RSBS Sits Down with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith

ozzie smith 85 nlcs.jpgGrowing up a kid in America is synonymous with being a dreamer.  We’re taught that anything is possible if we’re dedicated, if we work hard.  And we often model ourselves after those we look up to, our heroes.

I always had two: my dad, whom I got to see everyday, and St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop, Ozzie Smith.  Many a summer afternoon was spent in the backyard… swinging like Ozzie, diving like Ozzie, smiling like Ozzie.

“I want to be Ozzie Smith,” family members recall me saying, “I want to be Number One.”

So what does one say when he finally gets to have a conversation with his boyhood hero?

“My grandpa had Musial.  My dad had Gibson and Brock.  I had you, Ozzie.”

And Ozzie’s response?

“Cool.”

Of course, I expected nothing but the coolest things from the man who gave us reason to Go crazy, folks, go crazy!  Heck, it’s been nearly 25 years since that homerun prompted Jack Buck to give us his iconic call, but I promise you this: to a Cardinals fan, it never gets old.

“It never went away,” chuckled a candid Ozzie Smith, “and as a matter of fact, it’s still reverberating today.  I have little kids coming up to me, reciting that.  So yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

Indeed it is pretty cool and so is Ozzie Smith, the man: 15 time All-Star, 13 time Gold Glove Award Winner, Hall of Famer and all around good guy.

He may be retired from baseball, but work never stops; and this summer Ozzie has teamed up with Ken Griffey, Sr., Len Dawson, Mike Bossy and Jim Kelly in the Depend Campaign to End Prostate Cancer.

The seriousness of prostate cancer cannot be overstated.  In fact, 1 out of every 6 men will experience the disease, as it is the second-leading cause of male cancer-related deaths in the United States.

I’m just here to encourage all men 50 or older (40 or older for African-American men and those with a family history of the disease) to get involved, talking with their doctors about prostate health.  Because with early detection, prostate cancer isn’t only treatable, it’s beatable.”

As was Ozzie’s signature game plan on the field, the best way to beat this disease is with strong defense.  And if anyone knows anything about defense, one need look no further than The Wizard.

After a decade plus of abnormal offensive numbers in baseball, Ozzie sees the current renaissance of pitching and defense themed ball-clubs as a natural, cyclical part of the game.

“It’s the way the game is supposed to be played.  You can get a lot more out of playing the game the proper way than just building your team from an offensive standpoint.”

If you’re looking for an example of such managerial strategy, Ozzie suggests we look at those teams at the top.

“The Atlanta Braves in the East, I think they’re one of those teams.  Not a whole lot of power, but they certainly do the little things that it takes to win.  The Cardinals have always been one of those teams that have done that and I think it’s part of what’s allowed the Cincinnati Reds to lead their division this year.”

Such game theory often begins with the manager and Ozzie Smith was lucky enough to serve under one of the best, one of this summer’s Hall of Fame inductees: Whitey Herzog.

“As a manager, the goal is always to make players better than they are.  Whitey was certainly one of those people.  The relationship we had was of admiration and respect.  A good manager, like Whitey, only has two rules: be on time and give a hundred percent.  As a professional athlete, that’s all you can ask, to be given the opportunity to do what it is you do.  If you can’t abide by those rules, then you shouldn’t be playing.”

And as we gear up for the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, it’s a pretty safe bet that the players involved abide by those rules.  One cannot be the best without giving his best.  As a 15 time All-Star himself, Ozzie was quite comfortable being at the top of his game.  When asked to describe his fondest All-Star memories, he was quick to answer.

“The first one I had a chance to go to in 1981 and then my final one in 1996, those two really stand out.  The first one simply because of the excitement of going to your first All-Star Game and the festivities, the lockering, visiting with guys you admired from afar and played against, having a chance to play with them was very special.  Then the reception I received in Philadelphia for my final one was very, very special.”

Yep.  It sure was.  In fact, I fondly remember… crying.  I was 17 years old, my hero was retiring and I was morbidly afraid of baseball without Ozzie.

