My Top Ten Cardinals of All-Time:#5 Ozzie Smith

#5. Ozzie Smith
#6. ???
#7. Joe Medwick
#8. Jim Bottomley
#9. Enos Slaughter
#10. Ken Boyer

OzzieSmith

After a long hiatus, I’m returning to my top 10 Cardinals of all time. Making the list at #5 is shortstop Osborne Earl “Ozzie” Smith.

Ozzie was traded to the Cardinals in 1982 for then shortstop Garry Templeton. Ironically, both shortstops we embroiled in conflicts with their respective teams at the time.

OzzieSmith

Nicknamed the Wizard for his outstanding defensive play, Ozzie became one of the cornerstones for the Cardinals in the 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s. That team won a World Championship in 1982, and made two other World Series appearances in the 1985 and 1987.

Defense at shortstop was Ozzie’s forte. Over his career, Ozzie won 13 Gold Gloves – 11 as a Cardinal – every year from 1980 – 1992. He lead the league in assists 6 times, and lead the league in field percentage for SS 8 times. Ozzie holds the major league record for assists by a shortstop (8375), shares the major league record of most times leading his league in fielding percentage at shortstop (8), ranks 4th all-time in career fielding average at shortstop (0.978), shares the NL record for most seasons topping the league in double plays turned (5), and turned more double plays than any shortstop in NL history (1590).

OzzieSmith

Ozzie was a human highlight reel in the field. Probably his greatest defensive play as a Cardinal occurred on August 4, 1986. During a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium, in the top of the ninth inning, Phillies first baseman Von Hayes hit a short fly ball to left field, which was pursued by both Ozzie and left fielder Curt Ford. Running with his back to home plate, Ozzie dove forward, simultaneously catching the ball while parallel to the ground and flying over the diving Ford, avoiding a collision by inches.

OzzieSmith

Over the years, Ozzie also became know for his signature back flip that he would do when he took the field at the start of each Opening Day game.

OzzieSmith

In addition to his defense, Ozzie was a wizard on the base path. He amassed 580 stolen bases over his career, swiping 30+ bases 11 times in his career. He ranks 3rd on the Cardinal all-time stolen base list behind teammate Vince Coleman, and Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

OzzieSmith

Even though he was known for his speed and defense, Ozzie took great pride in his offense. During Spring Training 1982, in an effort to help Ozzie improve his weak hitting, his manager, Whitey Herzog, created a motivational tool designed to help Smith concentrate on hitting more ground balls, which he believed would improve his offensive production. Approaching Ozzie one day during spring training, Herzog said, “Every time you hit a fly ball, you owe me a buck. Every time you hit a ground ball, I owe you a buck. We’ll keep that going all year.” Ozzie agreed, and by the end of the season had won close to $300 from Herzog.

Through his career, Ozzie had a number of notable achievements:

  • Finished 2nd for the 1978 Rookie of Year Award
  • Won 13 Gold Glove awards – the most by a shortstop in major league history
  • Named to 15 All-Star games
  • Won the Silver Slugger Award at shortstop in 1987 – for best offensive player at his position
  • Named the MVP of the 1985 NL Championship Series
  • Finished 2nd in the MVP voting in 1987
  • Won the 1994 Branch Rickey Award and the 1995 Roberto Clemente Award for community service
  • OzzieSmith

    One of Ozzie’s most memorable career moments came with his bat, instead of his glove. In Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ozzie came to plate with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied 2-2. He hit a home run to end the game, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 victory. This was his first career left-handed HR, and was later voted by fans the great moment in Busch Stadium history. It was also immortalized by broadcaster Jack Buck’s call of “Go crazy folks! Go crazy!”

    OzzieSmith

    As an all-time Cardinal, Ozzie ranks 3rd in stolen bases, 7th in runs, 7th in hits, 10th in doubles, and 15th in RBIs.

    As one of the all-time Cardinal greats, he is immortalized with a statue outside of Busch Stadium.

    OzzieSmith

    Year    G    AB    R     H   2B  3B  HR  RBI   SB     BA    OPS
    1982  140   488   58   121   24   1   2   43   25  0.248  0.653
    1983  159   552   69   134   30   6   3   50   34  0.243  0.657
    1984  124   412   53   106   20   5   1   44   35  0.257  0.684
    1985  158   537   70   148   22   3   6   54   31  0.276  0.716
    1986  153   514   67   144   19   4   0   54   31  0.280  0.709
    1987  158   600  104   182   40   4   0   75   43  0.303  0.775
    1988  153   575   80   155   27   1   3   51   57  0.270  0.686
    1989  155   593   82   162   30   8   2   50   29  0.273  0.696
    1990  143   512   61   130   21   1   1   50   32  0.254  0.635
    1991  150   550   96   157   30   3   3   50   35  0.285  0.747
    1992  132   518   73   153   20   2   0   31   43  0.295  0.708
    1993  141   545   75   157   22   6   1   53   21  0.288  0.693
    1994   98   381   51   100   18   3   3   30    6  0.262  0.675
    1995   44   156   16    31    5   1   0   11    4  0.199  0.526
    1996   82   227   36    64   10   2   2   18    7  0.282  0.728
    STL  1990  7160  991  1944  338  50  27  664  433  0.272  0.694
    

    In 2002, Ozzie was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot where he was named on 91.7% of the ballots. He was the only player inducted that year.

    Growing up, Ozzie Smith was by far my favorite baseball player. This post was particularly hard to write because in my heart, I wanted to put Ozzie higher on the list. However, I forced myself to look at all of the statistics objectively.

    I’ve been an avid baseball card collector since I was in grade school. Even though it died down when I went away to college, I got back into it a little once I graduated and got a job. In the early 1990s, I began a quest to obtain every Ozzie Smith baseball card I could find – all years, all teams, all baseball card companies, you name it. To date, I have over 200 different Ozzie Smith cards – not every one ever made, but a large number of them.

    When Ozzie announced his retirement in 1996, I knew I wanted to be there for his last regular season game. As it turns out, the Cardinals also chose to retire his #1 uniform number that day as well. I was in the stands for 2 of the 3 games in that final weekend series – one where they had a reunion and honored the 1982 World Series Champions, and the other where Ozzie’s number was retired.

    Just over five years later, in July of 2002, Sara, Lizzy, and I made the pilgrimage to Cooperstown, NY for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for Ozzie. It was a remarkable site not only to visit the shrine of baseball, the Hall of Fame Museum, but also to see the thousands of people crammed into a tiny NY village to observe a piece of history. It’s a moment I will never forget.

    Ozzie Smith Hall of Fame Plaque

    Up next, #4.


    Video Links
    MLB.com #1 Greatest Defensive Play in Major League History
    Ozzie’s Signature Flip
    Ozzie’s Go Crazy Folks HR


    Links
    Ozzie Smith Wikipedia Page
    Baseball Reference Entry on Ozzie Smith
    Baseball Hall of Fame Page on Ozzie Smith
    Ozzie Smith page at MLB.com
    OzzieSmith.com (Coming Soon)

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