Forgotten Friars: Ozzie Smith


Ozzie Smith was perhaps the best defensive shortstop to ever play the game. Before starring with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Wizard of Oz flashed the leather for the Padres from 1978 to 1981. Disagreements with management led to Smith’s trade to the Cards prior to the 1982 season, where he remained until 1996. 

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The Wizard’s San Diego career was primarily about defensive brilliance, as his bat was basically absent during his Padre years. In his four years with the team, his career numbers were .231 with a single home run and 129 RBI in 563 games. Smith stole 147 bases with the Friars as well. His famous backflip ritual started with the last home game of his rookie season. Smith made his first All-Star Game appearance and won the first two of his many Gold Gloves during his Padre career as well.

Smith was traded from the Padres due to management being angry with Ozzie and his agent, Ed Gottlieb. This anger began with Gottlieb taking out an ad in San Diego papers asking for part-time employment for Smith to supplement his baseball income prior to the 1980 season. Gottlieb had done this as a result of irritation with San Diego’s stance during contract negotiations at the time.

From 1982 to until his retirement after the 1996 season, Smith was the shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, where he truly earned his Wizard of Oz nickname. He won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves and appeared in 14 All Star Games while in St. Louis. He also appeared in the World Series three different times while with the Cards. One of the highlights of that time was his blast off of Dodgers’ reliever Tom Niedenfuer in the 1985 NLCS.

Ozzie’s been fairly quiet since his retirement after the 1996 season. Since 2012, he’s been a special instructor for the Cardinals during Spring Training. He also hosted This Week In Baseball from 1997 to 1999. He also appeared on CNN-SI and St. Louis television station KPLR.