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Hall of Fame closer Lee Smith took his time going to mound to help groundskeepers earn overtime

In this Dec. 8, 1987, file photo, Chicago

In this Dec. 8, 1987, file photo, Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Lee Smith works against the San Francisco Giants during a baseball game, in Chicago. Lee Smith will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 21, 2019. Photo Credit: AP/Bob Fila

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — No word on if Lee Smith will walk slowly to the podium at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday, now that he doesn’t have to worry about the groundskeepers getting overtime.

That’s right: Smith, who walked slowly out of the Wrigley Field bullpen, only to throw very hard when he (finally) got to the mound, said he did it for fun. And because he knew the groundskeepers would get overtime if the day games extended past 4:30 p.m.

“It actually stemmed from my grounds crew buddies, because they got time-and-a-half at 4:30, so I always make sure it was 4:30 when I got in there,” Lee said Saturday before his Hall of Fame induction Sunday. “I let them work around the mound a little bit. I always give them a hard time. My buddy [Cubs groundskeeper] Rick Fuhs — Rick, you know I sent both your girls through college with that walk, right?”

Smith — who compiled 180 saves for the Cubs, the most in franchise history — knew the game was fleeting even then, when he was mowing down opposing batters. “I didn’t want to rush out there,” he said. “You don’t get a second chance, man.”   

Stark honored

Jayson Stark is the 2019 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, given by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for contributions to baseball writing. Stark, currently of The Athletic, was best known for his work as an ESPN.com senior writer. “Preparation is the essence of what we do,” Stark said of one of his keys to success. “I’m a preparation freak.”

  

Bernie still playing

Guitarist/former centerfielder Bernie Williams is scheduled to perform the national anthem before Sunday’s ceremony.

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