I saw that December 26 was Ozzie Smith’s 67th birthday.
It reminded me of the fact that 40 years ago Cardinal fans received the best early Christmas present ever. NEVER.
According to Wikipedia, it was on December 10, 1981 that Whitey Herzog conceived the business that brought Ozzie from the San Diego Padres to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The future Hall of Famer entered the majors with the Padres in 1978 and quickly gained a reputation as a dazzling outfield, but not much of a hitter.
Although Ozzie had already started his streak of Golden Gloves and All-Star Game appearances, he and his agent grew unhappy with the Padres’ handling.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, the Cardinals already had a very good shortstop at Garry Templeton. But, at the end of Season 81, Templeton drew the wrath of Cardinal Nation and Templeton responded with an obscene gesture to fans and was immediately removed from the game.
With Herzog tasked with re-equipping the Cardinals, he sought to get rid of Templeton. Despite a no-trade clause in his contract, the Padres have told Herzog that Smith could 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 improved considerably as a hitter, while continuing to claim the title of best shortstop to ever play.
Of course, any story about Ozzie Smith has to include the only home run he ever hit with his left hand, in 1985.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Happy birthday, Wizard of Oz.