February 11, 1982: Cardinals, Padres finalize the Ozzie Smith-Garry Templeton trade

Ahead of the 1982 season, shortstops Ozzie Smith and Garry Templeton both needed a change of scenery.

In a deal that took more than two months to complete, the St. Louis Cardinals sent Templeton, outfielder Sixto Lezcano, and pitcher Luis DeLeon to the San Diego Padres to obtain Smith, who became a Hall of Fame player and franchise cornerstone in 15 seasons in St. Louis. The Padres also sent pitcher Al Olmsted to St. Louis.

At the time of the trade, there was no guarantee that the Cardinals were obtaining the better shortstop.

Since St. Louis drafted him 13th overall in the 1974 draft out of Santa Ana Valley High School in Santa Ana, California, Templeton had piled up impressive numbers over six big-league seasons. In his first full major-league season in 1977, he hit .322 and led the league with 18 triples while adding eight homers and 79 RBIs.

He was named an all-star that season, the first of two for Templeton while wearing the birds on the bat. He also won the Silver Slugger Award in 1980. At the time of the trade, Templeton had a .305 career batting average and 138 stolen bases in 713 games.

Smith offered a very different profile. A fourth-round pick by the Padres in the 1977 draft out of California Polytechnic State University, Smith played one minor-league season before becoming San Diegos’s starting shortstop in 1978. Smith placed second behind Bob Horner in that year’s National League Rookie of the Year balloting, batting .258 with one homer, 46 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases while playing some of the best defense in the league.

In 1980, Smith won the first of 13 career Gold Gloves awards, then followed that up with another Gold Glove and his first all-star appearance in 1981. In four seasons in San Diego, Smith hit .231 with one homer, 129 RBIs, and 147 stolen bases in 583 games.

Despite Smith’s on-field success, his relationship with the Padres was quickly deteriorating.

Prior to the 1980 season, Smith and the Padres negotiated his salary all the way into spring training. Unable to come to an agreement, the Padres renewed his contract for $72,500, the same amount he earned the previous year.[1] That May, Smith told reporters that he may need to take a leave of absence during the season to take a job that would pay better. His agent, Ed Gottlieb, said that Smith had made some poor investments and needed a higher salary to keep his creditors at bay.

“I wouldn’t want to leave the game because I love it so much, but I may be forced to because of circumstances,” Smith said.[2]

The Padres’ response was swift.

“If Ozzie or anyone else leaves this team without good reason, they’re getting fined,” team president Ballard Smith said. “I’m not going to put up with anything like that.”[3]

Matters only escalated when Gottlieb placed a classified ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune that read: “Part time. Padre baseball player wants part-time employment to supplement income. College education, willing to work, prefer PR-type employment. Need hours tailored to baseball schedule, but would quit baseball for right opportunity. Call Mr. Gottleib. 714-555-4800.”[4]

Smith wrote in his 1988 autobiography that he was unaware Gottlieb was placing the ad.

“I don’t know why Ed put in the part about quitting baseball – maybe as a bluff,” he wrote. “I had no intention of doing anything other than playing baseball. The problem was that I wasn’t getting paid for it the way I thought I should be paid.”[5]

This time, the Padres’ response came from Joan Kroc, the wife of Padres owner Ray Kroc. She offered Smith a part-time job assisting the family gardener, Luis.

“Luis is enthusiastic about the idea,” she said. “He’s a real baseball fan; Ozzie is his favorite player. I asked Luis about his salary, and he said $3.50 per hour is the usual starting figure, but since Ozzie is a college man and he has natural talent, we could pay him $4.50.”[6]

In 1981, the Padres and Smith avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $300,000 contract that included a no-trade clause.[7] With that settled, the Padres approached Gottlieb and asked him to propose a contract that would keep Smith in San Diego for the rest of his career. Gottlieb and Smith responded with a 25-year contract for $1 million per season that carry through Smith’s age-51 season.

“We figured that if that wasn’t what they had in mind, they would get back to us and say no, we didn’t mean that long, let’s try to work out a shorter deal, or something,” Smith explained. “If they were interested in seriously negotiating a contract, that’s what they would have done. But we were dealing with the Padres, and I guess that was too much to expect. They took our proposal and ran right to the press with it, saying this showed how much I wanted to get out of San Diego.”[8]

Meanwhile, Templeton was battling his own issues in St. Louis. Batting just .265 when the players went on strike in June, Templeton was dropped from the leadoff spot, a move that prompted him to request a trade. As his frustrations mounted, Templeton complained about his salary and indicated at times that he was too injured or too tired to play.[9]

On August 26, matters spiraled out of control on Ladies Night at Busch Stadium, as Templeton had a heated confrontation with the fans, making several offensive gestures before Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog pulled him down the dugout steps and off the field.

