HT: 5-10; WT: 180
BORN: 12/26/1954 in Mobile, Ala.
YEARS WITH CARDINALS: 1982-96
NUMBER RETIRED: 1996
Ozzie Smith is widely regarded as the finest fielding shortstop of all time. But, after being labeled as a good-field, no-hit performer early in his career, he developed into a bona fide offensive threat, as well.
The Cardinals acquired Smith from the San Diego Padres in exchange for shortstop Garry Templeton on Feb. 11, 1982. It proved to be one of the greatest trades in franchise history. Smith was a key element in St. Louis' success in the 1980s, and he became one of the city's most-popular citizens.
A lifetime .231 batter when he arrived in St. Louis, Smith promptly improved that figure to .248 for the 1982 season as the Cardinals won the World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1985, Smith batted at a .276 clip with a career-high six home runs and 54 RBI. He stunned the baseball world with a game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The blast – on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Tom Niedenfuer – was Smith's first as a left-handed batter in 3,009 at-bats and prompted Cardinals' broadcaster Jack Buck to exclaim, "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!" Smith put together his finest season at the plate in 1987, with career highs of a .303 average and 75 RBI, as the Cardinals captured their third N.L. pennant in six seasons. He finished as runner-up for the Most Valuable Player Award to Andre Dawson of the Chicago Cubs.
Throughout his offensive progression, Smith seemingly made every play defensively, both the routine and the spectacular. "The Wizard" won 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards between 1980 and 1992, setting a major league record with an all-time low of eight errors in 1991. Smith's most eye-popping play came Aug. 5, 1986, against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium. He took off on a short fly ball to left field hit by Von Hayes and, with his back to the plate, flew parallel to the ground and completely stretched out to make the catch. Among shortstops, Smith is baseball's career leader in assists (8,375) and ranks second in total chances (12,905) and double plays (1,590). He led the N.L. in fielding percentage seven times and had a career .978 mark. In 2007, Smith was named the shortstop on the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove team, selected to honor the 50th anniversary of the Gold Glove Award.
Smith was selected to 15 All-Star Games and started 11 of them. At the time of his retirement following the 1996 season, he had received more votes in fan balloting for the Midsummer Classic than any other player in N.L. history (27,597,904). On the Cardinals' career lists, Smith ranks third in at-bats (7,160), walks (876) and stolen bases (433), fourth in games played (1,990), seventh in runs (991) and eighth in hits (1,944).
Held in high esteem for his civic-mindedness, Smith received the Lou Gehrig Award (presented to the player who best exhibits the character and integrity of Lou Gehrig both on and off the field) in 1989, the Branch Rickey Award (in recognition of his exceptional community service) in 1994 and the Roberto Clemente Award (presented to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team) in 1995.
Smith was a first-ballot National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee in 2002, earning 92 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America, and an inaugural member of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014. He was voted the shortstop on the All-Busch Stadium II team in 2005.