By Devon POV Mason | MLBbro.com Contributor
While Major League Baseball may be a little bit more conservative than the other pro sports, some players still are able to transcend the game with such swag, cultural dominance and elite skills that they grow into larger than life figures.
For example Babe Ruth, was one of the United States’ first celebrity athletes. Derek Jeter would follow in his footsteps, transforming from a quiet workhorse into a ladies-loving Yankees legend.
In St.Louis however, few men stole the spotlight quite like Ozzie Smith.
While Smith’s defensive skills were unforgettable, it’s been over 20 years since we last saw Ozzie shine at shortstop. We still haven’t found anyone who could duplicate his unprecedented greatness with the web.
After spending years of his life in Alabama, Smith and his family moved to Los Angeles. In California, he began to show the athleticism that would later make him famous.
In high school he played both basketball and baseball. While he didn’t earn any major league attention (three of his teammates were drafted) the shortstop did earn a partial scholarship to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. That was hardly a ticket to success however.
In college, Smith managed to walk onto the baseball team and when the starting shortstop broke his leg, Ozzie got his chance to shine. He would take advantage of the opportunity and develop into an All-America, while garnering plenty of professional attention.
He was initially drafted by the Detroit Tigers, but he and the team couldn’t agree to terms. So he returned to school for his senior year and was then drafted by the San Diego Padres.
Early in his career, Ozzie Smith became involved in a bitter contract dispute with the Padres and was shipped to the St.Louis Cardinals.
That move as we all know changed the trajectory of his career. In fact in his first season in the Midwest, Smith helped the Cards win the World Series.
The club would capture two more pennants but no more titles during his career. In 1985, Ozzie did his part hitting one of the most iconic home runs in baseball history.
During his career, Smith won 13 Gold Gloves and redefined what it meant to be a middle infielder. While never really known as an offensive threat, he still developed into a capable batter.
By the time he retired he was a .262 career hitter, with a .337 on-base percentage. His defense and backflips however, became the stuff of legends. The Cardinals retired his jersey in 1996, and in 2002 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and would forever be immortalized in Cooperstown.
Since retired, he’s dabbled in a few business ventures, and he also became the president of the Gateway PGA Reach Foundation.
The Foundation is a charitable arm of the PGA, dedicated to “positively impacting the lives of youth, military, and diverse populations by enabling access to PGA professionals, PGA Sections and the game of golf. Smith’s branch serves the Gateway section of the country, which includes parts of Illinois and Missouri.
While Ozzie Smith might have made his name on the baseball, St. Louis sports fans of every discipline came to love the Wizard of Oz.
His new role might not be much different. He’s still giving those in “The Lou” something to cheer about. He’s undisputably the best shortstop to ever do it and we need more Black shortstops in MLB if we ever want to surpass the all-encompassing magnificence of the GOAT.