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Feature: Elmer Was Supposed to be the Glue

Feature: Elmer Was Supposed to be the Glue
August 02
12:29 2022

Elmer Smith. Photo from the Library of Congress.

By John Christian Hopkins

In 1914 two rookies made their first appearances in the Major Leagues. One was a left-handed pitcher for Boston named Ruth. The other was right-fielder Elmer Smith of the Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians). One of them was soon to make home-run history.

It looked like Smith was destined to be a star hitter. He batted .321 in 13 games as a rookie. Cleveland’s star was “Shoeless Joe” Jackson (26); they also had 39-year-old Napoleon Lajoie nearing the end if his career.

But, with young players like Ray Chapman, Nemo Leibold, and Vean Gregg, things looked promising.

And Elmer looked like the glue to keep it all together.

Unfortunately Smith would never bat that high again, ending his career with a .276 mark in 1925.

But this was the of the Deadball Era, where home-runs were few and far between. Though he did not hit for a high average, Smith displayed good power for his time.

In 1920, he would lead the team with 12 homers and drive in 103 runs – third best on the team. Smith also batted .316. Cleveland won the American League pennant and faced Brooklyn in the World Series.

Baseball history was about to be made.

In the first inning of Game 5 Elmer Smith strode to the plate with the bases loaded. He then hit the first grand-slam in World Series history. (Cleveland pitcher Jim Bagby would also homer, becoming the first pitcher to homer in a World Series!)

Smith would win a second World Series title with the 1923 New York Yankees.

Oh, and that other rookie from Boston? He’d have a pretty good career as a pitcher, before moving to New York and playing rightfield full-time, where he’d go on to make some baseball history of his own.

Late in his career Smith was a teammate of Ruth’s in New York, where he hit 8 of his 70 career homers.

Smith died at age 91 on August 3, 1984.

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