Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1969 One Cub At A Time - #198 - Willie Smith

This card just doesn't look like someone on the Cubs, so here is my version of a 1969 Willie Smith card.

Willie Smith started his career as a pitcher with the Tigers in 1963, making 15 appearances from the mound. His 1969 card pictures him in a Tigers uniform, meaning Topps used a photo that was at least six year old (and a good reason for me to create a better card).

He was traded to the Angels for the 1964 season and pitched in 15 games. But his bat was too good to keep on the bench, so Smith played the outfield in 87 games, too. It sounds like Babe Ruth's career, but Willie was no Babe Ruth. He spent 3 seasons with the Angels and 1 1/2 with the Indians before coming to the Cubs in June of 1968. His entire time with the Cubs was spent as a pinch hitter and extra outfielder.

It was Willie Smith who got the 1969 season off to a magical beginning.
The Cubs opened the season at Wrigley Field against the Phillies and on the strength of two Ernie Banks home runs and strong pitching by Fergie Jenkins took a 5-2 lead into the 9th inning. But Fergie weakened in the 9th and reliever Phil Regan was no help as the Phillies scored three to tie the game. Regan then gave up a run in the top of the 11th and the Cubs were trailing for the first time all day.

BUT...with one out in the bottom of the eleventh, Randy Hundley singled. Leo Durocher then had Willie Smith pinch hit for Jim Hickman. It was a great move as Smith smacked a Barry Lersch pitch into the left field bleachers for a game winning home run. The blast sent Wrigley Field into a frenzy.

Willie is mobbed by his teammates at home plate.

Willie played in 103 games in 1969 and hit 8 more home runs, but his first of the season was one of the most famous in Cubs history.

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