeerGuy

Don't know him from Adam
SoSH Member
Mar 14, 2006
5,519
Kernersville, NC
Recently learned that Hal Smith died in January. I've always had a fascination with him - had a truly average career, but made the biggest play in baseball history. I wish more people would remember him for that. Wrote about it here if you're interested.
Thank you for posting this. That “checked” swing is insane, at least by modern standards.
 

DJnVa

Dorito Dawg
SoSH Member
Dec 16, 2010
40,452
That check swing would cause twitter to explode today and no one even bats an eye.
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
12,561
Pittsburgh, PA
Great article. Read your one about the Mantle baserunning play too, since you linked it in there. My impression from your slow-mo clip is that Nelson's momentum carried him towards RF along the foul line, despite having tagged first, and then he spun around in a "ready" position to be able to throw to second or chase in a rundown. The one thing he wasn't prepared for was a return to 1st by Mantle, because usually the 1B in that position is directly in the baseline or standing on the bag, so there's no opportunity to go around him. I don't think Mantle miscalculated or made an error in judgment so much as quickly observed that Nelson was, momentarily, out of position, and exploitably so. It's hard to see depth from that angle, but given the extent to which Nelson had to lunge to his left (despite having just tagged 1st a moment prior), I think the "momentum into RF" explanation seems likely.
 

bigq

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
4,817
Great read. Thanks for posting. I always enjoy seeing the Yankees lose. The Bing Crosby kinescope reference at the end was great.
 

ledsox

Member
SoSH Member
Nov 14, 2005
273
I've been watching some old games recently (who hasn't) and I noticed at least 3 other "checked" swings like that. One happened in the '65 series, game 7. Sandy took a while to throw his next pitch. Willie Mays had one ('71 all star game, I think) and one by Dewey (IIRC) in the '75 series.
 

Lose Remerswaal

Missing an “R”
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
That listing of the top plays by change in win expectation disappointed me when I didn't see Big Papi in the Top 25. Not even when i filtered it to just LCS. But I guess winning game 4 or 5 can't add all that much win expectation in a 7 game series
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Great article. Read your one about the Mantle baserunning play too, since you linked it in there. My impression from your slow-mo clip is that Nelson's momentum carried him towards RF along the foul line, despite having tagged first, and then he spun around in a "ready" position to be able to throw to second or chase in a rundown. The one thing he wasn't prepared for was a return to 1st by Mantle, because usually the 1B in that position is directly in the baseline or standing on the bag, so there's no opportunity to go around him. I don't think Mantle miscalculated or made an error in judgment so much as quickly observed that Nelson was, momentarily, out of position, and exploitably so. It's hard to see depth from that angle, but given the extent to which Nelson had to lunge to his left (despite having just tagged 1st a moment prior), I think the "momentum into RF" explanation seems likely.
Thanks for reading and that's an insightful observation. I still think Mickey's better play was to continue toward second as the run-down would have given MacDougald ample time to score, and trying to evade Nelson sure seemed risky (it was a very close play in any event). But it all depends on whether MacDougald broke for home immediately. If he was pulling a Jeff Suppan over there, Mickey's dive is really the only chance.
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
I've been watching some old games recently (who hasn't) and I noticed at least 3 other "checked" swings like that. One happened in the '65 series, game 7. Sandy took a while to throw his next pitch. Willie Mays had one ('71 all star game, I think) and one by Dewey (IIRC) in the '75 series.
Yes, I have vague memories of those kinds of calls back then. With no replay and no appeals to the base umps it was probably less risky/confrontational for an umpire to make the lazy no-call than to insert himself.

There's a similar instance of umpire indifference in that same 1960 WS game 7 that always catches me up too. In the top of the eighth, with two out Yankees had already scored twice to open the lead to 7-4 and were 94% likely to win. With runners on second and third, the pitcher's spot was up next, and Stengel let Bobby Shantz hit for himself. (Shantz had come on in relief in 3rd inning. Stengel was the worst.)

Shantz hit a Baltimore chop out toward third, and it bounded high off the hard Forbes Field surface. Don Hoak was playing in a bit and the ball caromed way over his head and down the line. He turned and raced after it, as third base umpire Johnny Stevens casually turned around to see where the ball would land.

Hard to tell for sure given the grainy video, but it looks like it hit about a half a foot in foul territory. I can't see how it didn't go past third fair, and if that were the call two more runs score and history is quite different. But the easy call is to say "it landed foul, so it's foul" and that's what Stevens did. Again, no replay so why not take the easy way out?

EDIT: Spelling.
 