Templeton was suspended, then placed on the disabled list as the team arranged for him to meet with a psychiatrist.[10] He returned to the team on September 14, but his fate with the club already was sealed.

Herzog wanted a shortstop in return for Templeton. Detroit’s Alan Trammel and California’s Rick Burleson were on his wish list, but neither team was willing to trade their star shortstop. Padres manager Jack McKeon had previously told Herzog he would never trade Smith, but by the time the two managers ran into each other at the winter meetings, his tune had changed. When Herzog reminded McKeon that Smith had been untouchable in their previous conversations, the Padres manager said, “We still like Ozzie. It’s his agent we are angry with. Everybody in the whole organization is pissed at him.”[11]

The two sides negotiated a trade centered around Smith and Templeton. Matters became complicated, however, when the Padres realized that the no-trade clause in Smith’s previous contract remained in effect until he signed a new one. The Padres asked Smith to waive his no-trade clause, and Smith countered by asking the team to buy it out. The Padres declined.[12]

Instead, the Cardinals were given permission to negotiate with Smith. The day after Christmas 1981, Herzog hopped on a plane to meet with the man who would become the star of his franchise.

“I’ve been on a lot of airplanes but that was probably the most important plane trip I ever took,” Herzog said.[13]

In that meeting, Herzog offered Smith $450,000 a year and said, “If you don’t like me or don’t like the Cardinals at the end of the season, I’ll give you your release. If you do like the Cardinals, we’ll sign you to a three-year contract.”[14]

Still, Smith remained unconvinced. He wanted $750,000, which would pay him more than the Cardinals had paid Templeton.[15]

A week after meeting with Smith, Herzog reached out again. This time, he said that if Smith approved the trade, the Cardinals would be willing to determine his 1982 salary through an arbitrator.[16]

Finally, on February 11, 1982, the deal was finalized.

Templeton played 10 seasons in San Diego, where knee and ankle injuries zapped some of the electricity from his game. Nonetheless, he remained an effective shortstop, winning his second Silver Slugger in 1984 and earning an all-star appearance in 1985. After the 1991 season, he retired with a .271 career batting average to go with 70 homers, 728 RBIs, and 242 stolen bases.

Lezcano, the other player sent to San Diego in the deal, hit .289 with 16 homers and 84 RBIs for the Padres in 1982. He was hitting just .233 in 1983 when the Padres traded him to the Phillies.

Eight months after the deal was completed, Smith and the Cardinals were celebrating a World Series championship. They went on to win the National League pennant in 1985 and 1987, and Smith enjoyed a 15-year career as the face of the Cardinals franchise.

“When we were able to bring Ozzie over from San Diego, it was the final piece of the puzzle in making the Cardinals a championship club,” Herzog said. “I did tell Ozzie that if he would agree to the trade, I thought we would have a team that could win the World Series.”[17]

Smith retired after the 1996 season with 13 Gold Gloves, 15 all-star games, and 2,460 hits. He finished with a .262 career batting average and 580 stolen bases.

Smith was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2002.

“No one will ever know what would have happened had I decided to remain in San Diego,” Smith wrote 20 years later. “I don’t know if I would have won a World Series, and I don’t know if I would have been elected to the Hall of Fame.”[18]


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[1] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Pages 33-34.

[2] Collier, Phil. “‘Can’t Get By on $72,500,’ Ozzie Smith Tells Padres.” San Diego Union-Tribune, May 10, 1980.

[3] Collier, Phil. “‘Can’t Get By on $72,500,’ Ozzie Smith Tells Padres.” San Diego Union-Tribune, May 10, 1980.

[4] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Page 35.

[5] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Page 35.

[6] Collier, Phil. “‘Can’t Get By on $72,500,’ Ozzie Smith Tells Padres.” San Diego Union-Tribune, May 10, 1980.

[7] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Page 39.

[8] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Page 47.

[9] Neal Russo, “Templeton Apology Demanded,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 27, 1981.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Psychiatrist To Evaluate Tempy,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 28, 1981.

[11] Whitey Herzog and Kevin Horrigan (1987), White Rat: A Life in Baseball, New York, N.Y.; Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., Page 137.

[12] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Pages 50-51.

[13] Rick Hummel, “Deal for Templeton boosted Smith’s career,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 9, 2002.

[14] Rick Hummel, “Deal for Templeton boosted Smith’s career,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 9, 2002.

[15] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Page 55.

[16] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (1988), Wizard, Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., Page 55.

[17] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (2002), Ozzie Smith: The Road to Cooperstown. Canada: Sports Publishing, LLC., Pages 5-6.

[18] Ozzie Smith and Rob Rains (2002), Ozzie Smith: The Road to Cooperstown. Canada: Sports Publishing, LLC., Page 23.