Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith is known in the baseball sphere as the best defensive shortstop of all time. Ozzie played in Major League Baseball for 19 years, the first four with the San Diego Padres and the last 15 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Truly living up to his nickname, Ozzie’s performance with his glove was magic. Ozzie retired from baseball in 1996, leaving behind him a sweet legacy of 15 All-Star selections, a shortstop-record 8,375 career assists, 2,460 hits and 580 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002, as well as the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Walk of Fame, and the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 2014.
Ozzie got his start as the fourth round pick in the 1977 draft by the San Diego Padres. After a year in the minors, he was named starting shortstop for the Padres 1978 season. The young rookie let his talent, as well as his personality, shine early on, placing second in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting after Bob Horner, and with the encouragement of veteran teammate Gene Tenace, he started his wildly popular tradition of doing a backflip on the field at the opening and closing of every season. In 1980, Smith showed his athletic prowess setting a record for shortstops with 621 assists. He went on to win the first of 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards for his excellence in the field, which has yet to be matched.
Prior to the 1982 season, Ozzie was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, and that same year, became one of the most well-known and liked players in baseball with his showmanship and talent, while simultaneously leading the Cardinals to victory in the 1982 World Series. He again led the team to the National League Championship Series in 1985, where he hit his famous game-winning home run against Dodgers closer Tom Niedenfuer during Game 5. In the 1987 season, Ozzie earned the Silver Slugger Award at shortstop for the eighth consecutive time, as well as leading the vote-getter in the 1987 All-Star Game. Later that year, he led the team to the National League Championship Series, and after contributing a triple during the season, won the contest in seven games.
After he retired in 1996, sports speaker Ozzie Smith took over for Mel Allen as the host for the television show “This Week In Baseball,” from 1997 to 1999, as well as reporting for the CNN/SI and FOX Sports networks and serving as the color commentator for the local broadcast of Cardinals games on KPLR-TV. In the same year as his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Ozzie served as a torchbearer, alongside St. Louis Rams’ quarterback Kurt Warner, for a ceremony in St. Louis as it was passing through on its way to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Interested in entrepreneurial efforts as well, Ozzie opened up “Ozzie’s,” a restaurant and sports bar, in 1988, started a youth sports academy in 1990, and partook in various other business ventures, including authoring a children’s book in 2006 and launching his own brand of salad dressing in 2008. Known to be a stylish dresser, Ozzie made the April 1988 cover of GQ Magazine, as well as appearing in a 1992 episode of The Simpsons titled “Homer at the Bat.” He currently serves as the Education Ambassador for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and honorary chairman and official spokesman for the Missouri Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health, as well as receiving honors for his community service efforts with the 1994 Branch Rickey Award and the 1995 Roberto Clemente Aware.