Former Red Sox closer Lee Smith elected to Hall of Fame
LAS VEGAS — Former Red Sox closer Lee Smith and longtime White Sox star Harold Baines were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in balloting announced at the Winter Meetings on Sunday night by the Today’s Era Committee.
Smith amassed 169 four-out saves, the fourth most in major league history. He spent two-plus seasons with the Red Sox, who acquired him on Dec. 8, 1987, from the Chicago Cubs for Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi.
Smith saved 58 games for the Red Sox from 1988-90 before he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Tom Brunansky.
Smith was on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for 15 years but never received more than 50.6 percent of the vote, including 34.6 percent in his final year of eligibility in 2017. He ranks third all time with 478 saves in an 18-year career.
The 61-year-old Smith led the league in saves four times. He pitched for eight teams in his career, spending his first eight years with the Cubs. He was with the Cardinals for four seasons, and also pitched for the Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, and Expos before retiring in 1997.
Smith allowed an Opening Day home run in his Fenway Park debut in 1988, but he went on to post a 2.80 ERA with 29 saves. Smith had a tough time in the playoffs that season, allowing three hits, including Walt Weiss’s game-winning single in Game 2 of the Sox-A’s series.
Smith didn’t have a strong 1989 season (3.57 ERA), prompting the Red Sox to acquire Jeff Reardon. Reardon was Smith’s setup man for a month of the 1990 season, before the Sox traded Smith to the Cardinals on May 4 for Brunansky.
Baines was a .289 hitter with 384 home runs in a 22-year career. He never drew more than 6.1 percent in five votes by the BBWAA, far from the 75 percent required.
Former outfielder and manager Lou Piniella fell one vote short in results of the 16-member committee, which included longtime White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and Hall members Greg Maddux, Roberto Alomar, Joe Morgan, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith, and Joe Torre.
George Steinbrenner, Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Davey Johnson, and Charlie Manuel also were on the ballot. All received fewer than five votes.