Robert Smith
Robert Smith
Organization: USBF / IBA
Year: 1984

Robert E. "Ish" Smith, the former President of the International Baseball Federation and the United States Baseball Federation, was awarded the ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award in 1984.

As President of the International Baseball Association from 1981 to 1993, he is the person most credited with getting the sport of baseball accepted into the Olympic Games as an official gold medal sport. For these efforts, he is a recipient of the Olympic Order, the highest honor given by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Smith graduated from Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois in 1957 and went to work at the college a few years after graduation as a physical education instructor and baseball coach, in 1961.

Smith began his work with the Olympics when he began to work on the United States Olympic Committee in 1977.

Smith was elected President of the United States Baseball Federation in 1980 (until 1989) and then quickly ascended to the presidency of the International Baseball Federation/International Baseball Association (IBA) the following year at the Baseball World Cup held in Japan. At the IBA's Congress in 1988, held in conjunction with the Nicaragua Baseball World Cup, Smith was re-elected as President, and he held the office until 1993.

During Dr. Smith's time as international leader of amateur baseball, he coordinated 26 world baseball tournaments, continued to serve on the United States Olympic Committee in varying capacities until 1990, and directed the baseball competitions at the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles, 1988 in Seoul, and 1992 in Barcelona.

Smith is often acknowledged as being responsible for baseball becoming an official Olympic sport. He oversaw the winning of the first-ever gold medal for baseball, won by Cuba in Barcelona in 1992.

Smith served as a key development officer for Greenville College before being hired as Vice President for Institutional Advancement. While serving in that capacity, Smith was chosen by the GC Board of Trustees as the ninth President of Greenville College. He retired in 1998 and has since worked with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in southern Illinois.

Smith was given the Olympic Order, the highest honor given by the International Olympic Committee, for his efforts to bring gold medal baseball to fruition.

Smith is a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame.

The NAIA Baseball Coaches Executive Committee created an award for baseball coaches and administrators, the "Robert E. Smith Achievement Award," with Smith as the first winner in 1999. The award honors "unselfish promotion of NAIA baseball."

Smith also won the Turley award, which is an award of service. As a lasting reminder of his contributions to the college, Greenville College plays its baseball games on Robert E. Smith Field.

Named after the great Lefty Gomez, this annual award is presented to an individual who has distinguished himself among his peers and has contributed significantly to the game of baseball locally, nationally and internationally. The Lefty Gomez Award is sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods.