A minor league outfielder for more than 20 years, Smith spent half of the 1945 season with the A’s. He managed in the Yankees’ farm system before becoming the Phillies’ manager in 1955. Smith was once kicked out of a game in the tunnel going to the dugout before the teams took the field; he asked umpire Frank Dascoli if they were going to play that day’s game according to the rules.
A scout with the Yankees through most of the 1960s, he was hired as manager of the Tigers in 1967 and took them to a pennant in 1968. In the 1968 World Series, Smith made a bold move by moving outfielder Mickey Stanley to shortstop and benching the weak-hitting Ray Oyler to keep all his potent outfield bats (Al Kaline, Jim Northrup, and Willie Horton) in the lineup. The move worked as the Tigers beat the Cardinals in seven games.