Ozzie Smith

Ozzie Smith

Osborne Earl Smith, better known as Ozzie Smith, is a retired professional baseball player who played for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals. He was born on December 26, 1954 in Mobile, Alabama and was one of six children born to Clovi and Marvella Smith. Smith quotes his mother as being one of the strongest positive influences in his life, and someone who always encouraged him to reach for the stars. His family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1960, when Smith was 6 years of age. He was active in many sports since his childhood, including basketball and baseball, and played on both teams at Locke High School. One of his basketball teammates was Marques Johnson, future NBA star, and on the baseball team he played with Eddie Murray, who was a future baseball star like him. He received a partial sports scholarship at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. During his tenure there, he was named an All American athlete and established many school records.

In 1977, he was selected in the amateur draft by the Detroit Tigers. He played in the minor leagues for one year before being transferred to the majors. His speed and agility made him one of the best fielders in the league, and starting from 1980, he won 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards for excellence in fielding, a record which has yet to be matched or beaten. His exceptional athleticism earned him the nickname of “The Wizard of Oz”, often shortened to “The Wizard”. During his first year in the league, he finished at second place in the rankings for “National League Rookie of the Year Award”. His batting average, however, was below par and he was unable to score any home runs between 1979 to 1981.

Before the start of the 1982 season, Ozzie Smith was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and his first year on the team, he helped them to win the World Series. His performance with the Cardinals was a marked improvement from his previous team, and he gradually improved his stats with the course of time. One of the most important runs he scored was a ninth innings home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers, propelling the Cardinals to victory. His all time career high statistics were in 1987, when he scored 40 doubles, 104 runs and 75 RBIs with a batting average of .303. The next season, he was paid the largest salary in the National League, that is, $2.34 million. In 1992, Smith reached one of the biggest milestones of his career, that is, stealing his 500th career base. Just one month later, he scored his 2000th hit in front of his home crowd.

Between 1981 and 1996, Smith was selected to the All-Star team every year, except for 1993. In 1994 and 1995 he was awarded the Branch Rickey Award and Roberto Clemente Award respectively, in recognition of his community service and contribution. He announced his retirement in 1996, and received tremendous appreciation and applause from the other teams and fans, including a standing ovation at the 1996 All Star Game. During his career, Ozzie Smith had often performed back flips on the field to celebrate, and at this game, he performed it for one of the last times in his career. After retirement, he became a host on the popular sports show “This Week in Baseball”. He has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and also included in the list of “100 Greatest Baseball Players”.

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