I love 1980s baseball. There’s no hiding that fact. My buddies and I can throw around names from that era for hours. I’ll even go through my old baseball cards every so often just to relive the “glory days”. That means it’s a real treat when I get to meet one of the guys I idolized back then — and to some extent – still do today. Enter –> Lee Smith.
I just got back from a trip to Chicago with my dad and my brother. It was strictly a baseball vacation. We watched the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox at Wrigley Field on Sunday, June 17th, and then had tickets to all three games of the Chicago Cubs versus Chicago White Sox crosstown rivalry at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that week.
I have to admit there’s no place in baseball that matches Wrigleyville for pregame atmosphere. I’ve been to ballparks all over the country, and the only place that even comes remotely close is Fenway Park in Boston.
It was my first trip to Wrigley Field, so we strolled around Wrigleyville before finally posting up at Murphy’s (Murphy’s Bleachers to be exact) for a couple beers. Well, luck would have it, Lee Smith was there to sign autgraphs and take pictures with fans.
SIDENOTE (for those who don’t remember or don’t know Lee Smith) >> Lee Smith is one of the best relief pitchers in Major League Baseball history. He recorded 478 saves in an 18-year career with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos. He held the career saves record from 1993 to 2006, before San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman finally took the top spot (since passed by New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera). Not in the Baseball Hall of Fame yet (he’s been on the ballot since 2003), there’s an ongoing debate if Smith belongs with the game’s elite or not.
I didn’t hesitate at the chance to shake hands and get my picture taken with a legend (remember my passion for 1980s baseball). Smith, who looks more like a defensive end than a pitcher, was a friendly guy in our brief encounter. He even let me snap my picture with him for free instead of paying the $20 rate he was charging everyone else.
My Lee Smith story doesn’t end there. A different celebrity sings “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch of every Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. It’s a tradition first started by long-time broadcaster Harry Caray, who passed away in 1998. The special guest that night we were there to see the Cubs against the Red Sox was – you guessed it (or at least you should have) — Lee Smith. Here’s the video I shot at the game (you can hear my excitement at the start of the clip):
It’s not the best rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” ever, but it was still a cool experience to hear Lee Smith lead the Wrigley Field crowd during the 7th inning stretch.
Lee Smith isn’t the only legendary baseball player I met on the trip, but that story is for another day/blog post. I’ll give you a hint though – his first name starts with an F and his last name starts with a T. Any guesses?
Have you ever met Lee Smith? How about any other 1980s baseball players? I would love to hear your stories. You can leave a comment right here, or reach me on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+. As I mentioned before, I’m down to talk 80s baseball anytime!