Last edited:

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
That listing of the top plays by change in win expectation disappointed me when I didn't see Big Papi in the Top 25. Not even when i filtered it to just LCS. But I guess winning game 4 or 5 can't add all that much win expectation in a 7 game series
That's the thing. Some of those plays only get big when seen in retrospect. Roberts' steal only increased the chances that the Red Sox win that series by 1.4%. Papi's walkoff over Sheffield a few innings later only added 3.5%. They get huge when you realize that if they don't happen there's no 2004 championship. But there was still so much work left to do.
 

thehitcat

Member
SoSH Member
Nov 25, 2003
1,923
Windham, ME
That's beautiful writing. I didn't actually know that story yet. And the check swing well it's been said better above. Thanks for that.
 

terrynever

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 25, 2005
16,568
pawtucket
There were actually two catchers named Hal Smith playing in the National League during the 1950s and early 1960s.

The “other” Hal Smith played for St. Louis. He’s still alive.

 

Patek's 3 Dingers

Luddite
Silver Supporter
Jul 5, 2018
417
Recently learned that Hal Smith died in January. I've always had a fascination with him - had a truly average career, but made the biggest play in baseball history. I wish more people would remember him for that. Wrote about it here if you're interested.
Liked your write-up, but with one nitpick. Stengel did not take Kubek out of the game. Rather, he was carried off the field and taken to the hospital. He was actually in route when Maz hit his homer.
 

richgedman'sghost

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
May 13, 2006
1,447
ct
Interesting how the announcer didn't make a big deal out of the checked swing--didn't say "Boy, was he lucky getting away with that!" or anything to that effect, just called it a checked swing, gave the count, and waited for the next pitch.

Fascinating! Thanks!
That announcer was Mel Allen, voice of the Yankees at the time. The reason he didn't make a big deal out of it was because check swings usually favored the batter back then. I did think Mel had a pretty good call of the subsequent homer particularly since it was for the Pirates and not the Yankees.
 

richgedman'sghost

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
May 13, 2006
1,447
ct
Liked your write-up, but with one nitpick. Stengel did not take Kubek out of the game. Rather, he was carried off the field and taken to the hospital. He was actually in route when Maz hit his homer.
Do you have to be so nitpicking. The point was that Kubek had to leave the game and a below par substitute took his place. I don't know what your post added to the thread
 

JohnnyTheBone

Member
SoSH Member
May 28, 2007
18,164
A Buick 6
Do you have to be so nitpicking. The point was that Kubek had to leave the game and a below par substitute took his place. I don't know what your post added to the thread
My two cents, but I don't consider that to be nitpicking. It's an outstanding effort by ToeKnee, so some added color would only enhance the finished product. The piece is already so rich in detail, so the Kubek hospital tidbit would be a just another fascinating addition.
 

terrynever

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 25, 2005
16,568
pawtucket
Yes, it is Mel Allen. He shared TV with Bob Prince, who missed Maz’s homer because he was making his way down to the clubhouse. The best Maz call came on the radio side, from Chuck Thompson.
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Liked your write-up, but with one nitpick. Stengel did not take Kubek out of the game. Rather, he was carried off the field and taken to the hospital. He was actually in route when Maz hit his homer.
Kubek wanted to stay in the game. Stengel took him off the field. He walked off under his own power. This is clear in the film of the game.

EDIT: The entire game broadcast is available here. Virdon's grounder happens at 1:45:40. Casey finally convinces Kubek to walk to the dugout at 1:48:00. As Casey himself was purportedly fond of saying, "You could look it up."
 
Last edited:

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
There were actually two catchers named Hal Smith playing in the National League during the 1950s and early 1960s.

The “other” Hal Smith played for St. Louis. He’s still alive.

Yes. Strange to have two guys with the same name playing the same position at the same time. FWIW this other Hal Smith died in 2014.
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
I respectfully disagree. I'm quite sure it's Bob Prince. I grew up listening to Mel Allen's voice, and while that's a long time ago now, I feel fairly confident that I can still distinguish between it and someone else's voice.
Sorry Ted. Bob called the first 4-1/2 innings, then introduced Mel and handled the mic over in the Pirates' half of the 5th. It's clear on the recording of the game.

EDIT: As noted above, the entire game broadcast (minus commercial breaks) is available here. The top of the fifth ends at 0:54:45 and Prince hands over to Allen at 0:54:55.
 
Last edited:

terrynever

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 25, 2005
16,568
pawtucket
I respectfully disagree. I'm quite sure it's Bob Prince. I grew up listening to Mel Allen's voice, and while that's a long time ago now, I feel fairly confident that I can still distinguish between it and someone else's voice.
I did, too. The broadcast quality is not great but that is definitely not Bob Prince.
 

terrynever

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 25, 2005
16,568
pawtucket
Bob Prince was a real character. He did Penn State football on the radio, briefly, in the 1950s. One of the stories about Prince passed down over the years is how he was on the team train to a bowl game and got thrown off for being drunk. So he somehow got to the destination hotel ahead of the team and hired a bunch of hookers to greet the players and coaches upon their arrival. That was the end of Bob Prince’s brief stint as a Nit radio guy.
 

