Outfielder Lonnie Smith, traded by St. Louis to Kansas City last month, says "the American League stinks" and that he wishes he was still playing for the Cardinals.

"It would have been nice to be a part of it (the Cardinals' recent surge in the National League East)," Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "To tell you the truth, I pay more attention to the Cardinals scores than I do the scores from our division. Everyone else in the dugout is looking at the scoreboard to see what the Angels or White Sox are doing, and I'm checking out the Cardinals."

Smith said his first reaction to the May 17 trade, which sent minor league outfielder John Morris to the Cardinals, was to quit.

"The American League stinks," he said. "I don't like the pace of the game. The strike zone is weird. The pitchers here are afraid of a challenge. They try to finesse you to death. So you see a lot of junk, and pretty soon you run out of patience and start swinging at it. That's the trap they set for you. I'd love to be back in the National League."

After four consecutive .300-plus seasons, Smith batted only .250 for the Cardinals in 1984. He's hitting .193 for the Royals . . .

Relief pitcher Steve Howe of the Los Angeles Dodgers was fined $300 for arriving three hours late at Dodger Stadium Sunday for a game against the Houston Astros.

Howe said he was tardy because his wife Cyndy had accidentally left the family home with his car keys and he had no ride to Dodger Stadium.

Howe told reporters his wife also had his wallet and credit cards and he was unable to contact any friends to drive him to the game. He took an $80 cab ride from his home in Agoura, a suburb about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and arrived by the seventh inning. He warmed up in the ninth.

"He called and said he would be late," said Dodgers Manager Tom Lasorda. "It could happen to anybody. It is not a bad sign at all. Those things happen." . . .

In Pittsburgh, a team official said three baseball teams may be prepared to trade for John Candelaria, and the discontented Pirates relief pitcher apparently has improved his chances for leaving Pittsburgh by waiving his right to veto trades.

"He has told me he will go anywhere. I expect him to keep his word," General Manager Joe L. Brown said Sunday in Philadelphia. "If he backs off, there will be no second effort to trade him. He will remain with the club as long as I am here. That's not a threat. That's just the way it will be."