Tony LaRussa v. Ozzie Smith
I grew up a Cardinals fan…starting in about 1974. Through the lean years, post-Gibby. In 1980, a funny-looking white-haired guy took over GM duties, and then bench managing. His name was Whitey Herzog. He cleaned house and molded the Redbirds into the type of team that could win 75% of its games in Busch Stadium in the Astroturf era…and a center-field wall at 414 feet. In 1981, he traded an uncontented shortstop with a good bat for a light-hitting shortstop who made dazzling plays in the field in San Diego.
His name was Ozzie Smith. He went on to help propel the 1982 STL Cardinals to a World Series victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, aka Harvey’s Wallbangers. He won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves between 1980 and 1992. He helped lead the Redbirds to 2 more World Series appearances in 1985 and 1987 as well. To a young boy at the time, and then a teenager…he seemed to be the type of ballplayer that a kid would want to look up to. He might’ve been then…I’m not really sure. But now, he appears to be a bitter middle-aged man.
As far as TLR, I admire him. He’s his own man…seemingly hard to get to know, but I’m that way too, so maybe that’s a big reason for my respect for him. He seems to have won over most of the St. Louis fan base, after a rough first few years. He respects the game, and believes that no player is bigger than the team. And that’s something that all Redbird fans can appreciate. The team has always been greater than one individual. One player came close…Stanley Frank Musial…and one current player could be, but those 2 guys worked harder than everyone else, as well as being supremely talented.
TLR kept his cool about this for 10 years…but my guess is that the article over the weekend was the proverbial straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back. Should TLR have said anything about it? Probably not. But he did…and now it’s a national story.
My advice to both men is to do what’s best for the team. The St. Louis fans are what make baseball in the Gateway City great. The history of the organization is what matters…not the feelings of 2 baseball giants, no matter how revered or respected they might be within the game.
The fans want both of you involved with the team. For reasons of the past, present and future.