Monday, July 22, 2013

#40 Ozzie Smith

About the Front: It's nice to see the Wizard of Oz taking some time from his pregame ritual to sign autographs for enemy fans in Pittsburgh. Can you imagine being the bespectacled youngster to the left and spotting yourself clear as day on Ozzie Smith's baseball card? That kid appears to be staring a hole right through the photographer. At the very least, he could've smiled for the camera.

About the Back: Ozzie made it 16 straight 20-steal seasons in 1993, but at 38 he was hearing footsteps. He was 21-for-30 as a base thief, a mediocre 70% success rate. Smith totaled only 224 games over the next three seasons before retiring at the end of 1996. He wound up with 580 stolen bases, good for 22nd all-time as of this writing.

Triple Play:

1. Smith has a reputation as the greatest defensive shortstop of all time, thanks to a preponderance of acrobatic and far-ranging plays over the years. He won 13 straight Gold Gloves from 1980 through 1992. If you're more sabermetrically-inclined, Oz also ranks first all-time in Baseball Reference's career defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat with 43.4. The runner-up is Mark Belanger, at 39.4.

2. Though Ozzie totaled only 28 home runs in a 19-year career, he hit a very memorable homer in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. With the series and the game each tied 2-2, the slap-hitting shortstop deposited a Tom Niedenfuer pitch over the right field fence for a walkoff shot in the bottom of the ninth inning. Legendary Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck instructed fans to "go crazy", and St. Louis finished off the Dodgers in Los Angeles two days later to earn a World Series berth.

3. His son Nikko appeared on American Idol in 2005, finishing ninth in the televised singing competition.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This may have been the first card I ever saw with a player signing autographs. I was never assertive enough to go hunting for autographs myself. Even now, I generally only get player signatures through the mail or at advertised appearances.

Bill James Said: "He isn't everything he once was, I suppose, but if you don't want him, give me a call."

On This Date in 1993: July 22. James R. Jordan, Sr., father of Michael Jordan, was shot and killed as part of a robbery at a rest stop in North Carolina. This was one of several factors in MJ's sudden retirement from the NBA shortly thereafter.


  1. Man, this is a great card. That kid is pretty awesome looking, as is Ozzie.

    Bill James sums it up nicely, I'm really digging his portion of these posts.

  2. I would love to find that kid. Hey, card bloggers:


    Google was no help, but I now need to know who this kid is, how he grew up, and if he even knows he was on the card. Damn, I love the internet...

    Kevin, make this happen.

  3. Backstop - With 20 years' hindsight, it's fascinating to see how often James is on the mark with his analysis.

    Max - Maybe we should put him on the "Missed Connections" board on Craigslist?