Ozzie Smith

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Ozzie Smith : biography

December 26, 1954 –

1987–1990

After hitting in either the second or eighth spot in the batting order for most of his time in St. Louis, Herzog made Smith the number-two hitter full-time during the 1987 season.Herzog and Pitts 1999: 95 Over the course of the year, Smith accrued a .303 batting average, 43 stolen bases, 75 RBIs, 104 runs scored, and 40 doubles, good enough to earn him the Silver Slugger Award at shortstop. In addition to winning the Gold Glove Award at shortstop for the eighth consecutive time, Smith posted a career-high on-base percentage of .392. Smith was also the leading vote-getter in the 1987 All-Star Game.Smith and Rains 1988: 160 The Cardinals earned a postseason berth with 95 wins, and subsequently faced the San Francisco Giants in the 1987 National League Championship Series. Smith contributed a triple during the series, and the Cardinals won the contest in seven games.Nemec and Wisnia 2002: 441

The 1987 World Series matched the Cardinals against the American League champion Minnesota Twins. The home team won every game of the contest, as Minnesota won the series.Schoor 1990: 370–371 In 28 at bats during the Series, Smith scored three runs and had two RBIs. Smith finished second in MVP balloting to Andre Dawson, who had played on the last-place Chicago Cubs, largely because Smith and teammate Jack Clark split the first-place vote. Following the 1987 season, Smith was awarded the largest contract in the National League at $2,340,000.

While the team did not see the postseason for the remainder of the decade, Smith continued to rack up All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves. Combined with the attention he received from his contract, Smith continued to be a national figure. Known as a savvy dresser, he made the April 1988 cover of GQ magazine.Boswell, Thomas. "The Wizardry of Ozzie Smith." GQ. April 1988. Smith was witness to change within the Cardinal organization when owner Gussie Busch died in 1989 and Herzog quit as manager during the 1990 season.Hummel 2007: 121–123

1990–1995

Joe Torre became Smith’s new manager in 1990, but the team did not reach the postseason during Torre’s nearly five-year tenure.Rains 2003: 251–252 While the Cardinals celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1992, Smith marked milestones of his own, stealing his 500th career base on April 26, then notching a triple on May 26 in front of the home crowd for his 2,000th hit.Rains 2003: 251 St. Louis had a one-game lead in the National League East division on June 1, 1992, but injuries took their toll on the team, including Smith’s two-week illness in late July after contracting chicken pox for the first time. As a testament to his national visibility during this time, Smith appeared in a 1992 episode of The Simpsons titled "Homer at the Bat". Smith became a free agent for the first time in his career on November 2, 1992, only to sign a new contract with the Cardinals on December 6.

Smith won his final Gold Glove in 1992, and his 13 consecutive Gold Gloves at shortstop in the National League has yet to be matched. The 1993 season marked the only time between 1981 and 1996 that Smith failed to make the All-Star team, and Smith finished the 1993 season with a .288 batting average and .974 fielding percentage. He appeared in 98 games during the strike-shortened 1994 season, and later missed nearly three months of the 1995 season after shoulder surgery on May 31. Smith was recognized for his community service efforts with the 1994 Branch Rickey Award and the 1995 Roberto Clemente Award. In February 1994, Smith took on the role of honorary chairman and official spokesman for the Missouri Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health.

1996

As Smith entered the 1996 season, he finalized a divorce from his wife Denise during the first half of the year.Rains and Reid 2002: 110 Meanwhile, manager Tony La Russa began his first season with the Cardinals in tandem with a new ownership group. After General Manager Walt Jocketty acquired shortstop Royce Clayton during the offseason, La Russa emphasized an open competition for the spot that would give the Cardinals the best chance to win.Rains 2009: 183–184 When spring training concluded, Smith had amassed a .288 batting average and zero errors in the field, and Clayton batted .190 with eight errors. Smith believed he had earned the position with his spring training performance, but La Russa disagreed, and awarded Clayton the majority of playing time in the platoon situation that developed, where Smith typically saw action every third game.Rains 2009: 187 La Russa said, "I think it’s fair to say he misunderstood how he compared to Royce in spring training…When I and the coaches evaluated the play in spring training—the whole game—Royce started very slowly offensively and you could see him start to get better. By what he was able to do defensively and on the bases, Royce deserved to play the majority of the games."Rains 2009: 185–186