Career: OF/P for Monroe Monarchs, Kansas City Monarchs from 1932-1948
Honors: All-Star from 1937-1942
On March 6, 2001, Baseball's Veterans Committee bestowed an honor upon Hilton Smith -- 53 years after he played in the Negro Leagues and 18 years after his death.
Like many of his contemporaries, Smith's accomplishments on the field in the Negro Leagues are often contained only in stories and legends. He is credited with a perfect 10-0 record in 1938 and stories tell of him pitching a no-hitter against the Chicago American Giants in 1937. True statistics are only available from the end of his career, long after he continued to pitch through a sore arm. Even still, he is credited with a 23-13 record from 1944 until 1948. He is credited with a career record of 72-32.
He accumulated a 6-1 record pitching in exhibition games against white major leaguers. He also finished with a 10-5 record over two winers in the Cuban Winter League. Smith was the top pitcher (8-5 record) for Vargas, the 1946-47 Venezuelan Winter League champs.On March 1, 1947, Smith pitched five innings and allowed no runs to defeat the New York Yankees, 4-3.
According to published reports, Smith won two Negro American League playoff games as a reliever -- against the Chicago American Giants in 1937 and the St. Louis Stars in 1939. He also won two Black World Series games as a starter -- one in the Monarch's sweep of Homestead in 1942 and another in the 1946 World Series loss to Newark.
Smith also made a mark as a hitter. When he wasn't pitching, Smith hit off the bench or played in the outfield. Statistics show that he had a .326 average from 1944 and 1948. His highest published batting average was .431 in 1946.
His greatness may have also been overshadowed by his famed teammate Satchel Paige, also a Hall of Famer. Despite playing in the shadow of Paige, Smith quietly led the league in pitching victories five times -- an accomplishment unequaled by any other Negro League pitcher.
"Hilton Smith was unbeatable there for a spell, from 1938 to 1942," said former teammate and manager Buck O'Neil in an article written for MajorLeagueBaseball.com. "He had more natural stuff, a good rising fastball and an excellent curveball with good control.
"My land, he would have been a 20-game winner in the Major Leagues with the stuff he had. We played against an All-Star team once with Stan Musial and Johnny Mize, and they said they'd never seen a curveball like Hilton's curveball."
According to stories, Smith was offered chances to play in Major League baseball. However, Smith refused to take a pay cut to play in the minor leagues.