Going Straight Two Hal

Hal W. Smith was born in 1930 and was a starting catcher in 648 major league regular season games, in a career running from 1955 to 1964.  In 1960, Hal W., playing for the Pirates against the Yankees, hit a Game 7, eighth inning, come-from-behind, three-run homer that might have been remembered as one of the most important hits in World Series history, if it hadn’t been followed an inning later by his teammate Bill Mazeroski’s Series-ending walk-off home run.  Hal W. had originally been signed by the Yankees, but they’d traded him away after the 1954 season, as part of the huge, multi-player deal that brought Don Larsen, among others, to New York.

Hal R. Smith was born about six months after Hal W., was a starting catcher in 484 major league regular season games in a career that ran primarily from 1956 through 1961 and included an appearance in one of the two 1959 All-Star Games.  Hal R. retired from active play after the 1961 season due to a heart problem, but played a few games for the Pirates in 1965, moving briefly from the coaching staff to the roster when the Bucs faced a temporary catcher shortage.

Hal W. played a majority of his career games in the AL, while Hal R. played his whole career in the NL.  But there were two seasons, 1960 and 1961, when they were both in the National League — Hal W. with the Pirates and Hal R. with the Cardinals.  Hal Smith and Hal Smith were the opposing starting catchers in the following eight games:

Cards at Pirates May 19, 1960
Pirates at Cards June 11, 1960
Pirates at Cards June 12, 1960
Pirates at Cards July 27, 1960
Cards at Pirates August 13, 1960
Pirates at Cards August 28, 1960
Pirates at Cards May 26, 1961
Pirates at Cards May 28, 1961


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Going Straight Two Hal — 24 Comments

  1. This was pretty well known back when it was happening. Hal W. was a somewhat better hitter, but they were very similar as players. Both hit a high of 13 HRs, both had low walk and strikeout figures, you could intermix their better seasons and not tell which belonged to which.

    Hal W. was platooned with Smoky Burgess in 1960, and together they made one heck of a catcher, although Smoky was that by himself in many seasons.

  2. Retro call for W’s game-7 blast off Jim Coates: “Open the pod bay doors, Hal!”

    Speaking of the road two Hal, the previous Hal Smith was a Pirates pitcher who tossed a shutout in his first MLB start, caught by Hal Finney.

    In September 1934, the next-to-last career game for Hal Smith (P) was the 7th career game for 18-year-old Phil Cavarretta. (Last game of the year for both teams.) In May 1955, one of Cavarretta’s last games was one of the first for Hal W. Smith.

    P.S. Can you imagine the reaction today to a 16-player trade between two teams, like the one that sent Hal W. from NYY to BAL?

    • That massive multi-player trade seems to have been something of a Rube Goldberg-style, slowly unfolding contraption. 9 players were exchanged initially, and another 8 were “players to be named later” identified two weeks afterward, for a total of 17 players traded altogether.

    • The trade created a lot of noise even then, more for its size than the players involved. Gene Woodling was the biggest name, but he was perceived to be on the downhill slope—incorrectly, as it turned out. Don Larsen was 3-21 for the Orioles the previous season, and it wasn’t a good 3-21. He was the sleeper in the deal for the Yankees, as was Gus Triandos for the Orioles, who took over as backstop for six productive years after a pretty good season at first base in 1955. Bob Turley was the presumed prize, having gone 14-15 and leading the league in SOs (and BBs) for the 54-100 Orioles. Overall the Yankees got the better of the deal, thanks to Turley and Larsen, but only because Baltimore sent Woodling to Cleveland early the next season for an the washed up Wally Westlake. They eventually got him back in another trade.

      Free agency has just about killed trades of any kind. Frank Lane, R.I.P.

      • nsb, I agree that free agency has reduced the amount of trading, and especially big multi-player deals. But I think FA (plus expanded playoffs) have directly increased in-season trades.

        Last year, 17 out of 249 players appearing in 100+ games changed teams mid-season, or 7%. In 2012, it was 9% (22/245) Fifty years ago, less than 5% of such players were swapped in-season (8/172).

        • JA:

          Agreed, but the dynamics of trading is far different now: dollars come into it much more, for one thing.

