Cardinals All-Time Top 40 – Ozzie Smith #5

The Top 40 countdown of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals of all time continues with their Hall of Fame shortstop, the Wizard of Oz, Ozzie Smith.

Osborne Earl Smith

The Basics




Total Yrs

Yrs in StL














The Awards


Retired #

World Champ



Cy Young

Gold Glove








Note: All stats and awards listed are for years as a Cardinal only.
Smith's career stats available from

"Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!"
- Jack Buck, October 14, 1985

Voter Comments

Rob Rains (5): When Garry Templeton got off to such a great start in his major-league career, people thought he had a chance to become the Cardinals' greatest all-time shortstop. The fact that he never reached that status had more to do with his own personal problems than it did his talent, but the player the Cardinals ended up acquiring in a trade for Templeton - Ozzie Smith - did reach that plateau.

Known as one of the best, if not the best, defensive shortstops of all time, Smith also made himself into a quality hitter. Only five players in team history had more hits than Smith, who ranks third all-time in games played and stolen bases and sixth in runs scored.

Many people didn't consider Smith that good an offensive player, but Smith himself said he never lost faith in his own ability. After winning the pivotal game five of the 1985 NL playoffs with a walk-off homer, Smith said, "I'm not supposed to be able to hit. But if I listened to all those things, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now. You've got to believe in yourself. I've always been taught you only get out of something what you put into it."

What he got was a Hall of Fame career.

Jerry Modene (5): Not much you can say about the greatest defensive shortstop in baseball history; the sabermetrics of today rate him low on the list of shortstops because they tend to undervalue defense and overrate offense – but Ozzie, despite his lack of power (27 career home runs) was nevertheless an offensive force with his .350 OBA and his 433 stolen bases (in 535 attempts, an 81% success rate).

When you add his unparalleled defensive abilities, you've got probably the second-or-third greatest shortstop in major league history (I'll cede to Honus Wagner, but only grudgingly cede to Cal Ripken – and I still believe that Ozzie is greater than Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter.)

Ozzie's last year in St. Louis, of course, poisoned his relationship with the club due to his dispute with Tony La Russa, a dispute which continues to this day, which makes me wish Ozzie would just grow up and get over it already.

Personally, I believed at the time – and still do – that Ozzie could have easily moved to second base to make room for the kid Clayton, just as Rabbit Maranville (a very similar player) did towards the end of his career. And, if you think about it, the Cardinals had little choice but to trade for Clayton, given that Ozzie was 42 and coming off an injury season in 1995 that had forced them to use the immortal Tripp Cromer for 100+ games.

Ray Mileur (8): I've been a baseball fan for over 40 years and "The Wizard of Oz" is without a doubt the greatest defensive player in my lifetime. A 13-time Gold Glove Award winner, the fleet-footed and acrobatic Smith used his glove and athletic skill to make plays for the St. Louis Cardinals that seemed impossible to the mere mortal.

It is a sad that following his retirement from baseball, Smith has refused to associate himself with the Cardinals in any official capacity. Smith has stated time and time again that he will not work with the organization as long as Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is still at the helm. Smith is still upset about La Russa giving the starting shortstop job to Royce Clayton in 1996 instead of him. I would have gone with the 41-year old Smith in 1996 over Clayton, as he actually had a better spring training than Clayton, but no matter what, it is time to get over it.

Smith retired after the 1996 season, the same year the Cardinals retired his number, and in his 19 major league seasons he compiled a .262 batting average, 2,460 hits, 580 stolen bases, 13 Gold Glove Awards, and was named to 15 All-Star teams. The Wizard was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002, and is only the 37th of the 252 players elected to the Hall of Fame to be so honored in his first year of eligibility.

Brian Walton (5): I still remember my acute anger that day almost exactly 25 years ago, February 11, 1982, when the Cardinals traded away their immensely talented, but troubled All-Star shortstop Garry Templeton for some anonymous punch-and-judy guy from the San Diego Padres.

I cursed Whitey Herzog for adding to a long list of one-sided, bone-headed dump trades of Cardinals stars, joining the likes of Steve Carlton and Ted Simmons. I was partially right – it was a one-sided deal – one of the most so in franchise history. That day, the Cardinals added a future Hall of Famer and one of their most popular players ever.

Ozzie Smith's greatness has been recognized in so many ways. In 1987, he was the runner-up in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting to the Cubs' Andre Dawson. In 1991, his eight errors all season set an all-time major league low by a shortstop. He owns MLB career records for assists, chances accepted and double plays at the position. Underlining his broad-based fan support, Smith had collected more All-Star Game votes than any other player in league history upon his retirement.

Simply put, pound for pound, the Cardinals' 150-pound shortstop was the best player of his era and under that criterion might have been the best to ever play the game.

Voter Comments Key: Voter (Individual Ranking); NR = Not Rated

Master List: To see our entire list of the greatest 40 Cardinals players of all-time as they are unveiled daily, click here.

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