Roy Smalley was a great player, but it was only 3 months. Everyone expected him to explode into a good player and he did in 1979. It was the first three months of the season. His worse month of the three Smalley hit .347 had an on base percentage of .425 and slugged .554. He hardly hit at all the second half of the year and my limited research couldn’t find out why. I know he had back problems and it effected the rest of his career. Smalley played in his only all-star game that year.
Smalley came from a baseball family. He was the son of a shortstop Roy Smalley Jr. (I just found out that Roy he was a Junior when researching this article). Smalley’s uncle was Gene Mauch who happened to be his manager in Minnesota. Mauch didn’t play Smalley because he was his uncle. Smalley was the best available shortstop for the Twins. He was an above average shortstop when young. However, he lost a lot of mobility later with back problems and became a DH and played some 3rd in his later years.
Sometimes it did seem like me as a Twin fan that Smalley shouldn’t play as much. He did make a lot of errors to my teen age mind. He was always supposed to hit better but was not doing it. In 1977 he didn’t have a good year. I was 18 and inpatient. However, he was sure fun to watch the first half of 1979. We saw his peak even though it was just for a little while.
I wondered what would happen if I combined the two Roy Smalleys’ into one player. Well for one thing it would be a 23-year career. However, Roy Smalley Jr. didn’t have a very productive career for a 10-year player. He started for three years but couldn’t hit. I always thought he was a good fielder because he didn’t hit. However, according to Baseball Reference this wasn’t the case. I have a three-year peak and a 6-year prime, but Roy Smalley III had the six best seasons, so his Dad was no help there. So, I only added Roy Smalley Jr. career numbers. That moved the Smalley’s to the 58th best shortstop of all time, not a big jump. The did jump to the 621st best player of all time. This would be fun to try with other players, who are closer together in talent. If you have anybody in mind let me know.
Roy Smalley III ended his baseball career in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins as a part time DH who sometimes played short and third. He did get to play with the Twins in the World Series as a pinch hitter. One of the things Tom Kelley did was try to get him into games to see the Cardinal pitcher, especially Cardinal relief ace Todd Worrell. This worked out well for the Twins in the end. I think Kelley batted Smalley against Worrell because he was a good fastball hitter. In have 2 Smalley doubled against Worrell n the eighth. It helped get Al Newman into the game at second as he was a better fielder then Steve Lombardozzi the regular second baseman. But it also gave Smalley a look at Worrell.
In game 4 Smalley pinch hit to lead off the 7th inning with the Twins already 5 runs down. Bob Forsch was pitching for the Cardinals. Smalley got on with an error, but it didn’t lead to anything. In game 5 Smalley pinch hit against Worrell with one out and the Twins two-runs down in the 9th. Smalley walked. With two outs Dan Gladden walked to put the tying run on first. Tom Kelley sent Don Baylor up to pinch hit for Greg Gagne. As a Twins fan I was confident that Baylor would hit a homer to put the Twins in front. He popped out. Baylor would hit his big homer in game 6.
Now to game 7. The game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 6th. Two of the first 3 Twins batters got on base with walks. Smalley came into the game to face Todd Worrell I remember the count was full. Ball 4 was barely high, but Smalley had seen Worrell enough to understand his pitches. Smalley walked to load the bases with one out. With two outs Greg Gagne got the game winning hit with an infield single to give the Twins a 3-2 lead. The Twins held on for a 4-2 victory. Smalley got to retire with a World Series ring he help earn with a key walk in game 7th. What a way to retire.