He’s seen players, managers and even owners come and go. He’s seen rule changes, the PED era and even instant replay.
As a Cardinal, he’s also seen history—not just the history of the game, but of the organization.
In a Wednesday interview, Smith shared his thoughts on several of those things.
On Stan Musial
“Stan was everybody’s friend,” Smith said after a brief hesitation, noting that if he had to sum up Stan the Man in one sentence that would be it.
The 14-time Gold Glove winner said that he most admired the value Musial put on his fans. Of all the things he learned from Musial, Smith said that was what really stuck with him.
“If people only have one chance to meet you, I want that experience to be a good one,” Smith said. “Evidently, that’s exactly the way it was with Stan.”
“People that had a chance to meet him realized what a warming, caring person that he was. He took time for everybody”
Smith said he believed Musial to be one of the most special and humble human beings that he’d ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Musial passed away at his home in Ladue on Jan. 19, 2013.
With a bit of a laugh as he remembered his friend, Smith said Musial was always smiling because he knew he was going to get at least three hits a day.
“He was a very special person and one of the few people in life that you can say you didn’t hear a bad word spoken about,” he said. “He was just a humble human being who loved life and loved the game.”
On wearing the red jacket
While it isn’t the same with Musial, who he characterized as “the greatest one,” gone, Ozzie Smith said that the opportunity to put on the red jacket and step onto the field each year is something very special to him.
“When I was growing up, talking about guys like (Bob) Gibson, Musial and (Red) Schoendienst, it was always ‘those guys,’ he said. “ I never looked at myself as one of ‘those guys.’”
Still to this day, he said he has trouble feeling like one of those guys. Regardless of whether he believes it, he is definitely part of that very elite group.
Smith said walking out onto the field in the company of other Cardinals’ Hall of Famers is a “great, great feeling” and not just because of the cheers.
“We’re one of few fortunate organizations who have a lot of living Hall of Famers who always take part in especially the Opening Day ceremonies,” he said. “They are people that you can touch, feel and see. That’s very, very important I think for the people and for the history of this franchise.”
With a laugh, he added that he hoped they would all be around “for a long, long time to come.”
Pepsi Max Field of Dreams Game
On May 18, the Wizard will take to the field one more time, but not in St. Louis.
This time he won’t just be smiling for the cameras with fellow Hall of Famers, he will be playing an actual game with them in Rochester, New York as part of the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game.
Smith, along with the others, was selected by fans as part of the promotion. This will be his second year participating in the game.
Does that mean we won’t be seeing any back flips from the Wizard?
“Not intentionally,” he said with a big laugh. “It will give fans the chance to see some of us play one more time and watch how we’ve aged. We do things a little bit slower these days.”
The MLB greats taking the field representing the American League include: Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Pedro Martinez and Frank Thomas; while the National League team will include: Johnny Bench, Trevor Hoffman, Fred McGriff, Mike Schmidt and Ozzie Smith.
“The one thing that we miss the most is the camaraderie,” Smith said. “This gives us a chance to get out there and reminisce about those good old days.”
Last year, Rochester, N.Y. resident Johnny Perotti and Washington, D.C. resident Stephen Katchmark were selected as the consumer winners in the second year of the Pepsi MAX MLB Field of Dreams promotion and now have the chance to play a baseball game with some of their all-time favorite players. During the hometown voting competition, Perotti edged out Katchmark to bring the game to Rochester.
As the home team, Perotti and five of his friends will join the AL MLB legends to take on Katchmark, his five friends and the NL MLB legends.
Tickets for the Pepsi MAX MLB Field of Dreams Game remain available. For details on how to purchase tickets, visit mlb.com. All tickets are General Admission.
All quotes were obtained firsthand by the author.