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Dodgers rewind: Red Smith

Former Dodgers and Braves third baseman

Red Smith was a third baseman who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves from 1911-1919.
Red Smith was a third baseman who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves from 1911-1919.

With the Dodgers playing the Braves in Atlanta this weekend, this week we look back at Red Smith, a third baseman who played for both teams in the 1910s.

Among all major league players who played only for the Dodgers and Braves, only two played in at least 100 games for both teams:

  • Gus Felix, an outfielder in the 1920s (319 games for Braves, 264 for Dodgers)
  • Red Smith (720 games for Braves, 397 for Dodgers)

Freddie Freeman, who returns to Atlanta this weekend for the first time since signing with the Dodgers, will join these two at some point later this season, though we won’t know if he’s an only Dodgers-Braves player until his career is done.

Smith was born James Carlisle Smith, but earned his nickname because of his red hair. He was the first Auburn player to reach the majors, per Baseball Reference, though when he played it was called Alabama Polytechnic University.

He came within a whisker of a batting title for Nashville in the Southern League in 1911, which impressed the Brooklyn Dodgers enough to sign him in September, and insert him immediately at third base.

After a solid 1912 season, Smith’s best year with the Dodgers came in 1913 when he hit .296/.358/.441. He led the National League with 40 doubles, the first Dodger ever with 40 doubles in a season, and one of just seven Dodgers to lead the NL in doubles.

The rub with Smith was that while he was very good at the plate, the same couldn’t be said when he was wearing a glove. His SABR bio, written by Charles Faber, starts off with the line, “A mediocre fielder at third base, Red Smith was a good enough hitter to hold down third base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, until he clashed with his new manager, Wilbert Robinson.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Smith’s clash with Robinson came in 1914, the latter’s first year as manager. The combination of Smith talking with the rival, upstart Federal League and pushing for first baseman Jake Daubert to manage instead of Robinson spelled doom for Smith’s time in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn sold Smith to the Boston Braves in August, and he was great down the stretch, hitting .314/.401/.449. That team was known as the “Miracle Braves” because they trailed by 15 games as late as July, eighth place in an eight-team National League, only to rally and win the pennant. Smith broke his leg sliding into second base on the last day of the regular season and missed the World Series, but Boston did not miss a beat, sweeping the favored Philadelphia A’s anyway.

Smith played nine years in the majors, hitting .278/.353/.377 with a 119 OPS+ and 208 doubles. He then spent nine more years in the minor leagues in the 1920s, including three brief stints as a player-manager.

After his playing days ended, Smith was a tax investigator for the city of Atlanta for 27 years, and passed away in 1966, at age 76.

A fitting Dodgers rewind with the Dodgers playing the Braves this weekend.

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Episode link (time: 23:01)