          Sal Maglie was traded to the contending Cleveland Indians by the Giants late in 1955. In mid-May of 1956 the flailing Dodgers purchased him from the Indians and, with his 13-5 performance, won the pennant by 1 game. Aside: Having the hated ex-Giant Maglie suddenly become a Dodger was more Faustian than Damn Yankees to lots of Brooklyn fans. Another aside: Maglie pitched a complete game win in the opener of the series that year. His second complete game, the one he’s most famous for, didn’t turn out as well. Not quite a year later, at any rate, September 1, 1957, when the Dodgers had fallen out of contention, Maglie went to the Yankees, winning two games and saving three that month to shore up a pitching staff riddled by injury. Oh. Forgot to mention this: back in 1954 he was 14-6 for the World Champion Giants.

          So he pitched for three different WS teams and a fourth that finished three back over the course of four years. Sounds almost like the free agency era.

          • nsb, so glad you mentioned Sal Maglie. Reviewing the Barber’s career reminded me of MLB’s shameful 5-year suspension of Maglie and others who signed with the Mexican League in 1946. Man, was that evil — monopoly baseball at its worst.

            Whenever I start to get fed up with modern player salaries, I try to remember all the B.S. the owners pulled when they held the power.

  3. Looks like Hal W. Smith got a hit in all 8 of those featured games, going 11 for 29 with 2 HRs. Hal R. had only 4 hits, but his Cards went 5-3.

    Stan Musial started only 2 of the 8 games. In the other 6, he rested against a southpaw SP.

  4. Of course, this got me looking for other eponymous opponents. And, I found a player I knew nothing about before.

    Red Smith was a 3rd baseman for the Dodgers/Superbas and Braves. Played over 1100 games from 1911 to 1919, with 119 OPS+ and 26.8 WAR. The other Red Smith played just 26 games as catcher for the Pirates in 1917 and 1918, and faced Red Smith the 3rd baseman each of the 8 times he played against the Braves.

    The interesting thing about Red Smith the 3rd baseman is this. Only he, Scott Rolen and George Kell played 997 or more of their first 1000 games at 3rd base (Rolen and Smith had 997, Kell had 1000). For both Smith and Rolen, the other 3 games were as PH or PR; Smith’s first game at a position other than 3rd base was in career game 1052 (Smith had started his final season with 11 for 75, all singles, then had a 3 for 5 game and hit safely in 8 of 9 games when moved to LF, but it didn’t get him his 3rd base spot back again).

    A few others:
    – George Burns the first baseman and George Burns the outfielder were contemporaries who both played 1800+ games with 30+ WAR in the 1910s and 1920s. But, one played only in the the AL and the other only in the NL, so they never faced each other.
    – Jack Taylor of Chicago and Jack Taylor of St. Louis were opposing starters in the first game of a 10-8-1898 double-header. The Browns’ Taylor led the NL that year with 47 starts and 42 CG, but also led with 29 losses (only two pitchers after him would lose as many) so found himself in Cincinnati for his final 1899 season. There, he and the Orphans’ Jack Taylor squared off again on Apr 16. Chicago’s Taylor won both games, the second with a shutout, the first of his career and the only one he recorded in 39 CG that season. Both Jack Taylors won 120+ games in 2000+ innings, and with an ERA+ north of 100.
    – Even further back, George Washington Keefe and George Washington McGinnis were 1880s pitchers, one in the AA and one in the NL. Keefe’s 73 ERA+ is tied for the second worst mark for all pitchers since 1871 with 600+ IP. McGinnis is one of only 6 pitchers with 350 IP and a 105 ERA+ in each of his first 3 seasons (McGinnis was 77-50 with a 123 ERA+ for those seasons, but only 25-29 with a 93 ERA+ in less than 500 IP afterwards)
    – Bob Miller (1957-74) and Bob Miller (1953-62) were both pitchers and were teammates on the 1962 Mets. In the second game of an Aug 4 double-header, one started and went 7 innings and the other pitched the 14th inning and picked up the win when Frank Thomas hit a walk-off HR leading off the bottom of the inning, one of 12 walk-off HRs for the Mets in their two seasons at the Polo Grounds, tied with Cleveland for the most in the majors. It was the Mets’ third double-header sweep of the season (they were 3-17-9 in the 29 DH’s of their first season). The two Millers also started and finished the first game of an Aug 15 twin-bill (a 9-3 loss), and were 2 of 5 Mets’ pitchers to appear in the 8th inning of an Aug 30 game with the Phillies, an inning highlighted by a Don Demeter grand slam off Bob Moorhead that pinned the loss on Bob Miller, the last of his career. The other Miller (who was the first player to play for 10 franchises) went 1-12 that season, trailing only Jack Nabors (1-20 in 1916) and Pascual Perez (1-13 in 1985) in winning percentage in a season of 20+ starts.
    – Bob Miller (1957-74) made his career debut for the Cardinals at home against the Phillies and had his second appearance in Philadelphia. In both games, Phillies’ reliever Bob Miller (1949-58) did *not* make an appearance.
    – Frank Baker, Indians RF, and Frank Baker, Yankee SS, faced each other twice in 1971, but neither hit a ball to the other

