In Memory of Dave Smith

Former pitching coach Dave Smith dies of an apparent heart attack
by Bill Center
San Diego Union-Tribune
December 17, 2008

(c) Houston Astros

Former Padres pitching coach Dave Smith died Wednesday afternoon after suffering an apparent heart attack at his Carmel Valley home.

Smith, 53, was a graduate of Poway High and was drafted by the Houston Astros out of San Diego State in the eighth round of the 1976 draft.

He served as the Padres pitching coach from 1999-2001. Recently, Smith was giving private pitching lessons and working with local high school teams.

Smith pitched 13 seasons in the major leagues from 1980-92 and was one of the game's top closers during the 1980s. He spent 11 seasons with the Houston Astros and his last two seasons with the Chicago Cubs.

Smith compiled a 53-53 record with 216 saves in 609 major league games. He was named to the National League All-Star team in 1986 and 1990.

“This came as a terrible shock and is a tremendous loss to the baseball community,” said Tim Flannery, a former Padres player and coach and a close friend of Smith.

Smith is survived by his wife Alix and a 1-year-old daughter Dakota as well as sons Cameron and Kellen from a previous marriage. Services are pending.

Former Astros reliever Dave Smith dies at 53
by Jose de Jesus Ortiz
Houston Chronicle
December 17, 2008

Former Astros reliever Dave Smith was a giving a person, and he made sure his younger teammates learned to value others as they adjusted to life in the majors.

Smith’s name is atop or near the top of several of the Astros’ relief categories. But as his former teammates coped with his death Wednesday, they didn’t talk about his 199 saves for the Astros or his team records for appearances (562), relief wins (53), relief innings (760) or most games finished (400).

Instead, Smith’s friends and former teammate remembered the former San Diego State pitcher’s generous nature and cool California demeanor after he died of a heart attack.

Smith’s mark extended far beyond the mound and into clubhouses, restaurants and airports throughout America.

“He was probably one of the most giving people I ever met,” former Astros reliever Charlie Kerfeld said of Smith via phone Wednesday. “He was probably known around the league as the best tipper around the league. (The news of his death) is a tough one. You ain’t supposed to go this early.”

Smith, who was 53, played with the Astros from 1980 through 1990 before spending the final two years of his career with the Chicago Cubs.

“Smitty was unbelievably generous,” said Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies, who played five seasons with Smith. “He gave great tips.”

Always primed for a good laugh or prank, Smith also took his leadership role seriously. Kerfeld realized as much as a rookie in 1985 when he found his locker next to Smith's.

“I remember the first thing he told me,” Kerfeld said. “He said, ‘Charlie always treat everybody right because the same people you see on the way up are going to be the same people that you’ll see on the way down.' He was correct with that advice he gave me.”

A key member of the 1980 and 1986 Astros clubs that reached the National League Championship Series, Smith is the third pitcher from the 1980 NLCS Astros club to die in the last two years, joining Joe Niekro and Vern Ruhle.

“He was a very tough competitor,” Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith, the GM of the 1980 club, said of Smith. “He was fearless on the mound and went out and had a great career. Until Billy Wagner broke his (Astros saves) record, he was our all-time saves leader.

“He had a very, very fine career. He was very competitive, very well-liked by his teammates. This is certainly a tough loss.”

Although the Richmond, Calif., native was extremely competitive, his demeanor off the mound was much calmer.

“It brings back a ton of memories,” Kerfeld said. “Our lockers were right next to each for all the years I was there. He was a great teammate. He always seemed to be able to take things in stride probably better than all of us. A California dude, that was what he was. He would relax and let things happen. It shakes you up a little bit. You realize how short life is and how you should enjoy every moment of it.”