A five-tool player, switch-hitting Reggie Smith was a 7-time All Star, Gold Glove outfielder, and World Series champion. Born in Louisiana, Reggie and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. After graduating from Compton’s Centennial High School in 1963, Reggie began his pro career as an 18-year old in the minors.
Three years later he received a 6-game audition with the Red Sox in 1966. Smith became their everyday centerfielder the following season. He led AL centerfielders in homers in ’67 and finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting. Smith helped the Sox reach the World Series where he hit two home runs in the 7-game loss to the Cardinals.
In ’68 Smith’s 37 doubles were the most in the American League. Defensively, he earned the Gold Glove Award. The following season Reggie made the first of his seven All Star teams. He hit 25 homers and 93 RBI to go along with a .309 batting average, a .527 slugging percentage, and a 142 OPS+. In that ’69 campaign he led AL men at his position in RBI, average, and slugging percentage.
Reggie started the next decade in style, hitting .303 with a career-best 109 runs scored. In ’71 he again led the AL in doubles and reached the 30-homer plateau for the first time. His 302 total bases were also tops in the Junior Circuit. Smith followed up an All Star campaign in ’72 by hitting .303 with a .398 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging mark in ’73. In the offseason Boston traded him to the Cardinals.
Each of his first two years in St. Louis resulted in All Star selections. In ’74 he eclipsed the century mark in runs batted in. Then in ’75 he hit .302 – the 5th time in 7 years he topped .300.
Reggie started slow in the nation’s bicentennial year, hitting just .218 in 47 games. The Cardinals dealt him to the Dodgers in June. The return to his hometown of Los Angeles did him good.
In ’77 Smith led the Dodgers to the first of back-to-back World Series appearances. That year he set career highs in homers (32), walks (104), on-base percentage (.427), slugging (.576), and OPS+ (168). An All Star again in ’78 he swatted 29 homers, drove in 93 runs, and slugged .559.
Reggie stayed with the Dodgers through the 1981 World Series championship year. A free-agent at season’s end, he signed with the San Francisco Giants. In his lone season in the City by the Bay, Smith hit .284 with a .364 on-base percentage. Reggie then played two seasons in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants for whom he hit 45 homers with 122 RBI.
Smith’s career MLB slash line is .287/.366/.489. He hit 314 homers with 1,092 RBI, 2,020 hits, and 1,123 runs scored. A model of consistency, the switch-hitter’s batting average from the right side stands at .287 and .288 from the left.
His 64.6 career WAR compares nicely to many Cooperstown men. In fact, there are only 19 position players outside of the Hall with a higher WAR. The list is littered with men who will someday receive a plaque: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Pete Rose, Bill Dahlen, Lou Whitaker, Rafael Palmeiro, Bobby Grich, Carlos Beltran, Scott Rolen, Robinson Cano, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Carbrera, Kenny Lofton, Graig Nettles, Dwight Evans, Buddy Bell, and Willie Randolph.
His 137 OPS+ ranks ahead of Ken Griffey Jr., Al Kaline, Al Simmons, and many other Hall of Famers. With greater reliance on advanced metrics, Smith may someday emerge as a Veterans Committee candidate.
In the collection is this two-page handwritten letter penned by Reggie Smith in 1981, the year he earned his only World Series ring.