Lonnie Smith changed teams several times in his career but almost always seemed to find himself in the World Series. In 1980 he finished third in the Rookie of the Year vote and helped the Phillies win their first ever title.
He won a ring 2 years later with the Cardinals. In 1985, he went to the Royals in time to win another ring. In 1991 and 1992, he played with the Braves in the World Series. He famously should have scored on Terry Pendleton’s double in a scoreless Game 7. He probably was not distracted by the Twins decoy play as the legend has stated but lost where the ball was hit. Either way, the next year he hit a grand slam and did his best to win his fourth ring in Atlanta.
For the many players who go through their careers without a single World Series appearance, the charmed life of Lonnie Smith must have driven them crazy.
His greatest highlight came with St. Louis and it was probably overshadowed by the heroics of Joaquin Andujar, Bruce Sutter and Darrell Porter but was key to clinch the World Series title.
The Cardinals and the Brewers faced off in the 1982 World Series and from the start, it looked like Milwaukee was in control. Paul Molitor and Robin Yount led their attack in a 10-0 Game 1 massacre. But with Rollie Fingers injured, the Brewers bullpen was vulnerable. The Cardinals came back in Game 2 against the Milwaukee pen. In Game 3, Smith doubled and tripled and the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead. But the Brewers bats came back alive and sent the series to St. Louis with Milwaukee up 3-2, one win from the title.
In Game 6, the Cardinals, including Lonnie Smith, teed off against future Hall of Famer Don Sutton and tied the series with a 13-1 laugher. The stage was set for a winner take call Game 7 in St. Louis.
St. Louis sent Joaquin Andjuar to the mound and the Brewers countered with eventual Cy Young Award winner Pete Vuckovich. Lonnie Smith was inserted by manager Whitey Herzog into the lead off spot but was retired the first two times he came to bat.
In the fourth, the 26 year old Smith, who led the NL in runs that year, came up with 2 on and 1 out. He beat out an infield hit that broke the scoreless tie and put St. Louis on the board, 1-0.
But a Ben Oglive homer and a steady rally by Milwaukee gave the Brewers a 3-1 advantage in the 6th, 4 innings from the World Series title with their Cy Young winner to be on the mound.
In the bottom of the sixth, Lonnie Smith came up again. This time Ozzie Smith (no relation) was on first with one out. He hit a long double down the left field line that put the tying runs in scoring position. Manager Harvey Kuenn could not turn to 1981 Cy Young and MVP winner Rollie Fingers to get the final 8 outs. But his 1982 eventual Cy Young winner was tiring. He opted to go to the maligned pen. It was Lonnie Smith who knocked him out of the game.
The Cardinals pounced on reliever Bob McClure. Gene Tenace walked, Keith Hernandez tied the game with a single and George Hendrick singled home the go ahead run.
With the Cardinals up 4-3 in the 8th, they were 3 outs from winning the World Series but needed insurance. Lonnie Smith helped provide it with a lead off ground rule double. He would score on a Darrell Porter single and before the inning was over, St. Louis had a 6-3 advantage which was more than enough for Bruce Sutter to clinch the title.
Porter’s offensive heroics in the World Series gave him MVP honors. But in the final game, it was the steady attack of Lonnie Smith that kept the Brewers on the heels and eventually cost Milwaukee the series.
That earned Lonnie Smith the title of Unsung Post Season Hero of October 20th.