Ozzie Smith

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Ozzie Smith : biography

December 26, 1954 –

Smith missed the first month of the season with a hamstring injury, and continued to harbor ill feelings toward La Russa that had developed after spring training ended.Rains 2009: 186–187 In a closed-door meeting in mid-May, La Russa asked Smith if he would like to be traded. Instead, Smith and his agent negotiated a compromise with Cardinals management, agreeing to a buyout of special provisions in his contract in conjunction with Smith announcing his retirement. The agreement prompted a press conference at Busch Stadium on June 19, 1996, during which Smith announced he would retire from baseball at season’s end.Rains 2003: 252

As Smith made his final tour of the National League, he was honored by many teams, and received a standing ovation at the 1996 All-Star Game in Philadelphia. Between June 19 and September 1, Smith’s batting average increased from .239 to .286. On September 2 Smith tied a career high by scoring four runs, one of which was a home run, and another on a close play at home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning against division leader Houston.Hummel 2007: 129–135 The victory moved the Cardinals to within a half game of Houston in the National League Central Division, and the Cardinals went on to win the division by six games. The Cardinals held a special ceremony at Busch Stadium on September 28, 1996, before a game against the Cincinnati Reds, honoring Smith by retiring his uniform number. Noted for his ritual backflip before Opening Days, All-Star Games, and postseason games, Smith chose this occasion to perform it for one of the last times.

In the postseason, the Cardinals first faced the San Diego Padres in the 1996 National League Division Series. After sitting out Game 1, Smith got the start in Game 2 at Busch Stadium, helping his team go up two games in the series by notching a run, a hit and two walks at the plate, along with an assist and a putout in the field. The Cardinals then swept the series by winning Game 3 in San Diego.

The Cardinals faced the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 National League Championship Series. Smith started Game 1 and subsequently registered three putouts and one assist in the field, but went hitless in four at-bats in the Cardinals’ 4–2 loss. The Cardinals then won Games 2, 3, and 4, contests in which Smith did not appear. Upon receiving the start in Game 5, Smith nearly duplicated his Game 1 performance with four putouts, one assist, and zero hits in four at-bats as part of another Cardinals defeat. The Cardinals also failed to win Game 6 or Game 7 in Atlanta, ending their season. When the Cardinals were trailing by ten runs during Game 7 on October 17, Smith flied out to right field while pinch-hitting in the sixth inning, marking the end of his playing career. Smith finished his career with distinctions ranging from the accumulation of more than 27.5 million votes in All-Star balloting, to holding the record for the most MLB at-bats without hitting a grand slam.

Post-playing career

Upon retirement, Smith took over for Mel Allen as the host of the television series This Week in Baseball (TWIB) in 1997. Smith also became color commentator for the local broadcast of Cardinals games on KPLR-TV from 1997 to 1999.Robinson, Tom. "Ozzie Puts Down Glove, Picks Up Mike." The Virginian-Pilot. May 22, 1997: C1. Retrieved on 2007-12-28. When his stint on This Week in Baseball concluded, Smith then moved on to do work for CNN-SI beginning in 1999.Rains and Reid 2002: 109 After La Russa retired as manager of the Cardinals in 2011, Smith became active in the organization again, starting with his stint as a special instructor for the team’s 2012 spring training camp.

On January 8, 2002 Smith learned via a phone call he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot by receiving 91.7% of the votes cast.Rains and Reid 2002: 107 As it happened, the Olympic torch was passing through St. Louis on its way to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and Smith served as a torchbearer in a ceremony with St. Louis Rams’ quarterback Kurt Warner that evening.Smith and Rains 2002: 18–19 Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame during ceremonies on July 28, 2002. During his speech, he compared his baseball experiences with the characters from the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, after which his son Dustin presented his Hall of Fame plaque. Days later on August 11, Smith was back at Busch Memorial Stadium for the unveiling of a statue in his likeness made by sculptor Harry Weber. Weber chose to emphasize Smith’s defensive skills by showing Smith stretched horizontal to the ground while fielding a baseball. At the ceremony Weber told Smith, "You spent half of your career up in the air. That makes it difficult for a sculptor to do something with it."