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Card of the Day: For The Wizard, Life Begins on Opening Day

If you work in a place that observes federal holidays, you probably wish they were spaced out a little better. Many of us wish there was not such a long time between Presidents Day in February and Memorial Day in May.  That’s a three-month period without that little extra “bonus” day off along the way.  So, when I heard about the initiative to make Opening Day a national holiday, my first reaction was to laugh say ‘Good luck with that’. My second thought was, this is actually a perfect break in the calendar  and the timing of the day was perfect. According to some surveys I’ve read, American workers get significantly less time off than our overseas counterparts 1979OzzieSmithPSA8and this can cause overt stress.

So, on a few levels, making Opening Day a “national” holiday makes sense as the spokesperson for this petition, Ozzie Smith, was quoted as saying, 22 million Americans already play hooky from work or school on this day so why not make it official and honor something even casual fans look forward to as a sign of spring.

Heck, considering how little work gets done during the first two days of the NCAA tournament,  we might as well combine them. I can assure you finding places to eat lunch on those two days are harder and harder each year. But for our purposes let’s focus on the Opening Day gambit and their spokesperson.

When Ozzie Smith arrived in the majors in 1978 with the San Diego Padres he was a light-hitting, spectacular-fielding shortstop.  Many of us have seen the highlight of him robbing Jeff Burroughs of a sure hit where he reached back with his bare hand, then got up and threw to first base. Until recently, I never realized exactly what had occurred on that play and the reflexes needed to pull that play off.

Also Smith would handle tons more chances than the supposedly best fielder, Larry Bowa. While the advanced metrics of today were not available in those days, more sophisticated fans saw that Smith was handling 100 more chances then Bowa and realized just how much better Ozzie was.

I also remember him trying to get a job during the 1981 baseball strike. It’s hard to believe but back then, younger players did not get paid as well as they do today and having to maintain two places to live (regular season and off-season) was quite a drain on finances.

Then at the conclusion of the 1981 season he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in what was essentially a “challenge” trade for fellow young shortstop Garry Templeton.

The effects were immediate as the Cardinals with Smith and a rookie named Willie McGee won the World Series and set up three World Series appearances between 1982 and 1987. Meanwhile Templeton had a nice career and did start for the pennant-winning 1984 Padres but the Cardinals definitely won that trade.  Smith ended up as a beloved Hall of Famer and is in place to become the next St, Louis icon in the way Yogi Berra is the Yankees Icon and Nolan Ryan fulfills that role for the Texas Rangers.

So, in cooperation with EBay, the 1979 Topps Rookie Card of “the Wizard” is our eBay card of the day.  Centering issues make this one very tough to find in high grade.  Here’s a solid PSA 8 example up for bid this week.

Smith was on a lot of different cards over his long career and still appears as part of relic and autograph inserts today.  Click here to see more of what’s on eBay.

Do you have a player or a card you would like to see as our eBay card of the day?  If so, drop me a note at  [email protected] and include your home town.

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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