But I quickly learned: no one can take away memories, no one can take away dreams.  The game continued on and Ozzie never really went away.  The moments he created are remembered today.  His work ethic is passed down.  His desire to help those in need, to educate, to make life better wherever possible through public service, as he’s doing with the Depend Campaign, all these things make him forever an All-Star.

Forever a hero.

Forever a reason to go crazy, folks.

Go crazy.

Written by Jeffery Lung

Special thanks to
Kristin Adams of Taylor PR for arranging the interview.

Click *HERE* to read Jeff’s interview with Dave Winfield.

Click *HERE*
to read Jeff’s interview with Ken Griffey, Sr.

14 Comments

Jeff,
Ben Zobrist, the great uber-player for the Rays grew up in Indiana and used to idolize Ozzie Smith. Got to tell you, after seeinghim playing in Sunday’s Taco Bell Celebrity Softball game again this season….He could stillplay the game today with grace and ease.
But he was also a great ambassador of the game with his love and zeal for the essence of baseball.
I grew up in the South, where we did not have a baseball team in the 70′s…And still, I wanted to be the Wizard of Ozz.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Great stuff, Jeff… love me some Oz!
-Jonestein

Great interview! Always admired Ozzy – he was fun to watch. And still fun to listen to :O)

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

great interview son. It’s so nice to know I did something right, through your growing up years. It’s an honor to be up there with Ozzie. You amaze me everyday with your writing talent and knowledge of baseball. Keep up the good work and you will soon be rewarded.

It was amazing how Ozzie turned himself into a productive hitter after a start to his career that made him look like he’d be Mark Belanger or Bucky Dent.
http://www.paullebowitz.com/
http://princeofny.blogspot.com/

RR — He invented grace and ease ;-)
Jonestein — Thanks, brother!
Jenn — Yes, indeed, his color commentary is pretty good too.
Baba — You did a lot of things right. Good job!
Prince — Totally… he credits Whitey with a lot of that. Whitey gave him the confidence the Padres didn’t.
–Jeff

Great job interviewing Ozzie! And on the heels of your Winfield interview. I’m thinking maybe you’re the one who should get Larry King’s job.

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane, if any of your Hollywood friends are askin’, yeah, my hat’s in the ring. (But I refuse to wear shoulder pads. That’s where I draw the line ;-)
–Jeff

i nearly dropped my drink just reading the title of your blog post!! OZZIE SMITH! O.O Oh my goodness! How lucky are you to interview him let alone talk to him? Well i’m speechless out of jealousy! What a gentleman :)

http://mimi.mlblogs.com

Ozzie is partly responsible for the magic feeling baseball gave me as a kid. He came to Shea Stadium when he was still on the Padres. Above the visitors dugout he was very willing to sign my scorebook. I stilll have that scorebook framed and hanging on my wall. I was 12 years old then. He talked to me. He asked if I was playing baseball on a team and asked what position I played. I remember it like yesterday. I wish Ozzie knew how thankful I was and still am. Thank You Jeff.
mike.BTB

Jeff,
I LOVED to watch Ozzie in his days with the Padres and then with the Cardinals. When I went to ST Louis to watch the Dodgers (they lost all four games), my friend Sandi who is a big Dodger fan took us to Ozzie’s restaurant. She also took us to the restaurant that Tommy recomends on his blog. Good times, except for the losing.
Wonderful post!
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

I used to love watching him do the flips. He was just amazing.

Mimi — Thanks. We were quite proud to be able to do it. Thanks for reading!
Mike — Thank YOU! What a great story. He’s always been my hero, so this was really an honor. Glad to know he is still affecting the little kids in us.
Emma — Thanks, Emma (that restaurant is pretty great!).
Amy — Yes… always a highlight on opening day. The flip. So great.
–Jeff

Great once in a lifetime experience. To be able to actually interview your idol is awesome. We need you to post a video of yourself doing the backflip, though.
–Mike
http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 67 other followers

%d bloggers like this: