Osborne Earl Smith, known as Ozzie Smith (born December 26, 1954 in Mobile, Alabama), is a former shortstop in Major League Baseball, a 13-time Gold Glove Award winner who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. He is widely cited as the greatest defensive player of all time, hence his nickname "The Wizard of Oz".
Smith broke in with the San Diego Padres, and then was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. He promptly led the team to the World Series championship in his first year, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 4 games to 3. The team reached the World Series again in 1985, thanks in large part to a game winning home run Smith hit in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They went on to lose the Series to the Kansas City Royals in seven games. They also lost the 1987 World Series to the Minnesota Twins in seven games.
Template:MLB HoF A weak hitter early in his career, Smith improved at the plate through the years. He never had much power; however, because of his speed and somewhat average hitting skills he developed over the years, he was able to serve as a competent leadoff hitter. His real asset was his glove, with which he often won more ball games than the hitters on his team did. Smith also had some speed, and had 580 steals in his total career, good for 20th on the all-time list.
Ozzie's greatest season came in 1987, when he had a .303 batting average, 43 stolen bases, 75 RBIs, 104 runs scored, and 40 doubles en route to helping the Cardinals get into the playoffs, although he did not hit a home run that season. Smith mostly batted second in the lineup that year with his plate discipline allowing leadoff hitter Vince Coleman to steal over 100 bases.
It was one of the best seasons ever recorded by a weak power leadoff hitter like Smith (who had no home runs that season). He 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 highest contract in the National League at $2,340,000. He continued to be a good leadoff hitter with savvy baserunning skills and excellent fielding for the rest of his career.
Smith is only the 37th player of the 252 elected to the Hall to date to be so honored in his first year of eligibility.
- Link to Ozzie Smith's page in the Baseball Hall of Fame website
- Ozzie's Restaurant & Sports Bar in St. Louis