    • The “other” Frank Baker wishes it known that if he’d foreseen being left out of this (or any other) measure of exclusive hot-corner service, he would have refused those 4 PH appearances in 1916 just as he refused to play for the contract offered in 1915.

      But he also said he likes Doug’s work.

    • Here is a post of mine from 11-27-2012.
      P Dixie Howell and C Dixie Howell were teammates on the 1949 Reds. They formed a battery on at least two occasions, 5-1-49 and 5-8-49.

    • Javier (Javy) Lopez, the catcher, went 2-3 with a triple in three plate appearances versus Javier Lopez, the lefty reliever currently with the Giants. They were teammates for a month in September 2006, infuriatingly never forming a battery.

    • Most combined games played by 2 players with the same name (not counting father-son combos).

      4088….Frank Thomas
      3719….George Burns
      2996….Alex Gonzales
      2882….Luis Gonzalez
      2737….Bob Johnson
      2737….Joe Morgan
      2492….Billy Williams
      2301….Tony Pena
      2134….Brian Giles
      2066….Pat Kelly

      The Tony Pena listing is not the father-son combo. Fangraphs lists the other Tony Pena with 137 games but BR shows him at 313 games. BR game logs confirms the 313 number.

      • Other recent pairs:

        Mike Marshall: 1760 (RP and 1B/OF)
        Mike Stanton: 1455 (two RP, does not include 489 from the Giancarlo formerly known as Mike)
        Brian Hunter: 1699 (1000 even from Brian L, BRTR; 699 from Brian R, BRTL); both were in spring training with the 2001 Phillies

        Honorable mention:
        Scott Servais (C) 820 + Scott Service (P) 340 = 1160

        • On 8/5/2000, Brian Hunter of the Phillies delivered a pinch-hit single to CF, fielded by Rockies’ CFer Brian Hunter.

          Alex Gonzalez and Alex Gonzalez opposed each other as starting shortstops on 6/2-4/2000, 6/8-10/2001, 7/7-8/2003, 7/18-20/2003 and 9/13-15/2004, and as starting 3rd baseman and shortstop on 5/21-22/2005 and 6/23-24/2005. The retired Gonzalez also had his final two plate appearances as a pinch-hitter against the Gonzalez active in 2013.

      • Based on Fangraph data from 1901-2013 I found that the most common shared name is John Sullivan with 5.

        Bob Johnson, Bob Smith, Dave Roberts and Tom Hughes each have 4. (BR shows 5 Bob Smiths.)

        There are 40 names shared by 3 players.

        No guarantee of 100% accuracy here.

        • The 1970s Dave Roberts the pitcher got the better of his namesake, holding him to .174/.208/.174 with zero RBI in 24 PA.

          Two of the Tom Hughes were AL pitchers in 1906-09, but were never opposing starters.

          Pitcher Bob Smith and outfielder Bobby Smith were briefly teammates on the 1957 Cardinals. Later Bobby went 0 for 2 against Pirate Bob.

      • Shortstop Tony Pena is 0 for 1 against pitcher Tony Pena.

        Infielder Luis Gonzalez played his whole career (3 seasons) for Colorado when outfielder Luis Gonzalez was in Arizona, so they will have met numerous times as both were regulars for two of those seasons. These two probably had the most numerous meetings of the eponymous players identified thus far.

        • The two NL pitchers named Pedro Martinez faced each other as batter and pitcher just once. Famous Pedro was retired by the other one. Those two also never had a decision at the expense of the other.

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