"Nailed him," Belmonte recalled to The News two weeks later. "One of the best throws you'll see all year. He comes up with a hit the next night and knocks in a run. And right after that, he had this headache he couldn't shake."
Belmonte spoke to The News two weeks after that game as Smith recovered in Salt Lake City after surgery to remove an abscess on his brain that had roots in a sinus infection. To get to that abscess, though, doctors ultimately had to remove a portion of Smith's skull, according to The News.
From that surgery, Smith ultimately lost the rest of his season. But, according to his Baseball-Reference player page, he did make it back to the field for 20 final games with independent St. Paul in 1993.
Smith's professional career began in 1989, taken by the Phillies in the 19th round of the draft, out of Sacramento City College.
With the Phillies, Smith started at short-season Batavia. He got into just 30 games for the Clippers, hitting just .186. It was his only season in the Philadelphia organization.
For 1991, Smith moved to independent Salt Lake City. There, he got into 21 games, hitting .222, with two RBIs.
Then came 1992. Smith played in three early games, with two at bats. He had one hit, knocking in one and scoring once.
As Smith worked to recover, The News wrote, his team went on to try and win for him. And they did, breaking out for a 11-3 win.
"Yeah. I think everybody came in with a little bit of an approach for Willie," teammate Randy Snyder told The News after the win. "The game was on TV: It was nice to go out and win it for Willie."
For Smith, though, there were also other, more practical worries, according to The News. He had these problems, the surgery and recover, all without insurance.
After all that, though, Smith is counted as getting back on the field the next season, with St. Paul, of the independent Northern League. Smith hit just .220, but he also hit his only professional home run, ending his career.
- Deseret News, July 14, 1992: Inspired by teammate, Trappers win big
- Deseret News, July 15, 1992: Trappers' Smith responding well to treatment
- Deseret News, July 23, 1992: Traps return for quickie homestand
Made the Majors: 680 - 57.1%
Never Made Majors: 510-42.9%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 293
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 174