Sep 19, 2015

Mid Sixties Mets Slugger: Charley Smith (1964-1965)

Charles William Smith was born on September 15, 1937 in Charleston, South Carolina.

The six foot one, right hand hitting Smith was a third baseman / shortstop who was one of the last players to get signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. At AA Victoria in 1959, Smith batted .308 moving up to AAA Spokane in 1960 where he then hit an impressive .322.

He made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1960, playing as a September call up batting .167 in the month. The next season he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where he played for manager Gene Mauch as the team’s main third baseman, batting .248 with 9 HRs in 112 games. His stay there was brief as he was soon sent to the Chicago White Sox, for Roy Sievers.

He played there for two seasons a reserve infielder (1962-1963) behind Hall of Famers Luis Aparacio & Nellie Fox, as well as Hal Smith. In April of 1964 he was traded to the New York Mets for infielder Chico Fernandez.

In New York he quickly became the team’s main third baseman holding the job for the rest of the 1964 season. Smith would also be used at short (36 games) & in the outfield (13 games).

He became the Mets main slugger on a bad ’64 team that lost 109 ball games. Charley Smith led the club in HRs (20) was second in RBIs (58) & third in slugging % (.402). He batted .239 with 106 hits & 12 doubles playing in 127 games overall. On the field he struggled committing 23 errors at third base (4th most in the NL).

He began his Mets career slow, going 0-25 as his average fell off to below .100. On May 4th he hit his first Met HR, it came in Milwaukee in a 2-1 loss against the Braves. On Tuesday May 26th he hit two HRs & drove in five runs in the Mets 19-1 romp over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. From June 5th –June 10th he hit four HRs gathering six hits & six RBIs in the week. His June 10th HR, was a three run shot off the Cubs Sterling Slaughter helping the Mets to an 8-3 win, just their 18th win on the year.

In mid July he had another hot power streak, hitting three HRs with six hits & seven RBIs over four days. On August 2nd he hit a HR off Houston's Don Larsen while driving in two runs on the day, leading the Mets to a 4-2 win.

On August 23rd he singled in the bottom of the 9th inning in the second game of a double header giving the Mets a walk off win over the Chicago Cubs. Smith closed out the season hitting safely in 12 of 15 games. He then hit a HR in each of the last two games in the final series of the year at St. Louis.

Smith returned as the clubs main third baseman in 1965 but started out slow batting just under the .200 mark until mid May.

During a four game set at Shea Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds, Smith hit HRs in three of the games, including two in a rare Mets double header sweep. In the final week of May he drove in nine runs & For the month he hit five HRs with 16 RBIs.

In June he hit safely in 13 of 18 games raising his average to .275. After the All Star break he hit HRs in back to back games at St. Louis against the eventual season's World Champions. On July 31st he hit a first inning three HR in Philadelphia, leading Gary Kroll & the Mets to a 4-3 victory.

The next day he drove in both Mets runs with another two run HR. On August 8th he hit HRs in both ends of a double header at Shea against the Chicago Cubs. In the night cap he drove in four runs although the Mets lost 14-10. He slumped without hitting a HR in the final month of the season.

In 1965 he the team in RBIs (62) & was second to a young Ron Swoboda in HRs (16) & doubles (20). Smith was third on the club in slugging (.393). He played in 135 games, batting .244 with a career high in hits (122). He struck out over 100 times in both seasons in New York, coming in the top ten among all NL batters in that category both seasons.

He improved at third base posting the leagues 4th best fielding percentage (.957). After  the end of the 1965 season, he was traded along with Al Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals for the aging All star Ken Boyer. Boyer would hit 14 HRs with 61 RBIs & bat .266 for the 1966 Mets but be gone mid way through the 1967 season.

Charley Smith raised his average to .266 in St. Louis, matching a career high four triples playing in the new Busch Stadium. But his power numbers fell off to 10 HRs with 13 doubles & 43 RBIs.

At the end of the season, he was traded to the A.L. New York team, even up for outfielder Roger Maris. The Cards went on to win the ’67 World Series & the 1968 NL Pennant, as the A.L. New York team fell into the ninth place.

He was the teams main third baseman in 1967 batting just .224 with 9 HRs. Smith only played in 46 games in 1968 & then was traded to the San Francisco Giants. His contract was purchased by the Chicago Cubs in 1969.

He retired after the season, finishing a ten year career playing in 771 games, batting .239 with 594 hits 69 HRs 83 doubles 281 RBIs & 18 triples.

At his main position at third base he made 105 errors in 1912 chances for a .945 fielding %.

Retirement: He eventually retired to Reno, Nevada and in 1994 passed away after complications from a knee operation; he was only 57 years old.

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