Lonnie Smith offers Series business advice

INSIDE THE ORIOLES

July 27, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Lonnie Smith, major-league baseball's human good-luck charm, has been to the World Series five times with a record four different organizations.

He went there with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980, St. Louis Cardinals in 1982, Kansas City Royals in 1985 and Atlanta Braves in 1991 and 1992.

If anyone knows how to cope with the excess of baseball's biggest event, it's Lonnie Smith, the game's oldest pinch runner at the age of 38.

What should his Orioles teammates who never have made it to the postseason expect if the Orioles reach the playoffs this season?

"Just try to be the same as you are in the regular season," Smith said. "You just have to get used to all the media and the excitement."

Smith agrees with many who have been there that the biggest hassle of the postseason revolves around ticket requests.

"Most people assume we don't have to pay for the tickets, which is wrong," Smith said. "Once they get over that shock, there is the shock that the players only get access to one for your wife, then five or six after that. Once they get over that shock, there is the shock of how much they cost. Then you tell them they have to buy them in strips, that they can't buy them for individual games. That's another shock."

For players, the shock involves the nerve of people when it comes to requesting postseason tickets.

"I can remember the second one I was in, with St. Louis, people in the apartment complex I lived in, people I had never met, came knocking on my door asking for tickets," Smith said. "You just have to be straight and to the point and let them know you can't help them."

Players can't even help some friends and some family members.

"Family comes first," Smith said. "Then friends. No matter who it is, you can't help the stragglers, the latecomers who show up the day of the game asking for tickets. Just the players alone could fill a 150,000-seat stadium with the requests they get."

Nicknamed "Skates" early in his career when a teammate told him he looked as if he were wearing skates playing the outfield, the good-humored Smith warns of another hazard of postseason baseball.

"Fans looking to do anything to give their team an advantage will call you in the middle of the night and insult you," Smith said. "I've had that happen. That happens all the time when you go to New York. You have to have the hotel block your calls. Most players have their calls blocked in New York.

"Other times you'll get calls from fans of your team. They'll call asking for tickets. Or they'll call just to talk to you, not realizing you need your rest."

Smith's advice to fans is to let your fingers do the clapping, not the dialing. For players, Smith suggests they do their best to block out the distractions and repeat their regular-season routines.

"This game is hard enough on a day-to-day basis," he said. "If you can do it in the regular season, there is no reason you can't do it in the postseason."

Smith has done it in the regular season and postseason in a career winding to a close. In 32 World Series games, Smith hit .277 with four home runs and drove in 14 runs.

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