Shaikin: Meet Wonderful Willie Smith, Angels’ first two-way player before Ohtani

From Bill Shaikin at the Los Angeles Times on May 18, 2018:

Babe Ruth this, Shohei Ohtani that.

In grainy black-and-white video, and in the pinstripes of the most legendary team in sport, Ruth is the most famous player in baseball history. In high-definition red, and in a halo bright enough to eclipse Mike Trout, Ohtani is the most celebrated player on the planet today.

Ruth and Ohtani have been linked in breathless global hype, with Ohtani portrayed as the once-in-a-century revival of the two-way star. Ruth this, Ohtani that, and no one else must have done this since the Roaring ’20s.

Ruth is wonderful, Ohtani too. But the last man to do this in the major leagues had that adjective as his nickname, and he wore a halo too. The last man to pitch in 15 games and play 15 games in the field in the same season did so for the Angels, in 1964.

They called him Wonderful Willie Smith.

“There is nothing but joy that I remember from Willie Smith,” said Buck Rodgers, the Angels’ catcher in 1964.

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Originally published: May 21, 2018. Last Updated: May 21, 2018.