Ted Cox 4 president

Member
SoSH Member
Sorry Ted. Bob called the first 4-1/2 innings, then introduced Mel and handled the mic over in the Pirates' half of the 5th. It's clear on the recording of the game.

EDIT: As noted above, the entire game broadcast (minus commercial breaks) is available here. The top of the fifth ends at 0:54:45 and Prince hands over to Allen at 0:54:55.
Bottom of the fifth . . . less than an hour into the broadcast!
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Bottom of the fifth . . . less than an hour into the broadcast!
Well yes, but the commercial breaks were edited out. Still the official box score showed the full game (8.5+ innings) lasting 2 hours and 36 minutes. And if memory serves there were 7 pitching changes.

You can really sense the pace when you watch the film. Pitchers get the sign and throw the ball.
 

Patek's 3 Dingers

Luddite
Silver Supporter
Jul 5, 2018
417
Kubek wanted to stay in the game. Stengel took him off the field. He walked off under his own power. This is clear in the film of the game.

EDIT: The entire game broadcast is available here. Virdon's grounder happens at 1:45:40. Casey finally convinces Kubek to walk to the dugout at 1:48:00. As Casey himself was purportedly fond of saying, "You could look it up."

Here's Mantle's take:

Kubek had a swollen windpipe, and he couldn't tell the trainer he wanted to stay in the game.

During the 1969 WS, Kubek interviewed Stengel in the stands. Kubek later said the first thing Stengel said when he recognized Kubek before the interview started, was: "Aren't you the guy that got hit in the throat and cost us a World Series?"
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Here's Mantle's take:

Kubek had a swollen windpipe, and he couldn't tell the trainer he wanted to stay in the game.

During the 1969 WS, Kubek interviewed Stengel in the stands. Kubek later said the first thing Stengel said when he recognized Kubek before the interview started, was: "Aren't you the guy that got hit in the throat and cost us a World Series?"
That's an interesting quote from Mickey. But it's pretty clear from the film that Kubek is trying to convince Casey to let him stay in the game. Casey is the one who decides to take him out.
 

InstaFace

MDLzera
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
12,561
Pittsburgh, PA
Kubek wanted to stay in the game. Stengel took him off the field. He walked off under his own power. This is clear in the film of the game.

EDIT: The entire game broadcast is available here. Virdon's grounder happens at 1:45:40. Casey finally convinces Kubek to walk to the dugout at 1:48:00. As Casey himself was purportedly fond of saying, "You could look it up."
What an incredible stroke of good fortune that Bing Crosby's video (in the days before videotapes!) was somehow recovered 50 years later so that we actually can watch the game. THAT game, of all games in all of baseball history. From the Library of Alexandria to the 2008 Universal fire, it sometimes seems like history is only lost, it is never recovered. Nice for the tides of entropy, of unmooring, to be pulled back for once.
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
What an incredible stroke of good fortune that Bing Crosby's video (in the days before videotapes!) was somehow recovered 50 years later so that we actually can watch the game. THAT game, of all games in all of baseball history. From the Library of Alexandria to the 2008 Universal fire, it sometimes seems like history is only lost, it is never recovered. Nice for the tides of entropy, of unmooring, to be pulled back for once.
So true. Of all games, they uncover complete footage of what some consider "The Best Game Ever", also the title of Jim Reisler's meticulous and enjoyable book that covers practically every play by the way.

It's a great read and only made better when you realize that he wrote it before that footage was unearthed, going exclusively from newspaper accounts and the two radio recordings.

Having that film come to light makes me imagine the baseball gods thinking "save that one - they have to see that one".
 

terrynever

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 25, 2005
16,568
pawtucket
The Pirates of 1960 brought joy to Western Pa. the way the 2004 Red Sox did for New England, and beyond.

The Yankees have spread so much happiness over the years to unheralded WS teams like 1955 Brooklyn, 1957 Milwaukee, 1960 Pittsburgh, 1964 St. Louis, 2001 Arizona, not to mention LCS foes like the 2004 Sox, 1980 Royals, 1995 Mariners, 2017 Astros and too many LDS rivals to count in the 2000s, like 2006 Detroit, 2007 Cleveland Midges, and 2018 Red Sox.
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
The Pirates of 1960 brought joy to Western Pa. the way the 2004 Red Sox did for New England, and beyond.

