No. 20 Negro Leagues Hilton Smith

Hilton Smith was signed by the Bismarck Satchel Paige played for in 1935. While Paige was there he was mostly a position pitcher. When Paige left the next year Smith was the star pitcher. Like Paige he won 4 games in the championship tournament. However, He couldn’t pitch every day, and the team lost the semi-final without Hilton on the mound. Smith had pitched in Monroe, Louisiana for three years before playing and pitching for Bismarck.

Then he joined the Kansas City Monarchs. Hilton was already 30 years old when he joined the league. Despite this, he pitched great for 4 of his first 5 years in the league. I’m guessing he was hurt the other year. Smith was an easy all-star selection those 5 years. He pitched more than his share in relief as Paige started a lot of games as the star attraction, with Smith coming in to relieve them. Here the batters thought “Wow, we got past Satchel” but here came Hilton Smith who was about as tough.

Smith complained this cost him a lot of victories, but he led the league in wins with a 10-0 record in 1941, his fifth year in the league. This season Smith pitched so well it is almost unbelievable. His ERA plus was 246. This means It was 2 and half times better than the average pitcher.

Then starting at age 35 he was never the same pitcher. He was still a solid pitcher, but not the dominant star he had been. He never made the all-star game again. He had some years with decent earned run averages, but not like in his prime. I found no mention of an injury in his SABR biography.

However, his great years with the Monarchs and his previous accomplishments make him an easy choice for the hall of fame.  

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