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Ozzie Smith

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Full Name: Osborne Earl Smith Primary Position: SS
Height/Weight: 5' 11"/150 First Game: April 7, 1978
Birthdate: December 26, 1954 Final Game: September 29, 1996
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama MLB Experience: 19 years
Bat/Throw: Both/Right


Biography

Ozzie Smith (Osborne Earl Smith) was born on December 26, 1954 in Mobile, Alabama. He made his Major League debut on April 7, 1978 for the San Diego Padres. In 1978, his rookie year, he hit .258 with 1 home run and 46 RBI. Smith played for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals over the course of his 19 year career.

Most people believe that Ozzie Smith's best season was 1987, when he stole 43 bases, hit for a .303 average and knocked in 75 runs.

In 2003, he was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. He is widely cited as the greatest defensive player of all time, and carried the nickname "The Wizard of Oz."

Career

Ozzie went to Locke High School in South Los Angeles where he played baseball with Eddie Murray. Smith was first selected in the amateur entry draft in 1976, when he was drafted in the 7th round by the Detroit Tigers. However, Smith and the Tigers were unable to agree on contract parameters, and he went back into the draft pool the following season, where he was drafted in the 4th round by the San Diego Padres. After only one season in the minor leagues with low-level Walla Walla, Smith broke in with the Padres in 1978 at the age of 23. He would spend 4 seasons with the Padres before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. He promptly led the team to the World Series, where the Cardinals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers four games to three. The team reached the World Series again in 1985, thanks in large part to Smith's game-winning home run in the NLCS against Tom Niedenfuer of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This homer was made famous for its radio call by broadcaster Jack Buck: "Smith corks one into right, down the line! It may go! [home run lands] Go crazy folks, go crazy!" They went on to lose the World Series to the Kansas City Royals in seven games. They also lost the 1987 World Series to the Minnesota Twins in seven games in an unusual series where each team won games only in their own home stadium. A weak hitter early in his career, Smith never developed much power at the plate, but his hitting improved over the years, and his speed allowed him to serve as a competent leadoff hitter. Smith stole 580 career bases, 20th on the all-time list. But his most potent asset were his glove and his defensive reflexes, with which he often won more ball games than the hitters on his team did. Former manager Whitey Herzog claimed that at his peak Smith saved 75 runs per year with his glove.[1]

He is perhaps best known for his time playing for manager Whitey Herzog where players were known for being scrappy, continually pushing singles to doubles (and doubles to triples), stealing bases, playing aggressively, and continually pushing the opposing teams to catch them in the act. This management and play style has been dubbed "Whiteyball." Even though he wasn't a slugger, his speed was an excellent match to this playing style, which ultimately lead to their 1982 World Series victory and their 1985 National League Pennant.

Smith's greatest season came in 1987, when he had a .303 batting average, 43 stolen bases, 75 RBIs, 104 runs scored, and 40 doubles. Smith mostly batted second in the lineup; his plate discipline allowed him to post a career high on-base percentage of .392. This performance helped the Cardinals get into the playoffs. Smith ended up second in the MVP balloting to Andre Dawson, who had played on the last-placed Chicago Cubs, largely because he and fellow Cardinal Jack Clark split the first-place vote.

Following the 1987 season, Ozzie was awarded the largest contract in the National League at $2,340,000.[2]

Smith is only the 37th of the 252 players elected to the Hall of Fame to be so honored in his first year of eligibility.

In 1999, he ranked Number 87 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Ozzie Smith is remembered for his acrobatics in the field as a versatile shortstop and for the ritual backflip he performed before opening days, All-Star Games, and postseason games. Though he dropped this routine late in his career, he reprised it for "Ozzie Day" on September 28, 1996, when the Cardinals honored his impending retirement with a ceremony before the game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Many say he made the greatest play of all time in his rookie season with the Padres in 1978. After Atlanta's Jeff Burroughs hit a grounder up the middle, Smith dove to his left. But the ball hit a stone in the dirt and took a crazy bounce in the opposite direction. Quickly, Smith reached up with his bare right hand. In one motion, he ripped the ball out of the air, sprang up, and threw Burroughs out at first base. Smith himself called it "the toughest play I've ever had," and in an informal survey of big leaguers, most mentioned this play as the most amazing they have ever seenTemplate:Fact.

Shortly after his playing days were over, Smith took over for the late Mel Allen as the host of the long-running TV series This Week in Baseball.

At odds with current management

Following his retirement from baseball, Smith has refused to associate himself with the Cardinals in any official capacity, although he continues to make public appearances embracing the franchise. Smith has stated that he will not work with the organization as long as the current management is in charge. Smith has said he is still upset at current Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa for making newly acquired Royce Clayton the starting shortstop in 1996, despite a superior offensive performance by Smith in spring training. The Cardinals had traded for Clayton during the previous offseason as a precautionary move in case Smith did not fully recover from an earlier injury. Smith's playing time shrank under LaRussa's management, and he retired at season's end. Incidentally, the Cardinals traded Clayton less than two years after Smith's retirement.[3]

