Smith, Hilton


Born: February 27, 1907, at Giddings, Texas.
Died: November 18, 1983, at Kansas City, Missouri.
Height: 6'2", Weight: 180 lbs. Batted right, threw right.
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001

Born in Giddings, Texas, the tall right-hander began as a ballplayer on his father's local team. Following a short stint with the Austin Senators in 1931, the 20-year-old Smith joined the Monroe Monarchs of the Negro Southern League. After four years (1932-1935) with Monroe, as well as a number of other brief affairs with small-time clubs, Smith joined the Kansas City Monarchs — the club with which he would make his mark and the club with which he would play out his career.

Prior to joining the Monarchs, Smith was a pitching talent who got by on raw ability. With the Monarchs, Smith blossomed into a true all-around pitcher. Smith credited Kansas City Manager Andy Cooper, long-time Monarch catcher Frank Duncan, and future Hall of Famer Bullet Rogan as the teachers that transformed him into an ace on the Monarch staff.

Though Negro League statistics are incomplete at best, Smith is credited with winning 20 or more games in each of his 12 years with Kansas City, including an astonishing record of 93-11 over a four year span from 1939 to 1942. In 1941 he won 25 games with but one defeat, and, in league contests that year, was 10-0 in 19 games, allowing a league-low 39 hits in a league-best 89 innings. That season he also led the league in wins, shutouts (2) and saves (3). In a 1937 contest against the powerful Chicago American Giants, Smith pitched a no-hitter as just two balls were hit out of the infield.

During much of his career with Kansas City, Smith acted as a long-reliever to the legendary Satchel Paige. In order to attract a large crowd, the flamboyant Paige was commonly tabbed to pitch the first few innings of a Monarchs ball game, often leaving after a once-through of the opposing lineup. The quiet Smith would pitch the remainder of the game, shutting down the competition with an assortment of pitches highlighted by a devastating fastball and a curveball frequently cited as the best in Negro League history.

Smith was named to six consecutive East-West All-Star Games (1937-1942), striking out a total of 13 batters in these mid-summer classics. Over the same span of time, he was instrumental in the Monarch's clear domination of the Negro American League. Overall, he was a member of seven Monarch pennant-winners, posted two Negro League World Series wins, and played on one Monarch World Championship team (1942).

In a glimpse of what might have been, Smith pitched brilliantly in exhibitions against white major leaguers, collecting six wins with just one loss in the contests. As if his pitching prowess was not enough, his ability with the bat meant that it was not uncommon for the Monarchs to utilize Smith as an outfielder or first baseman.

Following his retirement from baseball, Smith was a teacher and coach. He also served as a scout for the Chicago Cubs until his death in 1983.

Source: National Baseball Hall of Fame