The Yankees have spread so much happiness over the years to unheralded WS teams like 1955 Brooklyn, 1957 Milwaukee, 1960 Pittsburgh, 1964 St. Louis, 2001 Arizona, not to mention LCS foes like the 2004 Sox, 1980 Royals, 1995 Mariners, 2017 Astros and too many LDS rivals to count in the 2000s, like 2006 Detroit, 2007 Cleveland Midges, and 2018 Red Sox.
Great imagery - now instead of simply despising the Yankees, I'll always imagine the franchise as the Johnny Appleseed of baseball, spreading joy far and wide across the land!

(The midges crack was not lost on me either - well played!)
 

terrynever

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 25, 2005
16,568
pawtucket
Great imagery - now instead of simply despising the Yankees, I'll always imagine the franchise as the Johnny Appleseed of baseball, spreading joy far and wide across the land!

(The midges crack was not lost on me either - well played!)
Growing up in the 1950s, it was ho-hum stuff if Yanks won the WS and time to celebrate if they lost. I was too young for the 1949-53 WS run when they won five straight. From 1955-64, Yanks lost five of the nine WS they played in. It was horrifying! And then they dropped out of sight for 12 years before getting swept in 1976. They regained some swagger in 1977-78 but lost it all after Reggie left. Then they had that mini-dynasty thing from 1996-2001. This century, they are just another successful franchise. Not even top dogs anymore.
 

santadevil

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
4,662
Saskatchestan
Recently learned that Hal Smith died in January. I've always had a fascination with him - had a truly average career, but made the biggest play in baseball history. I wish more people would remember him for that. Wrote about it here if you're interested.
Good article TKAA, I didn't know of Hal Smith's heroics in that game. I remember it being a big deal with that entire game film was found.

I read the Mantle one as well and enjoyed it. Near the start, you mentioned about the Rajai Davis HR being added to the Top 15 plays list. One thing I remember from that game specifically is that Rajai Davis cost the Indians a few times defensively, which I felt, cost them the game, but it's never mentioned by anyone, other than he hit a homerun.

When he hit that homer, I even felt that he didn't make up for the shitty plays beforehand. However, I don't know how to quantify that, other than looking at WPA for the plays (which I think one was ruled a hit, rather than an error that it appeared to be), but I wonder if his defensive issues in the game outweighed the HR?
 

ToeKneeArmAss

Paul Byrd's pitching coach
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Good article TKAA, I didn't know of Hal Smith's heroics in that game. I remember it being a big deal with that entire game film was found.

I read the Mantle one as well and enjoyed it. Near the start, you mentioned about the Rajai Davis HR being added to the Top 15 plays list. One thing I remember from that game specifically is that Rajai Davis cost the Indians a few times defensively, which I felt, cost them the game, but it's never mentioned by anyone, other than he hit a homerun.

When he hit that homer, I even felt that he didn't make up for the shitty plays beforehand. However, I don't know how to quantify that, other than looking at WPA for the plays (which I think one was ruled a hit, rather than an error that it appeared to be), but I wonder if his defensive issues in the game outweighed the HR?
HI - sorry not to reply sooner. I just saw this. Thanks so much for reading those posts and taking the time to comment.

My initial reactions is that assessing what Rajai cost them with his glove requires two pieces of information: how much impact did the play have, and to what degree did Rajai's performance on that play differ from "expectations". Game logs can provide reasonable quantification of that first element but not of the second. I know the Statcast stuff attempts to estimate the second element through measures like "catch probability" and "range factor" for outfielders. But of course there's more to measuring defensive contribution than just those metrics.

I remember at the height of Manny's time with the Red Sox sharing what back then was a strictly qualitative assessment that he cost the team as much defensively as he added offensively and getting laughed off the board at the time. I think it's great that defensive contributions are now getting recognized and measured to a greater degree. I've always been a fan of good defense and guys like JBJ and Rick Miller are among my personal faves.
 

santadevil

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
4,662
Saskatchestan
HI - sorry not to reply sooner. I just saw this. Thanks so much for reading those posts and taking the time to comment.

My initial reactions is that assessing what Rajai cost them with his glove requires two pieces of information: how much impact did the play have, and to what degree did Rajai's performance on that play differ from "expectations". Game logs can provide reasonable quantification of that first element but not of the second. I know the Statcast stuff attempts to estimate the second element through measures like "catch probability" and "range factor" for outfielders. But of course there's more to measuring defensive contribution than just those metrics.

I remember at the height of Manny's time with the Red Sox sharing what back then was a strictly qualitative assessment that he cost the team as much defensively as he added offensively and getting laughed off the board at the time. I think it's great that defensive contributions are now getting recognized and measured to a greater degree. I've always been a fan of good defense and guys like JBJ and Rick Miller are among my personal faves.
Thanks for responding. I believe part of my view is just from watching those plays happen live and having a gut feeling from both playing and coaching that they had a bigger impact on the momentum of the game, which is next to impossible to quantify.

I should watch the entire game again and see if my bias is still leaning that way.