Will Smalley

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William Darwin Smalley

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Biographical Information[edit]

Will Smalley was the starting third baseman for the Cleveland Spiders in 1890, at age 19. He hit .213 that year, on a team that hit .232. George Davis, another outfielder on the team and a future Hall of Famer, was the same age as Smalley and hit .264 with a slugging average that was 76 points higher than the team slugging percentage.

Although Smalley made 64 errors in the field, his fielding was better than average for those days, and he was the only player on the team who appeared at third base that year. As a comparison, the team used six players at second base, but only Smalley at third.

In spite of that, Smalley lost his job. That was undoubtedly due to the fact that the regular third baseman in 1889 for Cleveland, Patsy Tebeau, had gone off to play for the Cleveland entry in the Players League, and when the Players League folded, he came back to play for the Spiders in 1891.

Smalley joined the Washington Statesmen in 1891 and appeared in 11 games, hitting .158. He was one of nine players tried at third base, and for some reason was not effective defensively, making 10 errors in 9 games. Billy Alvord, who had tried that same year in 13 games to win the third base job with the Cleveland Spiders, became the regular third baseman with the Statesmen.

Smalley fell ill sometime in 1891 and died that October at age 20. Smalley is the second youngest major leaguer to die: only Jay Dahl was younger.

Sporting Life of October 17, 1891 carried his obituary. It said he made "a great reputation" playing in California a couple years before he came to the majors. In 1891, he was unable to play properly because the cancer which eventually killed him was already affecting his play.

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