Cooperstown Shouldn’t Close Out Lee Smith

LeeFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are all entering Cooperstown this weekend as first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza might make it next year. Jack Morris’ eligibility has run out. Jeff Bagwell has a decent chance at some day earning induction, while Tim Raines, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds may all be long shots, for different reasons.

And then there’s Lee Arthur Smith.

The man who finished 11th in Hall of Fame balloting for 2014 – behind all of those aforementioned stars – earned only 29.9 percent of the vote in his 12th year of eligibility, far below the 75 percent threshold required for induction. With so many big names coming onto the ballot in recent years, Smith’s tally has plummeted from the 50.9 percent that he earned as recently as 2012, when he was fourth in voting.

It looks like Cooperstown is closing out one of baseball’s greatest closers. And as Chicago prepares to celebrate the induction of Maddux and Thomas during a great Hall of Fame Weekend, that’s a shame for another Windy City great in Smith, who spent the first eight seasons of his 18-year career intimidating hitters from the mound at Wrigley Field.

Back in 1995, legendary Los Angeles Times sports writer Jim Murray tabbed Smith as the active player most likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame, calling him “the best one-inning pitcher the game ever saw” and “the best at smuggling a game into the clubhouse in history.”

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