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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pete Smith: Triple Play Maestro of The Boston Red Sox

Anyone whose time in the major leagues exceeds for than a season or two should consider themselves very lucky given the number of people who fail to even get a call up. For those who do make it but their time ends up being relatively short, packing in as many memorable experiences is exceedingly important. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pete Smith may have only had a brief cup of coffee as a big leaguer but created memories that could be envied by even the most grizzled veterans.

Born in Natick, Massachusetts, Smith must have been over the moon to sign in 1961 with his home team, the Red Sox, following his career at Colgate University. The right-hander progressed through the minor leagues quickly, earning a spot with Boston in September, 1962. In his lone appearance that year, he didn’t last past the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers; yielding eight runs and three home runs in a resounding loss.

Smith won 12 games in the minors in 1963 and earned another promotion to the Hub late in the year. Making a total of six appearances (one start), he posted an 0-1 record and 3.60 ERA across 15 innings.

He had no way of knowing it at the time but his final outing was the last time he would toe a big league rubber. Incredibly, the last time he officially touched a ball as a fielder during a major league game produced an incredibly rare feat. On September 28th, pitching in relief of an eventual 4-3 victory against the Los Angeles Angels, he came on in the seventh inning to protect a slim 3-2 lead. He promptly allowed a double to Charlie Dees and a walk to Lee Thomas. Looking down the barrel of possibly coughing up the lead, Smith instead grabbed a ball bunted off the bat of the next hitter, Felix Torres, and turned it into a triple play. The Sox went on to win the game and the hurler had his moment of a lifetime.

 "I purposely misplayed a bunt attempt by the Angels’ Felix Torres with runners on first and second,” explained Smith years later.

"Instead of catching the bunt [on a fly] I let it drop to the playing field, quickly fielded it and turned it into a triple play — bang-bang-bang."

Smith missed the entirety of 1964 and pitched in just two minor league games in 1965 because of injury. Unfortunately, he was not able to go forward any further and ended his playing career. Although his big league career consisted of a less than modest 6.75 ERA across seven appearances, he left with memories and stories worthy of a player with much more experience.

Pete Smith Interview:

What was the strangest baseball play you ever saw?: When Felix Torres of the Los Angeles Angels stood at home plate as he was trying to sacrifice runners on first and second. His pop-up bunt was turned into a 1-6-5-4 triple play.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: I had two favorites; Johnny Pesky and Mel Parnell.

Who was your toughest out?: My toughest out was Jose Cardenal. He probably hit .800 off me and I was probably the reason he got to the big leagues.

If you could do anything about your career differently, what would that be?: I wouldn’t have thrown curve balls so soon in January of 1964. I threw my arm out then.

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