Drafted by the Expos, Red Sox, and Cardinals, but opting to attend the University of Southern California, Smalley turned pro with Texas as the number-one draft choice in January 1974. Soon acquired by Minnesota in a six-player-plus-cash deal, the Californian began a five-year stint playing for his uncle, manager Gene Mauch, a teammate of his father, Roy Sr.
A switch-hitting, wide-ranging shortstop with power, Roy Jr. led pro baseball in homers at his position in 1978 (19) and 1974 (24). He was the Twins’ MVP the former year and a starter in the All-Star Game the latter.
Smalley’s success diminished after suffering with spondylolysis, a condition in his lower back, in 1981, though he continued to be a dependable hitter and versatile performer. He spent two-plus unhappy years (1982-84) with the Yankees, being moved among all four infield positions. He was used primarily as a designated hitter upon returning to Minnesota in 1985. Smalley set a Twins record for career sacrifice bunts and was among the club’s all-time leaders in homers, hits, and RBI.