This article marks three years that I’ve written my Sports Junkie website. Thanks for your interest, and for the many e-mails you send me. It’s quite gratifying. As you know, I answer each and every e-mail. Cheers.
Now to something less gratifying. The Dodgers, playing far better than anyone might have suspected pre-season, just cannot handle success. They traded the heart and soul of the team and a tremendous catcher and leader, Paul LoDuca, and a great set-up man, Guillermo Mota, along with Juan Encarnacion to the Marlins for a fine starter, Brad Penny, a questionable first baseman in Not-Much-Joy Choi and a minor leaguer. This trade absolutely sucks! It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings, but she’s singing away. The Dodgers simply love to shoot themselves in the foot, ala Mike Piazza. The point; if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Charles Johnson, you’re right; I wouldn’t want to play for the Dodgers either! I have two home-towns, St. Louis and Los Angeles, and I had two favorite teams; now it’s down to one. Go Cardinals! (If I’m wrong about this trade, I’ll eat humble pie at season’s end and admit it on this website.)
Story of the Week
After all the years he performed as the best shortstop in baseball history, I find it humorous that I still remember the error he made in the 1987 All Star Game. Caught in a rare moment of imperfection, he bobbled Alan Trammell’s grounder. I guess I remember it because it was so rare for the incomparable Ozzie Smith to blow a play.
Whitey Herzog, himself a star at his position, that position being manager, stated that "The Wizard Of Oz" was responsible for saving at least 75 runs per season with his unrivalled glove work. I believe Herzog’s opinion was an understatement of Ozzie’s defensive importance to the Cards. Winning the Gold Glove was the rule for Ozzie; he won 13 of them. In fact, his 13 consecutive Gold Gloves broke the NL record held by Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. As proof of his importance to the Cards as a great defensive star, in that very year, 1987, Ozzie was the highest paid player in baseball.
To further embellish his defensive accomplishments, in 19 seasons with the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals, Ozzie set major league career shortstop records for assists, double plays, and total chances. Smith also set MLB records for most years of leading in those same categories.
So much for Ozzie, the defensive star. Time for offense. During his four years in San Diego, Smith averaged just .230 at the plate. He was determined to change that as a Cardinal, and did. Herzog acknowledged that he’s never seen anyone work on his hitting as hard as Ozzie did, and it paid off. As a Cardinal for 11 years, switch-hitting Ozzie’s batting average was .271. That average includes his first three years in St. Louis as a mediocre hitter working to be a better one. He finished his career with a most respectable 2,460 hits and 580 stolen bases.
Smith’s third and final World Series appearance would come in 1987 in arguably his best offensive season. He was rewarded with finishing second to Andre Dawson in MVP voting in the NL. He hit .303 that season, with 43 stolen bases, 40 doubles, and 104 runs scored. He also drove in 75 runs hitting second in the lineup; that’s not an easy feat.
What St. Louis fans and I will always remember is Ozzie taking the field at Busch Stadium, and literally doing back-flips to his shortstop position. The acrobatic Ozzie back-flipped his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. Again, he is the very best shortstop baseball has ever seen.
Last Week’s Trivia
Rogers Hornsby of the Cardinals in 1922 and 1925, and Ted Williams of the Red Sox in 1942 and 1947, are the only two MLB players to win the Triple Crown more than once.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the first heavyweight fighter to regain the title in his very next fight from the man who had beaten him? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.