St. Louis Cardinals: Is Lonnie Smith the forgotten hero of 1982?
Lonnie Smith’s road to St. Louis
Smith was drafted out of high school as the 3rd pick in the first round of the 1974 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. His right-handed bat made steady progress through the Phillies farm system and made appearances with the MLB club in 1978 and 1979 before breaking into the lineup in 1980.
In 1980, the Phillies won the NL Pennant and the World Series, which Smith played a key role. In 100 regular season games, Smith hit .339/.397/.443 with an OPS+ of 130 and had 33 stolen bases. The 24-year-old outfielders performance was impressive enough for him to finish third in Rookie of Year balloting behind the Dodgers’ Steve Howe and the Expos’ Bill Gullickson.
The Compton California native continued to play well during the 1981 strike shorten season by hitting a slash line of .324/.402/..472 in 62 games, and improving his OPS+ to 143.
After the 1981 season, the St. Louis Cardinals were looking to add speed to their lineup and the outfield. Lonnie Smith fitted the bill. So in November, in a three team deal that sent pitchers Silvio Martinez and Larry Sorenson to the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) and catcher Bo Diaz from the Indians to the Phillies, the Cardinals acquired Smith.