My Top 50 Players On Cardboard
1979 Topps Ozzie Smith RC
Ozzie Smith has always had a pretty good following in spite of the fact that he was a defense first player for the first half of his career. Sometime in the mid 80s Ozzie started doing a little more hitting, but I am still often amazed at how popular the Wizard is around the hobby. His rookie card is the star of the 1979 Topps set and is a pretty good chase card around Ebay and other seconday market sites. The condition of the cards, centering and corners, can be rough at times. Clean, well-centered copies are definitely at a premium. I own several copies of the card and do not think I have one copy with good centering. For example, the copy above is shifted slightly right. Really common occurrence with this card. Someday I will track down a really nice copy.
Ozzie Smith retired from baseball after the 1996 season, but still frequently appears in newer baseball releases. Just this year Topps put Ozzie in several of its 2013 including Gypsy Queen, Allen & Ginter, Topps Archives, and Topps Tier One. I am always amazed at well his cards still sell and how competitive bidding gets on Ebay over Ozzie cards. In fact, I would guess with the passing of Stan Musial this past year, collectors might see more and more of Ozzie Smith in some of the Topps releases. Topps always has Cardinals in their sets, and with Red Schoendienst slowing on his signing, I am going to guess that Ozzie will fill the void.
On The Field Impact-
Ozzie was the best defensive player of his generation and probably the best defensive shortstop ever. It always slays me when people argue with me over whether Omar Vizquel is better than Ozzie. Please. Jeter too. The JAWS rating system ranks the Wizard as the 8th best shortstop of all-time ahead of all modern shortstops not named Alex Rodriguez. Omar is not even in the top 25.
Defense is always hard to quantify, so here are two stats that I love about the Wizard:
1. He is the all-time assists leader for shortstops. Omar Vizquel played five more seasons than Ozzie and is still almost 700 assists behind him. Jeter has played the same amount of time and is a mere 2000 assists away.
2. He's the all-time leader in defensive WAR by 4 points. 4 points. 4 points. That's 14 more points than Omar Vizquel and I stopped looking for Jeter on the list after I passed by Clint Barmes.
Here's some video evidence of how awesome Ozzie was:
I also suggest finding a video of the Curt Ford catch where he dives over a diving outfielder to catch a ball. Might be better than the one above.
As previosuly stated, Ozzie was not always a good offensive player during his career. He was a pretty good bet to do a little running, but generally kept the ball on the ground. While he was not a flashy offensive player, he certainly picked his moments to come through with the bat. My favorite all-time Ozzie Smith play came during the 1985 National League Championship Series. Good time to hit your first career left-handed home run.
I could do a top ten list on cool Ozzie Smith cards, but if I had to pick one card which summed up the player that was Ozzie Smith I would go with his 1991 Fleer Ultra card.
There are way too many Ozzie Smith cards where he has a bat in his hands. Way too many. The guy was the Wizard because of his fielding. Outside of his 1987 Topps card, I think almost ever Topps base issue card of him from the 80s and early 90s featured him with a bat in his hands. I would have loved to have seen a card of Ozzie laying out for a ball hit up the middle. Something. Anyway, this card was a good choice because you have got Ozzie jumping for a ball (you know he caught it) and he is playing in Wrigley. Cool card.