Ozzie Smith

Position: Shortstop
Teams: San Diego Padres, 1978-1981; St. Louis Cardinals, 1982-1996

Ozzie Smith
Ozzie Smith finished his career with
8,375 assists and 1,590 double plays --
both all-time records for a shortstop.

When Ozzie "The Wizard" Smith was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, it wasn't because of his 2,460 career hits, his 580 stolen bases, or his 1,257 runs -- even though those skills helped make him one of the best all-around shortstops ever. Smith reached the Hall because of his defense. It brought him to the major leagues after just 69 games in the minors, kept him there until age 41, and earned him 13 consecutive Gold Gloves at short and 15 All-Star appearances.

In his first year with the San Diego Padres, Smith (born 1954) made what is considered one of the best individual plays ever by an infielder. On April 20, 1978, he dove for a ball hit up the middle by Atlanta's Jeff Burroughs. When the ball took a wicked hop, Ozzie speared it barehanded -- while still in midair -- and got up in time to throw Burroughs out. He went on to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting.

In his early years, Smith's glovework helped make up for an anemic stick. While he stole 147 bases for the Padres from 1978 to 1981, he batted just .258, .211, .230, and .222. In February 1982, he was traded to St. Louis for Garry Templeton.

The trade was great both for Smith and the Redbirds. Busch Stadium's artificial turf helped Ozzie receive true hops on grounders and allowed him to better utilize his quickness on offense. The Cardinals played a speed-oriented game, and Smith became a classic No. 2 hitter, drawing walks, slapping singles, and running at will. He rarely struck out and could drive the ball well enough to leg out doubles and triples.

While Smith didn't generally rate high in Most Valuable Player voting, he finished a strong second to Andre Dawson in 1987. Posting career highs in average (.303), RBI (75), walks (89), and runs (104), Ozzie helped the Cardinals to their second NL pennant in three seasons.

Smith in his early days was an acrobatic defender with a strong arm. Over the years, he lost mobility but became an expert at positioning himself and improving his throwing mechanics to get rid of the ball more quickly. His trademark pregame backflip thrilled Cardinals supporters and won him legions of young fans nationwide.

The durable Smith played 150 or more games 10 times before wearing down in the early 1990s. A serious shoulder injury in 1995 slowed him, and after a .282 performance in 1996 he retired to the broadcast booth. He finished his career with 8,375 assists and 1,590 double plays -- both all-time records for a shortstop -- and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Here are Ozzie Smith's major league totals:


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