Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 1903: Homer Smoot Wins It With An Inside The Park Walk Off

    On July 22, 1903, down 7-5 to the Reds in the ninth at League Park in St. Louis, Homer Smoot stepped to the plate with two on, two out, and rocked a Jack Harper pitch all the way to the right field wall, that turned into a walk off inside the park home run that gave the Cardinals a dramatic 8-7 victory.

     The big hit looked to be a sure triple according to the Sporting News, who also said that the Cincinnati outfielder Cozy Dolan either did not see the ball or he thought that the first two runs that crossed the dish were all the Cardinals needed as he made no effort to retrieve it. It was the second time that Smoot had beat the Redlegs in walk off fashion that season, and the first time he did it came with another three run inside the park home run on April 26th.

     Smoot hit just 15 home runs in his five year career, and 10 of those were inside the park shots. He also accounted for half of the team's big blasts with four during the 1903 season. Of course this was in an era before the ball flew over the wall on a frequent basis as Brooklyn's Jimmy Sheckard led the National League with nine.

     The walk off win capped off a four game sweep of the Reds which proved to be the longest winning streak for the club that season. They posted a 43-94 record and were the occupants of the National League's basement. The club had been dominate as the American Association's Browns in the late 1800s as they took home the pennant in 1885, 1886, 1888, and 1889.

     When the American League's Milwaukee Brewers came to town in 1901 the owner of the AL squad Robert Lee Hedges raided the Cardinals roster which turned his newly christened Browns into a serious contender, while the Cardinals had been turned into the doormats of the National League. It took until 1911 for the club to post a record above .500, and even then they seesawed their way through the standings for a number of years before the '26 season came along and ushered in new era of Cardinal baseball.

     Unfortunately, Homer Smoot who was also known as Doc, never did see those winning days with the team. His days in a Cardinals uniform came in July of 1906 when he was traded to Cincinnati. He played the season out in Cincy before his playing days came to an end. Before that trade was made he had called St. Louis home since 1902. Another article in the Sporting News that featured Smoot proclaimed that he might be able to hit but he could not run or throw. He proved he could run with those inside the park shots, and he stole 84 bases with the team as well. In three of those five seasons he wore a St. Louis uniform he stole 20 bags or more, and the other two he came close with 19 and 17 respectively. While one writer never gave him a chance, he had proved he could play with the big boys by carrying a .292 average with the club, and proved he could play the field as well with a .950 fielding percentage.

     In all likelihood Smoot would have never gotten a chance on a big league diamond had the Browns not come to town and raided the cupboard. It just goes to show that even though it was a rough time in the history of the club, it did prove to be an opportunity for the kid that was nicknamed Doc, and he made the most of. It also is a great example of no matter how bad a record looks on paper there are most definitely silver linings that lie within. One of those silver linings from 1903 came as Smoot rounded third and scored the game winner with his inside the park shot in the ninth on that day in St. Louis oh so long ago.

You can look at Smoot's career numbers here:

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