Hall of Famer throws out Game 6 pitch for Cards 28 years after memorable blast
ST. LOUIS -- It's a postseason moment replayed more than most others, partly because of the impact it had on the playoffs and partly because of an iconic call made by a legendary announcer. Ozzie Smith's game-winning home run in Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series lives on in baseball lore, played and replayed in baseball documentaries and other shows highlighting great moments in the game.
Smith, the back-flipping Hall of Fame shortstop who patrolled the Cardinals' infield from 1982-96, appropriately threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 6 of the NLCS between the Cards and Dodgers on Friday at Busch Stadium. It was appropriate not only because he's one of the most iconic players in St. Louis history. It was also relevant given that his famous home run 28 years ago came against the Dodgers.
That homer came off Tom Niedenfuer in the ninth inning of a tied game, landing over the fence in right field. Smith raised his right arm in the air as he flew around the bases, to Hall of Fame announcer Jack Buck's frenzied cry: "Go crazy folks! Go crazy!"
"I feel like I've hit 500 home runs," Smith said, laughing, in an acknowledgement of how many times he's watched the replay. "It's just one of those moments that will live in Cardinals history forever."
And one that no one in these parts would dare forget, a fact Smith appreciates as he reflects on his 19-year career.
"Most people that are Cardinals fans are so rabid about the game and the history of the Cardinals," Smith said. "I just feel fortunate to be one of those people that can be such a part of the important elements in people's lives. Everyone can remember where they were when that happened. It never dies. They don't let you forget it."
The Cards' organization, and the team's fans, take these things to heart. Many icons have been back for the NLCS to participate in pregame ceremonies in some capacity, including Tony La Russa, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and now Smith. They all have a place here, and most are still involved in some capacity. Smith doesn't have an official title with the club, but the last two years, he's attended Spring Training as a guest instructor.
Inviting Smith back for a playoff game is, of course, fitting.
"The ballpark has always been such a big part of my life," Smith said. "To have the opportunity to come down -- especially in October -- this organization seems to make a habit of being here in October. It's always a special time."
Known as "The Wizard," Smith is widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop of all-time. He set records for career assists (8,375) and double plays (1,590) as well as the NL record with 2,511 games played at short. Smith was a Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner 13 consecutive years and a 15-time All-Star. He recorded 2,460 career hits and 580 stolen bases, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2002.
Smith appeared in three World Series with the Cardinals, winning a title in 1982. Those pennant-winning years stand out as his best memories.
"Just having the experience and the opportunity to play in such a great baseball city, that was a gift in and of itself," Smith said. "To have a chance to win, go to a World Series three times. ... I don't know that everybody can say that they've had that opportunity. There's guys that played for 20, 25 years and never had the opportunity to say that they went to the World Series. I was fortunate to be in three."
The pregame ceremony also included a presentation of colors by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop C Honor Guard. The national anthem was performed by American Soul singer Brian Owens, a St. Louis native.