Statistics

Batting Stats

Year Team G AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG 2B 3B BB SO HBP SH SB IBB GDP
1978 SD N 159 590 69 152 1 46 .258 .311 .312 17 6 47 43 0 28 40 0 11
1979 SD N 156 587 77 124 0 27 .211 .260 .262 18 6 37 37 2 22 28 5 11
1980 SD N 158 609 67 140 0 35 .230 .313 .276 18 5 71 49 5 23 57 1 9
1981 SD N 110 450 53 100 0 21 .222 .294 .256 11 2 41 37 5 10 22 1 8
1982 STL N 140 488 58 121 2 43 .248 .339 .314 24 1 68 32 2 4 25 12 10
1983 STL N 159 552 69 134 3 50 .243 .321 .335 30 6 64 36 1 7 34 9 10
1984 STL N 124 412 53 106 1 44 .257 .347 .337 20 5 56 17 2 11 35 5 8
1985 STL N 158 537 70 148 6 54 .276 .355 .361 22 3 65 27 2 9 31 11 13
1986 STL N 153 514 67 144 0 54 .280 .376 .333 19 4 79 27 2 11 31 13 9
1987 STL N 158 600 104 182 0 75 .303 .392 .383 40 4 89 36 1 12 43 3 9
1988 STL N 153 575 80 155 3 51 .270 .350 .336 27 1 74 43 1 12 57 2 7
1989 STL N 155 593 82 162 2 50 .273 .335 .361 30 8 55 37 2 11 29 3 10
1990 STL N 143 512 61 130 1 50 .254 .330 .305 21 1 61 33 2 7 32 4 8
1991 STL N 150 550 96 157 3 50 .285 .380 .367 30 3 83 36 1 6 35 2 8
1992 STL N 132 518 73 153 0 31 .295 .367 .342 20 2 59 34 0 12 43 4 11
1993 STL N 141 545 75 157 1 53 .288 .337 .356 22 6 43 18 1 7 21 1 11
1994 STL N 98 381 51 100 3 30 .262 .326 .349 18 3 38 26 0 10 6 3 3
1995 STL N 44 156 16 31 0 11 .199 .282 .244 5 1 17 12 2 5 4 0 6
1996 STL N 82 227 36 64 2 18 .282 .358 .370 10 2 25 9 2 7 7 0 5
Total 2573 9396 1257 2460 28 793 .262 .337 .328 402 69 1072 589 33 214 580 79 167

Fielding Stats

Year Team POS G GS INN PO A ERR DP TP PB SB CS PkO AVG
1978 SD N SS 159 154 1327 264 548 25 98 0 0 0 0 0 .970
1979 SD N SS 155 153 1339 256 555 20 86 0 0 0 0 0 .976
1980 SD N SS 158 157 1398.1 288 621 24 113 0 0 0 0 0 .974
1981 SD N SS 110 110 986.1 220 422 16 72 0 0 0 0 0 .976
1982 STL N SS 139 139 1249 279 535 13 101 0 0 0 0 0 .984
1983 STL N SS 158 154 1343.2 304 519 21 100 1 0 0 0 0 .975
1984 STL N SS 124 124 1065.1 233 437 12 94 0 0 0 0 0 .982
1985 STL N SS 158 158 1407 264 549 14 111 0 0 0 0 0 .983
1986 STL N SS 144 144 1287 229 453 15 96 0 0 0 0 0 .978
1987 STL N SS 158 153 1357.1 245 516 10 111 0 0 0 0 0 .987
1988 STL N SS 150 150 1329 234 519 22 79 0 0 0 0 0 .972
1989 STL N SS 153 152 1336.1 209 483 17 73 0 0 0 0 0 .976
1990 STL N SS 140 137 1203.1 212 378 12 66 0 0 0 0 0 .980
1991 STL N SS 150 148 1253.1 244 387 8 79 0 0 0 0 0 .987
1992 STL N SS 132 128 1156.1 232 420 10 82 0 0 0 0 0 .985
1993 STL N SS 134 131 1139.1 251 451 19 98 1 0 0 0 0 .974
1994 STL N SS 96 94 822 135 291 8 67 0 0 0 0 0 .982
1995 STL N SS 41 41 343.1 60 129 7 28 0 0 0 0 0 .964
1996 STL N SS 52 50 442.2 90 162 8 36 0 0 0 0 0 .969
Total SS 2511 2477 21785.2 4249 8375 281 1590 2 0 0 0 0 .978

Transactions

  • Selected by Detroit Tigers in the 7th round of the free-agent draft - did not sign (June 8, 1976).
  • Selected by San Diego Padres in the 4th round of the free-agent draft (June 7, 1977).
  • Traded by San Diego Padres with Steve Mura and a player to be named later to St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Sixto Lezcano, Garry Templeton and a player to be named later (December 10, 1981); St. Louis Cardinals received Al Olmsted (February 19, 1982) and San Diego Padres received Luis DeLeon (February 19, 1982).
  • Granted free agency (November 2, 1992).
  • Signed by St. Louis Cardinals (December 6, 1992).

Trivia

  • Is the hero of fictional detective, Jesse Stone, a character in the stone series by Robert B. Parker.
  • Played his namesake, The Wizzard of Oz, in a production of the musical at the outdoor Muny theater in St. Louis during the late 90's.


See also



References

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