His nicknames were as magical as his game. Ozzie Smith, “The Wizard,” or “The Wizard of Oz,” is a retired major league baseball legend who holds the record for career assists (8,375) at shortstop. A 15-time All-Star, 13-time Golden Glove winner and Baseball Hall of Famer, Smith also holds the National League record of 2,511 games at his position. He finished his career with 2,400 hits and 500 stolen bases.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Smith was raised in the Watts section of Los Angeles. In 1977, San Diego Padres drafted him in the fourth round. When Smith couldn’t see eye to eye with Padres’ ownership, Cardinals owner Whitey Herzog stepped in.
On February 11, 1982, Smith became a St. Louis Cardinal. With Smith’s help, the Cardinals won the World Series that same year. In 1985, when Smith hit the winning home run in the 1985 National League Championship, he inspired announcer Jack Buck’s famous “Go crazy folks!” call. Smith was also known for his signature backflips when taking the field. Smith retired in 1996 and the St. Louis Cardinals retired his jersey.
He worked as a baseball analyst after retiring from the game among other post-game pursuits including a short-lived restaurant, a children’s book, and a youth academy. In recent years, Smith returned to the Cardinals as a special instructor during spring training. Smith is not the only star in the family – his son, Nikko, was a top 10 finalist on American Idol in 2005. In 2002, Smith was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot.
(Photo: PR Photos)