Born in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1902, Smith started in baseball as a batboy for Danbury in the New York-New Jersey League in 1913. He began covering major league baseball for the New York Graphic in 1925, and switched to the New York Mirror two years later. He covered the New York Giants for 30 years before the team left for San Francisco.
Short of stature but long on friends, Smith's gentle disposition, gracious personality and knowledge of the game won him the admiration of his readers and the respect of his peers. He was secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) for 19 years and was the director of the legendary annual dinner extravaganza on 15 occasions.
Upon the Mirror's demise in 1963, Smith became the director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He was the museum's public relations director from 1976 until his retirement in 1979 and was the author of Baseball's Hall of Fame, a baseball classic that saw numerous editions.