It was on this date that Ozzie Smith was born Osborne Earl Smith on December 26, 1954, in Mobile, Alabama, and moved to south central Los Angeles with his family when he was 6.
Smith played baseball at Locke High School with future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. A skinny slap-hitter, Smith was not considered a top prospect despite his defensive talents, and he accepted a partial scholarship to California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1977 draft by the San Diego Padres.
Smith spent one year in the minors before he was named the Padres’ starting shortstop for the 1978 season. The 23-year-old immediately established himself as an elite fielder and placed second in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Before the last game of the season, a teammate convinced Smith to do a backflip on the field, beginning a tradition in which he opened and closed every season with one of his flips.
In 1980, Smith set a record for shortstops with 621 assists and won the first of 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence. However, he struggled to contribute on offense for the Padres, batting a combined .221 with no home runs from 1979-81.
Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1982 season, Smith became the cornerstone of a club that relied heavily on speed and defense, and helped the Cardinals win the 1982 World Series. In St. Louis “The Wizard of Oz” became one of the most popular players in baseball, a showman who earned top billing and top dollar for his fielding acrobatics. Nonetheless, he gradually made himself into a capable hitter as well
Happy Birthday Ozzie!! Well wishes from Cardinal Red Baseball!!