Remembering Astros’ Closer and Surfer Dave Smith

Today’s news of the death of Dave Smith inspired a search for some more information on this man who was one of the higher-profile members of the late ’80s Astros. Back in 1986, Smith said of going to Poway High in Del Mar, near San Diego: “I’d get up early and I’d go to the beach. And then I’d go to school (Poway High) and then I’d go to the beach and then I’d go to (baseball) practice.” At San Diego State, Smith said: “Well, I was always late (for practice). I’d show up with a surfboard on top of my van and I’d be wearing a wet bathing suit, you know. And I’d stroll into the ballpark. I guess that ticked him off a little bit.”

Armen Keteyian, an infielder on the San Diego State team, said: “See, Smitty was always the first one to say, `Let’s party, boys.’ We’d get in his van. Dave’s van was like our mobile home. We’d take it everywhere the team would play. And we’d be at the first 7-Eleven or beer place we could find.

“One time, he and I were driving in his Z. He always had a nice car, you know. Anyway, we were driving down El Cajon Boulevard to some strip place. He comes around the block and pulls up behind two guys in a van. They don’t make their turn properly, so Smitty yells something and they come out of the van. I say, ‘Oh no, we’re gonna fight,’ but it gets broken up.

“So we keep driving, and to my left I see the van again, and they’ve got the doors open, and they’ve got guns. I say, ‘Dave, they’ve got guns.’ They took two shots and knocked out a tire on my side. I’m under the seat now, but Dave floors it.

“We get stopped by cops, who pull guns on us, too. We explained, and they ended up catching these guys. They had just robbed something. I had to go testify. So that’s what happened when you hung around with Smitty.”

Still in 1986, Smith said: “I’ve changed, but not completely. I’m no [Charlie] Kerfeld, but I’d like to think I still have some of my old qualities. I still surf.”

In 1989, a profile of Smith and his surfer buddy Tim Flannery had Smith saying: “I saw him a couple of times [during the 1981 strike] when I was surfing. It was weird. We didn’t go out together. We just ran into each other in the ocean. Not literally though. He’s goofy-footed, so he likes to take off to the left. I keep my left foot forward so I like to go right.”

Flannery said: “We bought a parcel of land together on the Hollister Ranch, north of Santa Barbara. It is very private, no telephones, no newspapers. Just coastal mountains and great surf. I took Smitty up there, and we went straight for the water. Smitty didn’t even look at the tract of land we were considering. After about an hour of great waves he asked, ‘Who do I write the check to and how much?”’

He added: “I think I’m the best on small waves. But with all due respect, when it gets too big, I stay on the beach. I know my limits. He doesn’t have any limits. Maybe he’s got more guts than I do, or maybe he’s just stupid. But, you know, that’s what makes him a great pitcher.”

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