Hilton Lee Smith (1907-1983)

Hilton Smith
Courtesy The Baseball Guru, Fair use image

Hilton Lee Smith was a right-handed pitcher who played for the Monroe, Louisiana Monarchs and Kansas City Monarchs. Smith was born on February 27, 1907 to Mattie and John Smith in Giddings, Texas. Much of Smith’s early life is unknown but he attended Prairie View A&M College where he played baseball as an outfielder during his freshman year and a pitcher during his sophomore year. Smith remained at Prairie A&M College for two years before leaving to pursue a professional baseball career.

In 1931, Smith joined the Austin Black Senators in Austin, Texas. A year later, he would join the Monroe Monarchs in Monroe, Louisiana. In 1934, Smith married o Louise Humphrey and the couple had two sons, Hilton Smith Jr. and Demorris Smith.

Smith remained with the Monroe Monarchs until 1935 when he joined the National Baseball Congress League and played with the Bismarck Churchills in Bismarck, North Dakota. Smith’s teammates included Satchel Page, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, Quincy Trouppe, Barney Morris, and Chet Brewer. The team won the National Semipro Championship in Wichita, Kansas in 1935. The team returned to the National Championship in 1936 but lost to the Halliburton Cementers of Duncan, Oklahoma.

Smith joined the Kansas City Monarchs in late 1936. During his time, playing with the team he was a six-time all-star (1937-1942) and Negro League World Series Champion (1942). The New Historical Baseball Abstract called Smith the best Negro Leagues Baseball Player in 1939, 1941, and 1942. From 1939 to 1942 he had extraordinary records that included baseball averages 25-2, 21-3, 25-1, and 22-5. Also, between 1944 and 1948, he had a .326 batting average. In 1945, Smith unsuccessfully urged his boss J.L. Wilkinson to sign young Jackie Robinson for the Monarchs.

Hilton Smith remained with the Monarchs until 1948 when he where he officially retired from baseball. After retiring, he briefly pitched semi-pro ball in Fulda, Minnesota in 1949 and 1950. Smith became a schoolteacher and worked for the Armco Steel Company in Kansas City as a foreman until 1978. He was also scouted young players for the Chicago Cubs.

Hilton Lee Smith died on November 18, 1983 in Kansas City, Missouri at the age of 76. In 2001, Smith was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.