Hilton Smith

Hilton Lee Smith
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 2001
Primary team: Kansas City Monarchs
Primary position: Pitcher

Hilton Smith is sometimes referred to as the forgotten star of the Negro leagues, a pitcher whose exceptional career is often overshadowed by longtime teammate Satchel Paige. In fact, when the two were with the Kansas City Monarchs, Smith was often called upon to relieve the lanky fireballer after Paige had tossed his obliga-tory few innings for the adoring fans. But according to many who faced them, Smith was the equal of Paige. Bob Feller even regarded Smith as better.

While Paige’s exploits on the field would help him gain induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, Smith, who spent 12 seasons with the powerful Monarchs, winning at least 20 games in each of those campaigns, would have to wait until 2001 to gain admittance to the game’s most exclusive fraternity. The first line of Smith’s Hall of Fame plaque may be the main reason he is enshrined in Cooperstown: “A quiet but confidant righthander whose devastating fastball complemented what many regard as the best sweeping curveball in Negro leagues history.”

Negro leagues historian Bob Kendrick once said of the two, “The old-timers would all say that if you were going to hit anything, you better hit it off Satchel because you weren’t going to touch Hilton Smith.”

This sentiment was shared by many of the players who were contemporaries of the pair. Fellow Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who played in both the Negro and Major leagues, said, “He (Smith) had one of the finest curveballs I ever had the displeasure to try and hit. His curveball fell of the table. Sometimes you knew where it would be coming from, but you still couldn’t hit it because it was that sharp. He was just as tough as Satchel was.” According to Sammy T. Hughes, “Smith had an excellent curveball in addition to his fast one. And I’d rather face Satchel or anybody who throws the ball hard rather than face a curveball. Because then you’ve got two pitches to think about.” An exasperated Roy Campanella, another Hall of Famer, exclaimed, “My God. You couldn’t tell the difference.”

Buck O’Neil may have made the most prescient point about the famed duo when he said that you had to be a true baseball fan to know about Smith, but you didn’t have to be a baseball fan to know Paige.

"The old-timers would all say that if you were going to hit anything, you better hit it off Satchel because you weren’t going to touch Hilton Smith. "
Negro leagues historian Bob Kendrick

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 2001
Primary Team: Kansas City Monarchs
Position Played: Pitcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: Giddings, Texas
Birth year: 1907
Died: 1983, Kansas City, Missouri
Played for:
Monroe Monarchs (1932-1935)
New Orleans Black Creoles (1933)
Kansas City Monarchs (1936-1948)
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
NA
HitsH
565
RunsR
257
Innings PitchedIP
672.1
WinsW
57
LossesL
25
Winning %Winning %
.695
Games StartedGS
67
ERAERA
3.44
Complete GamesCG
40
ShutoutsSHO
11
WHIPWHIP
0.958
SavesSV
- -
Earned RunsER
- -
WalksBB
79
StrikeoutsSO
398