Softball Legend Bert Smith has passed
Former Howard's slugger Bert Smith passes away
from injuries suffered in car wreck in North Carolina
by Bill Plummer
He had a first name as unique as his batting style, but Birdsdall Robert Smith became a household name during the 1960s and 1970s playing men's Major slow pitch softball for County Sports, Jerry's Catering, Little Caesars and Howard's Furniture.
Now Smith, who was more often called Bert, has become the second Howard's player to pass away this year. Stan Harvey passed away on January 5th at age 69 of a stroke.
Smith, 66, passed away Feb. 25, 2012 from injuries suffered in a wreck, which happened shortly before 4:30 a.m. in the 100 block of Parkwood Avenue off North Davidson Street in Charlotte, NC.
Smith, according to police, was driving to the hospital because of chest pains he started complaining about while working. He decided to drive himself to the hospital, but his 1999 Plymouth Neon went off the right side of Parkwood Avenue and hit a tree.
Paramedics took Smith to Presbyterian Hospital, where he died about 45 minutes later.
Smith, who played the outfield, was one of the most colorful players throughout his career. He was outspoken, opinionated, had a flair for talking to the media and had a unique batting style of lifting his front foot (left foot) off the ground before hitting the ball. It was softball's version of a right-handed hitting Mel Ott, former National League baseball batting champ.
But as colorful as Smith was, he backed up his words on the softball field by becoming one of the best players of his era. Four times he earned ASA All-America honors, including being named the tourney MVP a record three times. He played in nine ASA National Championships and compiled a .669 batting average, hitting 74 homers and driving in 160 runs. He was a member of four national championship teams: County Sports, 1968; Virginia Beach Piledrivers, 1971 and Howard's Furniture, 1973-1974.
After playing for Howard's for four years, Smith played part of the 1976 and 1977 seasons for Miami slow pitch power Jerry's Catering before joining the Detroit Caesars in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League. In his four years with Howard's, Smith compiled a .635 batting average, hitting 774 homers.
Caesars dominated the pro league and Smith more than did his part, batting .512 in 1977, hitting 53 homers in 52 games and .529 in 1978 with 42 homers in 44 games. Detroit won the league and World Series titles each of those years and Smith was the star of the 1978 APSL World Series. Despite a nagging hamstring, Smith batted .940 (15-for-16) in the World Series, hitting five homers and driving in 16 runs. Smith's performance earned him the MVP award.
In 1994, Smith was inducted into the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame. He is one of nine former Howard's players who've been enshrined since the Hall of Fame was established in 1957.
"Being named to the National Softball Hall of Fame was one of my greatest thrills," said Smith during his enshrinement. "Knowing all of the great players that I had played with and against I was thrilled to no end. Being named to the Hall of Fame seemed like a dream, but it was real."
Smith will be missed, not only by his family and friends, but by the many players who get to know him throughout his career. He was one of a kind.
You can learn more about Bert Smith's softball career at Steve Dimitry's softball history site here http://www.angelfire.com/sd/slopitch/photo1.html
Pictures courtesy of Steve Dimitry
Please send any pictures you have to firstname.lastname@example.org and please feel free to leave your personal story of Bert here in the comments section.