Roy Smalley Jr., who was signed as a free agent at 17 and went on to play for the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies during baseball’s Golden Era, died Saturday. He was 85.
Smalley, father of baseball great Roy Smalley III, hit 21 homers and drove in 85 runs in 1950. But it was his marriage that year to Jolene Mauch — sister of Braves player Gene Mauch — that made headlines as they walked down the aisle when the Cubs were in town for a matchup with the then-Boston Braves. Mauch later became a heralded manager, and Smalley played for him with the AAA Minneapolis Millers after he retired in 1958 from the Major Leagues.
That club ended up in the Little World Series for minor league teams against the Havana club from the International League, Smalley recalled during a June interview with the Green Valley News. In the seventh and deciding game, the outcome came down to the bottom of the ninth when the Cubans had a man on second.
“It was a bizarre experience,” Smalley said. “Everywhere in Havana there were armed troops. Castro had seized power. When the Great Bearded One made an appearance in our dugout, he was accompanied by machine gun-toting men.”
“Havana won the game when a base hit sent the runner home. He tripped rounding third and spent the rest of his journey to the plate scrambling on all fours. No one really knows if he made it because, by then, our team and the umpires had left the field.”
Smalley’s first assignment was with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He did a stint with the Navy from 1944-46, then resumed his baseball career with the Des Moines Bruins in 1947.
The Cubs saw promise in the young shortstop and brought him up in 1948. Smalley anchored the infield for the Cubs into the 1953 season, when he was replaced by Ernie Banks, who became a Hall of Famer and still bears the monicker “Mr. Cub.”
Smalley moved to Sahuarita, Ariz., south of Tucson, in 2004.