Roy Smalley with Yankees
- 2B, C, SS, 1B, DH, LF, 3B
- October 25, 1952
- 6' 1"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-30-1975 with TEX
Drafted by the Expos, Red Sox, and Cardinals, but opting to attend the University of Southern California, Smalley turned pro with Texas as the number-one draft choice inJanuary 1974. Soon acquired by Minnesota in a six-player-plus-cash deal, the Californian began a five-year stint playing for his uncle, manager Gene Mauch, a teammate of his father, Roy Sr.
A switch-hitting, wide-ranging shortstop with power, Roy Jr. led pro baseball in homers at his position in 1978 (19) and 1974 (24). He was the Twins' MVP the former year and a starter in the All-Star Game the latter.
Smalley's success diminished after suffering with spondylolysis, a condition in his lower back, in 1981, though he continued to be a dependable hitter and versatile performer. He spent two-plus unhappy years (1982-84) with the Yankees, being moved among all four infield positions. He was used primarily as a designated hitter upon returning to Minnesota in 1985. Smalley set a Twins record for career sacrifice bunts and was among the club's all-time leaders in homers, hits, and RBI.
Smalley attended and played college baseball at the University of Southern California. While at USC he was a part of the 1972 and 1973 College World Series championship teams. He was named an All-American and received All-College World Series honors in 1973. Smalley was drafted four times by Major League baseball teams between 1970 and 1973 without signing. After being selected by the Montreal Expos in the 35th round of the June 1970 draft, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 4th round of the January 1971 draft, by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round on the June 1971 draft, and again by the Red Sox in the 5th round of the January 1972 draft. Smalley was the number one overall pick in the January 1974 amateur draft by the Rangers.
After signing, Smalley was sent to the Pittsfield Rangers in the AA Eastern League where he held his own, hitting .251 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI as a 21 year old straight out of college. Following a brief stint with the AAA Spokane Indians, Smalley would be promoted to the big leagues for good, seeing time in 78 games for the Rangers in 1975, despite hitting only .228 with 3 home runs. Smalley would start the 1976 season back in Texas, but would not improve on his 1975 average. On June 1, his career would take a major corner.
Under the ownership tenure of Calvin Griffith, the Twins franchise made few headlines in the transaction department. However, Smalley's arrival to, and departure from, the Twins both involved blockbuster trades. On June 1, 1976, Smalley was traded to the Twins, along with Texas infielder Mike Cubbage, pitchers Jim Gideon and Bill Singer and cash, for Twins' ace Bert Blyleven and shortstop Danny Thompson. Smalley would be inserted into the Twins' starting lineup and man shortstop until 1982. During his first go around with the Twins, Smalley would develop into an all-star.
Smalley's best season came in 1979, when he was voted the starting shortstop for the American League in the All-Star game. Smalley had a sensational first half of the season, entering the break with the second-highest batting average in the Major Leagues (.341). Though he tailed off in the second half, Smalley hit a dismal .179 (56 for 312). Roy established career highs in runs, RBIs and home runs, and was named the shortstop on The Sporting News AL All-Star team. In 1979 he also led the league in games played, plate appearances, all fielders in assists, and all shortstops in putouts, while hitting .271 and leading the team with 24 home runs and 95 RBI. He did not build on this season with the Twins, as injuries struck, and he played only 133 games in 1980 and 56 in 1981.
Yankees and White Sox
After showing that he'd recovered from his injuries, Smalley was traded on April 10, 1982 to the Yankees for pitchers Ron Davis and Paul Boris and shortstop Greg Gagne. With the Yankees, Smalley showed a glimpse of the player he had been in 1979, hitting 20 home runs in 1982 and 18 in 1983. After a bad start to the 1984 season, in which he hit only .239 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI over the first 67 games of the season, Smalley was traded again, this time to the White Sox for middle reliever Kevin Hickey and futurePittsburgh Pirates Cy Young and 155-game winner Doug Drabek.
Back to the Twins
Smalley was a member of Minnesota's 1987 World Championship team.
In a 13-season career, Smalley posted a .257 batting average with 163 home runs and 694 RBI in 1653 games played.
He was inducted in the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
Smalley now works for Fox Sports North as an analyst during Minnesota Twins games. Smalley also owns a restaurant near the Twins home park, Target Field.
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- Roy Smalley