Osborne Earl Smith was introduced to this world on December 26, 1954 in Mobile, Alabama. He is widely cited as the greatest defensive baseball player of all time, and he has carried the nickname, “The Wizard of Oz”.
Ozzie went to Locke High School in South Los Angeles where he played baseball with Eddie Murray. He was first selected in the amateur entry draft in 1976, when he was drafted in the 7th round by the Detroit Tigers. However, Ozzie and the Tigers were unable to agree on contract parameters, and he went back into the draft pool the following season, where he was drafted in the 4th round by the San Diego Padres.
After only one season in the minor leagues, Ozzie broke in with the Padres in 1978 when he was 23 years old. So, even though Ozzie had conversation with the Detroit Tigers foremost, Ozzie actually started his career by playing for the San Diego Padres from 1978 to 1981.
Ozzie was acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals (where he made his mark) through a trade with the Padres in exchange for Gary Templeton in 1981. Although fans originally thought the Padres got the better deal, Ozzie became one of the most popular Cardinals of the 1980’s.
Ozzie promptly led the Cardinals to the World Series in 1982, where they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers four games to three. Ozzie was never considered much of a home-run hitter, but the team reached the World Series yet again in 1985, thanks in large part to Ozzie’s game winning home-run in the NLCS against Tom Niedenfuer of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lost that World Series to the Kansas City Royals, and yet again lost the 1987 World Series to the Minnesota Twins. Ozzie’s greatest season came in 1987 when he had a batting average of .303, 43 stolen bases, 75 RBIs, 104 runs scored, and 40 doubles. Ozzie mostly batted second in the lineup.
Even though, Ozzie’s batting in a normal season usually wasn’t “that great”, he made some improvement over the years, however it wasn’t his batting anyways that drew attention to him. He was known for his fast, flexible, maneuvering on the field. Yes, great defensive player. He was probably the best shortstop of all time.
Ozzie was a shortstop all 2,573 games of his career. Out of those, there were only 62 in which he did not field. Ozzie led in “at-bats” in the year of 1981 with a total of 450. He played in 21 World Series games. All of the World Series games that Ozzie played in were decided by the seventh game. He was part of the 1982 WS, 1985 NL, and 1987 NL Championship teams. Ozzie won 13 Gold Glove Honors, and in 1985 he was the NLCS MVP. Over his 19-year career, Ozzie had 580 stolen bases.
Ozzie retired from baseball in 1996 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. He was also inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, and he was only the 37th of the 252 players elected to the Hall of Fame to be so honored in his first year of eligibility.