Hilton Lee Smith Inducted into the Prairie View A&M Sports Hall of Fame

 

Former Lee County resident and National Baseball Hall of Fame member Hilton Lee Smith was inducted into the Prairie View A&M Sports Hall of Fame last weekend at a ceremony in Houston, Texas. 

The ceremony took place at the University’s College of Nursing, Smith’s granddaughter, Sheri Smith, was on hand to represent the Smith family and receive the purple Hall of Fame blazer which is awarded to all inductees. Pamela Hutchinson, Director of the Giddings Public Library and Cultural Center, attended the event which highlighted the fact that Giddings hosts the Hilton Lee Smith Memorabilia Collection.

On Monday Ms. Smith’s and William “Bill” R. Downey II, who is a member of the Hall of Fame and sponsor for Hilton Lee Smith as an inductee, were in Giddings to donate the jacket, a plaque and a replica of Smith’s varsity letter to the Hilton Lee Smith Exhibit at the library. The collection honors Smith for his accomplishments as a baseball pioneer who played and excelled in the Negro American League. Smith is still regarded as one of the best to ever play the game.

Mr. Downey offered more information about Smith stating that he attended Prairie View in 1928 and 1929. According to the school’s records Smith received academic honors both years and was on the “Dean’s List” as well. Smith was an Agricultural Science major at what was then called Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College and played in the outfield during 1928 and as pitcher in 1929. 

In June of this year the Giddings Library prepared to host a ceremony to dedicate the “Smith Collection”. As part of the planning Prairie View officials were notified about the event. Until that point Prairie View had not been unaware of Smith and his contribution to baseball history.

According to Library Director Pamela Hutchinson, Prairie View looked into the matter and located old school documents that confirmed Smith’s attendance at the university. Hutchinson said “Prairie View uncovered the records” (which she was surprised still existed) and realized that baseball legend Hilton Smith “had in fact attended their school”.

Hilton Lee Smith, a professional baseball player who shined in the pre-integration Negro Leagues, was born on February 27, 1907 and raised in Giddings, Texas. For over 60 years Smith’s baseball accomplishments remained only a footnote in history, until 2001 when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

 Smith pitched for Prairie View A&M before joining the semi-pro Austin Senators in 1931. In 1936 he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs moving up to play against “top-tier” competition. He has been called the best pitcher in the Negro American League and was once thought to be the best pitcher in the world. He pitched against greats like Joe DiMaggio in interracial exhibition games. Baseball old-timers claim that Smith was tougher to hit than his flamboyant counterpart and teammate Satchel Page. Smith was also a formidable hitter who sometimes occupied the “clean-up” position in the lineup.

 Hilton Lee Smith is said to be partly responsible for the recruitment of baseball great, slugger Jackie Robinson who broke through the color barriers in baseball.

 Smith retired from the game in the 1950’s and became a teacher and coach. He also worked in the steel industry and as an assistant scout for the Chicago Cubs. Hilton Lee Smith died in 1983 and was finally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. Eric Tangradi Jersey