Born on December 26, 1954, in Mobile, Alabama, Ozzie Smith became one of baseball's most popular players thanks to his defensive prowess and showmanship. After four years with the San Diego Padres, "The Wizard of Oz" led the St. Louis Cardinals to the 1982 championship and two more World Series appearances. He retired after 19 years, with the most career assists and Gold Gloves for a shortstop.
Ozzie Smith was born Osborne Earl Smith on December 26, 1954, in Mobile, Alabama, and moved to south central Los Angeles with his family when he was 6.
An active child, Smith enjoyed playing ball and doing flips into piles of sawdust at a local lumberyard with friends, honing the skills that would eventually dazzle fans in big-league stadiums.
Smith played baseball at Locke High School with future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. A skinny slap-hitter, Smith was not considered a top prospect despite his defensive talents, and he accepted a partial scholarship to California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1977 draft by the San Diego Padres.
Smith spent one year in the minors before he was named the Padres' starting shortstop for the 1978 season. The 23-year-old immediately established himself as an elite fielder and placed second in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Before the last game of the season, a teammate convinced Smith to do a backflip on the field, beginning a tradition in which he opened and closed every season with one of his flips.
In 1980, Smith set a record for shortstops with 621 assists and won the first of 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence. However, he struggled to contribute on offense for the Padres, batting a combined .221 with no home runs from 1979-81.
Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1982 season, Smith became the cornerstone of a club that relied heavily on speed and defense, and helped the Cardinals win the 1982 World Series. In St. Louis "The Wizard of Oz" became one of the most popular players in baseball, a showman who earned top billing and top dollar for his fielding acrobatics. Nonetheless, he gradually made himself into a capable hitter as well.
Smith delivered the biggest hit of his career with a ninth-inning home run to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series, but the Cardinals went on to lose a heartbreaking World Series to the Kansas City Royals in seven games.
In 1987, Smith set career highs in batting average (.303), doubles (40), runs (104) and RBIs (75). He finished second in the NL MVP voting, and the Cardinals advanced to the World Series before enduring another seven-game loss, this time to the Minnesota Twins.
Although his playing time was limited in later years, Smith remained immensely popular with fans. He retired after the 1996 season, ending his 19-year run with 15 all-star selections, a shortstop-record 8,375 career assists, 2,460 hits and 580 stolen bases.
Shortly after retiring, Smith took over hosting duties for the popular "This Week in Baseball" television show. He also reported for the CNN/SI and FOX Sports networks.
"The Wizard of Oz" breezed into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2002, his first year of eligibility.
Smith currently serves as the Education Ambassador for the Hall of Fame, and spends much of his free time playing golf.
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