O'Neil: Smith was Clemens of his era
Monarchs pitcher was Satchel Paige's equal and a clutch cleanup hitter to boot
By Buck O'Neil
As told to Robert Falkoff
Buck O'Neil was the first African-American coach in Major League history (with the Cubs).
I remember so many things about Hilton Smith. I met Hilton in 1935 at the National Semi-Pro Baseball Tournament in Wichita, Kan. He was on the ballclub with Satchel Paige, so it's understandable why they won the tournament. Then I met up with Hilton with the Kansas City Monarchs. He and I were not only teammates but roommates for 10 years.
Hilton was one of the greatest pitchers I've ever seen. And he could hit in the No. 4 spot, too. He was just that kind of an athlete.
With that crooked right arm of his, he'd throw some kind of a curve ball. He had the other pitches to go with it, too. He'd change speeds, do everything a great pitcher is supposed to do. That's why he is going into the Hall of Fame.
I don't really have any special stories of things that happened away from the ballpark with Hilton. He was just a wonderful person, a great family man. I'm so happy that his wife and two sons will be in Cooperstown.
Hilton didn't get all the notoriety that Satchel got, but Satchel wasn't better than Hilton Smith. Satchel just happened to be the most charismatic guy ever to play baseball. He could sell it.
If I had to compare Hilton's stuff with somebody in the game today, I'd probably say (Roger) Clemens. It's not whether Hilton Smith has Clemens' stuff; I'd hope Clemens has Hilton Smith's kind of stuff. Good stuff is good stuff. Every era has outstanding pitchers, and Hilton Smith was right at the top in his era.
Robert Falkoff is site reporter for KCRoyals.com.