With the retirement of Tony La Russa, it was assumed the long-standing frosty relationship between Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and the St. Louis Cardinals would move into the background, with Smith being more visible at Busch Stadium.
It seems that is the case, as The Wizard will be throwing out the first pitch for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night. His son Nikko will sing the National Anthem.
Yet there is a new controversy surrounding Smith. He has decided to auction off 100 pieces of memorabilia from his Hall of Fame career, including his 13 Gold Gloves and World Series rings from 2006 and 2011. The latter two items were gifts from the Cardinals.
The explanation is that Smith has initiated this action through SCP Auctions for “estate and family planning.”
Along with his Gold Gloves and World Series rings, Smith is selling his 1989 Lou Gehrig Award plaque, his 1995 Roberto Clemente Award trophy, the glove he wore in his final game, Cardinals National League championship rings from 1985 and 2004 and 11 All-Star Game rings.
Though his playing reputation was built on his fielding, Smith had become a much-improved hitter as well. In the restaurant world, however, he has taken two strikes.
Much of the memorabilia to be sold was once on display at his restaurant, Ozzie’s Restaurant & Sports Bar. Ozzie’s original Westport Plaza location closed three years ago.
Smith had been involved a legal wrangle with a competitor that opened in the same center. Ozzie’s claimed to have lost revenue because Pujols 5 allegedly went against its lease and opened a facility similar to Ozzie’s. Pujols 5 has since been renamed the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame Grill.
In 2010, Ozzie’s Restaurant and Sports Bar reopened on Washington Ave. in downtown St. Louis, only to close again.
This isn’t the first time a former Cardinals Hall of Famer brought his collection to auction. For example, in 2009, both Bob Gibson and Lou Brock sold a number of significant items from their playing careers.
The still-closed Cardinals museum purchased four items from the Gibson collection, which may finally go on public display if/when Ballpark Village becomes a reality.
Based on reaction after I tweeted about Smith’s plans to throw out the first pitch in Game 4, some people are upset with his auction decision. It will be interesting to listen for any negative reaction when Smith is announced on Thursday night.
What do you think?