Let’s test your knowledge of baseball’s hulking, skulking relievers — ready?

OK …

Which was the last team that Hall of Famer Lee Smith pitched for in Major League Baseball?

Should be easy, right? After all, Smith was one of the most dominant and visible fireman of the 1980s and 1990s.

OK, so let’s run through the list …

Smith started out life in the MLB with the Chicago Cubs. Everybody knows that, even without looking it up.

Most fans also remember Smith stalking the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals given that he toiled in the shadow of the archway for four(ish) seasons and put up a thick 160 saves during that span.

In between, there was a two-plus-year stop with the Boston Red Sox. I’ll give you credit for knowing that one, too, since big Lee was featured prominently on some junk wax cards for the Sawx and since even I remembered his Boston stint (though my memory said it happened after the Cards years — it didn’t).

But what else was there?

Hmmm …

Well, as a Reds fan, I remember that one partial summer he spent in Cincinnati (1996), because I always remember when a big name drops in on the Riverfront for awhile.

In fact, I would have guessed “Reds” in answer to my own question up there about where Smith ended up.

But is that correct?

Well, no. No, it’s not correct. And, in fact, I’ve only listed off half the teams for whom Smith plied his trade on the mound over an 18-year career that yielded 478 saves for his teams and a Cooperstown plaque for the man himself.

I’ll leave his Baseball Reference link right here so you can get the complete rundown, but don’t leave just yet — we have unfinished business here!

So far, we have Smith’s chronology as Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, and, somewhere down the line, the Reds.

Now that I’ve narrowed the possible teams down from 30 to 26, do you know who was his last?

No?

OK, let me fill in a bit more …

The New York Yankees traded for Smith late in 1993, and then he signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles in January 1994. In December of ‘94, he signed on with the California Angels.

The Halos then traded the big man to Cincy in May of 1996, and he became a free agent again after that season.

So, now our list looks like this: Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds.

That’s seven teams, and I told you through math talk above that Smith played for eight teams in total.

Got it yet?

Here are some final hints — he signed a free agent contact with that eighth team in January of 1997 and then signed another free agent deal with the Kansas City Royals in January of 1998.

Ah, but Smith never took the field for the Royals or their affiliates in game action and then, after signing a minor league deal with the Houston Astros that summer, he finally retired.

But that still leaves our mystery team, the eighth of his storied career.

You got it yet?

Well, time’s up, because Smith’s 1998 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice card is going to spill the beans …

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Find Lee Smith cards on eBay (affiliate link)

Find Lee Smith cards on Amazon (affiliate link)

Yes, Skippy, Lee Smith ended his Major League career with the Montreal Expos, running up a 5.82 ERA with five saves over 25 appearances, the last coming on July 2.

And the next spring, while the future HOFer was trying to craft one last go-round in the Majors, collectors were greeted with this strange looking sight … one that’s even stranger looking now for us oldsters who simply don’t remember that marriage.

Lee Smith with the Expos?

Yeah, it happened.

Apparently.


Hobby Wow!

Smith retired with 478 saves to his name, the most of all time when he hung up his spikes. This eBay lot offers up a tangible reminder of one of those lockdowns …

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It’s the baseball from the final pitch of Smith’s 410th save, autographed by the man himself and with a certificate of authenticity from JSA.

Check out the full listing on eBay (affiliate link).

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