With a good Irish name like Paddy and a commonplace surname like Smith, it turns out that this major leaguer’s father was Italian and that we probably don’t know his family name. Whether due to impatient immigration officials or a desire better to fit in with a name that was less “foreign” in the New World, many immigrants had their last name changed when they arrived in America. Italian native Charles Smith may have been one of these when he came to America in 1881. He told the census enumerators in 1900 that he’d been born in Italy, of two Italian parents, in September 1865.
Charles Smith lived in Pelham, New York, at the time, working as a construction contractor, with his wife Katie (Katherine) and their six children: Leo, Dominick, Esther, Patrick, George, and Loretta. By 1910, the family had grown to include Marguerite, Howard, William, Lucy, and Helen. The work as a building contractor must have been good; the Smith parents were able to add two servants to the household: Sarah Devine (housekeeper, private family) and Frank Mantleon (servant, odd jobs.)
It is, of course, difficult to trace the historical record of people with names such as Smith. Lawrence Patrick Smith is recorded as the legal name of our subject, and he was born in Pelham on May 16, 1894. He went to St. Catherine’s elementary school in Pelham, and high school in New Rochelle. Smith attended Fordham University in New York for two years. According to available records, he played just three years in organized baseball – 1915 and 1916, and 1920. We do know that he served in the United States Navy in World War I, though perhaps not for all three intervening years.
Smith is listed as batting left and throwing right-handed, standing an even six feet tall, and weighing 195 pounds. But it’s difficult even to track baseball players named Smith. There are listed some 134 Smiths who played major-league ball, including Klondike Smith, Mayo Smith, Phenomenal Smith, and Pop-Boy Smith. There was Douglass Smith, who may or may not have been an African-American ballplayer who pitched in one game for the 1912 Boston Red Sox, 35 years before Jackie Robinson broke in with Brooklyn.1There are two Hall of Famers – Hilton Smith and Ozzie Smith. And there is just plain old Smith, first name unknown, who played in the 1884 Union Association for the Baltimore Monumentals. The best-known catcher named Smith during Paddy’s day was Earl Smith of the New York Giants, who first made the majors in 1919 and played for 12 years, batting .303 and deservedly well-known.
Paddy Smith is said to have played for six teams – for the Lewiston Cupids and the Worcester Busters in 1915, for the New Haven Murlins and the Bridgeport Hustlers in 1916, and for the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsfield Hillies in 1920. He shows up in the occasional box score, for instance as Lewiston’s catcher in the June 23, 1915 game.2It’s likely that a baseball scholar able to visit Lewiston or Worcester could better track down local papers that could shed a little more light on his career. He caught in 32 games with a .957 fielding percentage. At the plate, he appeared in 42 games with 117 at-bats and hit for a .154 average.
In 1916, “L. Smith” is seen playing for two more teams – Bridgeport and (after his release in June) New Haven. He hit .205 that year in 201 at-bats in 72 games. His fielding was .932 (assuming he was the Smith reported as catcher for “Bridge.-N.H.”) After the season, Lawrence Smith filed a claim of some sort against Bridgeport and his claim was upheld by the National Board.3
Smith somehow arrived in Philadelphia in time to play back-to-back games for the Boston Red Sox on July 6 and July 7, 1920. They were the only two games he played for the Red Sox, and team manager Ed Barrow. Both games were indeed in Philadelphia against the Athletics. The Red Sox were playing close to .500 ball at the time, and ensconced in fifth place. They were 23-22 before the twin doubleheaders on July 6 and 7. The Red Sox offense gave Sad Sam Jones a big 11-0 lead in the first game of the July 6 visit, and Barrow decided to give catcher Roxy Walters a little more of a breather before the second game. Smith was brought in to catch the later innings. He got to bat, once, and made an out. He made no plays, and committed no errors or passed balls. The shutout held, an 11-0 win. Boston lost the nightcap, 5-1.
The reverse situation obtained in the first game on July 7. The Red Sox were losing, 6-0, so Barrow asked Smith to pinch hit for Mike McNally in the ninth inning. That didn’t work. He made another out. The Sox were shut out twice that day, 6-0 and 1-0.
As they proved to be his only two appearances in the big leagues, Paddy Smith was left with a career batting average of .000, and he never accepted a chance.
Smith did travel back to Boston with the Red Sox after the back-to-back doubleheaders and had the pleasure of working out on the field at Fenway Park before he was traded to Pittsfield on July 15. Smith and infielder Harvey “Hob” Hiller were dealt to the Eastern League team for second baseman Cliff Brady. The Boston Heraldreported that the Red Sox had actually purchased Brady’s contract and that Hiller and Smith were actually just being loaned to Pittsfield for the remainder of the 1920 season.4
Smith played in 66 games for the Hillies and batted a respectable .258, quite good for a catcher at the time. He hit one homer. He caught in at least 45 of those games, and is listed with a .954 fielder percentage. When the Springfield Republicanran an article on Pittsfield’s prospects for 1921, the only Smith included was “a Troy boy.”5It is likely that work in construction may have offered a better future for Paddy Smith.
Though his father’s company listed him as a “building contractor” at the time of the 1910 census, Paddy and two of his brothers seems to have eventually narrowed the focus of the company’s work. Bill Lee reports that three Smith brothers ran the Smith Construction Company in Pelham, a firm which “specialized in excavation work in the Eastern States.”6Paddy was the president.7
Smith married at some point before the 1920 census, and he and his wife Marie (Mulligan) had two children, Robert (born around 1920) and Thomas (born around 1923). The family lived in Mamaroneck in 1930. On his Hall of Fame player questionnaire, he said he played semipro baseball as late as 1941, some 20 years with the Bushwicks of Brooklyn.8
Sometime after Marie died, Smith married Ruth Rossmiller in August 1964. They lived in Yonkers in the 1960s.
Paddy Smith died on December 2, 1990 at the New Rochelle Medical Center. He is buried in the same cemetery as Babe Ruth, Gate of Heaven Cemetery at Hawthorne, New York.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Smith’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Necrology, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Charlie Bevis for assistance with Smith’s statistical record.
2Boston Journal, June 24, 1915.
3Sporting Life, November 4, 1916.
4Boston Herald, July 16, 1920. The article provided more context for why the Red Sox were purchasing some players.
5 Springfield Republican, April 24, 1921.
6Bill Lee, The Baseball Necrology (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 2003), 371.
7As reported on his Hall of Fame player questionnaire.