The St. Louis Cardinals were contenders in 1957 and ’59, two of Hal Smith’s best years as a Major League player. Smith, out of tiny Barling, Arkansas, had risen in the Minor Leagues, and even played in Mexico, Cuba, and the Asian circuit. Readers will be intrigued to learn key roles Smith played as baseball went through profound changes in the late 1950s. At the time, Smith was helping Bob Gibson grow into an All Star pitcher and Tim McCarver to become one of the great catchers. Smith, himself, played in the 1959 All Star Game—one of only two Cardinals to do so that year.
The “Barling Darling” had a certain magic working for him, a quality readers will discover within the pages of this book. They will also observe the parallels between baseball’s maturation during the 1950s and those of American society at the time. Higgins has crafted the story of a man who not only stood out in his time but also reflected its best hopes, its dynamic evolution in the postwar era, as well as the expansion of “America’s game” onto the national stage, propelled in part by the medium of the day, television.