Osborne Earl "Ozzie" Smith (born December 26, 1954) is a retired American baseball shortstop who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals from 1978 to 1996. Nicknamed "The Wizard" for his defensive brilliance, Smith set major league records for career assists (8,375) and double plays (1,590) by a shortstop (the latter since broken by Omar Vizquel), as well as the National League (NL) record with 2,511 career games at the position; Smith won the NL Gold Glove Award for play at shortstop for 13 consecutive seasons (1980–1992). A 15-time All-Star, he accumulated 2,460 hits and 580 stolen bases during his career, and won the NL Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting shortstop in 1987. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2002. He was also elected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 2014.
Smith was born in Mobile, Alabama, but his family moved to Watts, Los Angeles, when he was six years old. While participating in childhood athletic activities, Smith developed quick reflexes; he went on to play baseball in high school and college, at Los Angeles' Locke High School and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo respectively. Drafted as an amateur player by the Padres, Smith made his major league debut in 1978. He quickly established himself as an outstanding fielder, and later became known for performing backflips on special occasions while taking his position at the beginning of a game. Smith won his first Gold Glove Award in 1980, and made his first All-Star Game appearance in 1981. When conflict with Padres' ownership developed, he was traded to the Cardinals for shortstop Garry Templeton in 1982.
Upon joining the Cardinals, Smith helped the team win the 1982 World Series. Three years later, his game-winning home run during Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series prompted broadcaster Jack Buck's "Go crazy, folks!" play-by-play call. Despite a rotator cuff injury during the 1985 season, Smith posted career highs in multiple offensive categories in 1987. Smith continued to earn Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances on an annual basis until 1993. During 1995 season, Smith had shoulder surgery and was out nearly three months. After tension with his new manager Tony La Russa developed in 1996, Smith retired at season's end, and his uniform number (No. 1) was subsequently retired by the Cardinals. Smith also served as host of the television show This Week in Baseball from 1997 to 1999.
By Dean Hanley
Page : 1