Happy Birthday Ozzie Smith-Cardinals’ Best Christmas Gift Ever
I saw that December 26 is Ozzie Smith's 67th birthday.
That brought to mind the fact that it was 40 years ago that Cardinal fans got the best early Christmas present ever. EV-ER.
According to Wikipedia, it was December 10, 1981 that Whitey Herzog engineered the trade that brought Ozzie from the San Diego Padres to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The future Hall of Famer came to the majors with the Padres in 1978, and quickly gained a reputation as a dazzling fielder, but not much of a hitter.
Although Ozzie had already begun his string of Gold Gloves and All-Star Game appearances, he and his agent became unhappy with the Padres' management.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, the Cardinals already had a very good shortstop in Garry Templeton. But, late in the '81 season, Templeton drew the ire of Cardinal Nation and Templeton responded by making an obscene gesture to the fans and was immediately pulled from the game.
With Herzog given the task of retooling the Cardinals, he was looking to get rid of Templeton. Despite a no-trade clause in his contract, the Padres told Herzog that Smith might be available.
After listening to Herzog's sales pitch, Ozzie decided that St. Louis was where he wanted to be. He came to St. Louis, the Cardinals won the World Championship in 1982, and the rest is history.
Smith spent 15 years as a Cardinal. He vastly improved as a hitter, while he continued to stake his claim as arguably the best shortstop to ever play the game.
Of course, any story on Ozzie Smith has got to include the only home run he ever hit left-handed, in 1985.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Happy birthday, Wizard of Oz.