Bud Smith's major league career had its moments, chief among them the no-hitter he threw Sept. 3, 2001 in San Diego.
"The first time through (the lineup)," Smith recalled last month, "I thought they just were not into the game, and I was on. They were over-confident."
Smith took advantage of the Padres and of home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez, who Smith said was "giving me a baseball or two off the plate" for the strike zone. San Diego's lineup included Rickey Henderson, Ryan Klesko, Phil Nevin and Ray Lankford, among others, and in the eighth, already well over 100 pitches, Smith had to face pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn.
"I had to step off and gather myself for a second," said Smith, like Gwynn a native of Long Beach who grew up idolizing the Padres star. "Plus, we hadn't gone over him pre-game. We didn't think he'd play or pinch-hit left-on-left."
Smith got Gwynn on a hard groundout to Edgar Renteria, one of several fine defensive plays behind him, and made the last play himself, fielding a comebacker from Phil Nevin for the final out. He tossed it to first baseman Albert Pujols, a former minor league teammate who started the celebration with the no-hitter over.
Smith was the only player ranked ahead of Pujols entering that season in BA's inaugural Prospect Handbook on the Cardinals' top 30. Smith ranked first; Pujols, the future Hall of Famer, ranked second. Smith, now an area scout for the Blue Jays who again lives in Long Beach, remains flattered that he ranked ahead of Pujols, but he seemed to know that September, when Pujols was promoted to Triple-A Memphis, that the hitter was the better prospect.