It Was O.E., Baby, O.E. All the Way

"Oh! somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright."

But not at Hollywood and Vine.

"The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light."

But you'd better hold it down if you're around the Friar's Club or the Jonathan Club. And the Polo Lounge is no place to make noise today, either. "And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout."

Laughing? Not in L.A., they're not, baby! You get caught laughing even at Zuma Beach and they throw you in the undertow.

Cardinals 7, Dodgers (sob!) 5.

I mean, what are we--Brooklyn, for cryin' out loud! Like, this is the citadel of happy endings, right?

What is this, an Italian movie? Shoot it again, and this time the white hats win. Get the cavalry in here. Deathbed scenes just don't sell in this town.

What kind of a part is this for John Wayne? Take this back and put some dance numbers in. Also, a few laughs. You want this to play art theaters?

It's one thing to get beat. It's another to get beat in the top of the ninth when you have two out and only one to go to win the game and tie up the series.

Nobody hits home runs in the ninth inning except in Monogram Studio movies, Frank Merriwell novels and turn-of-the-century poems. Jack Clark has probably never heard of "Casey at the Bat," Ernest Lawrence Thayer's work quoted above.

But Jack Clark didn't beat the Dodgers. A far less likely candidate did. It was like getting bitten by your own poodle, getting attacked by a killer rabbit.

Osborne Earl Smith is not your basic baseball Frankenstein. He's a sunny little guy who comes out and does back flips and cartwheels, and magic tricks, like plucking a baseball out of thin air just when it looks as if it's about to disappear into the outfield.

I mean, Babe Ruth, he's not. Not supposed to be, anyway. If Ozzie Smith doesn't have a glove on, he's not supposed to hurt you. The bat is just a prop.

If you had been told two weeks ago that Ozzie Smith was going to be the most valuable player of the 1985 National League championship series, you would have thought to yourself: "Oh, sure, I get it. Ground balls behind his back, sucked up like a vacuum cleaner. Guys thrown out at first by beneath-the-leg tosses from behind second base. Over-the-shoulder catches. Double plays on balls that had base hit written all over them. And two or three bunts in just the right places."

Well, Ozzie Smith won postseason games this week the way Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig used to. He broke seats and hit fences. He terrorized pitchers. He got bases on balls in situations in which he should have been the "out" man.

I mean, Ozzie did everything but call his shot. In four of his last six at-bats in this series, O.E. Smith got:

--A game-winning home run.

--A bunt single.

--A game-tying triple.

--A key walk in the ninth-inning winning rally.

Nobody's done that to L.A. since they caught Black Bart. Smith took more money out of this town than Internal Revenue.

He got 10 hits in 23 times at-bat, including a homer, triple and double, for 16 total bases. He scored four runs. Oh, yes, he stole a base, too. He did everything but eat Encino.

You look at Ozzie Smith's stats and close your eyes and you think you're dealing with some guy who came walking ashore out of a polar explosion or carried Fay Wray up the Empire State Building.

Actually, he looks like something that fell out of Babe Ruth's pocket. He fits in the overhead rack on long flights. He weighs 145 if the weather hasn't been too hot in Busch Stadium and the postgame buffet is good.

He's an acrobat, not a ballplayer. He's a major league tumbler, not a hitter.

That's what you think.

Ozzie may look like a guy who needs help to get the bat on his shoulder but, all of a sudden, he's swinging it like a 1927 Yankee.

It doesn't seem fair. Ozzie Smith gets 2 million bucks a year to get people out, not to knock them out. God is supposed to even up somewhere. I mean, He doesn't give a shark legs or a bear a gun. What's He giving Ozzie Smith a home-run stroke for? It's overkill. Like making a chorus girl smart. You see, Ozzie was worth 2 mil just as a .238 hitter. If he starts after Henry Aaron's record, he may be worth more than Kuwait.

It says in the record book that Osborne E. Smith has 1,025 lifetime hits. The book lies. Ozzie has at least double that number.

It says that Ozzie has 34 triples and 160 doubles. He has a lot more than that.

You see, Ozzie gets a lot of his hits behind second base, behind third base, in short left field, short center field, short right field.

He doesn't hit them there, you see, he catches them there. There's a lot of guys around this league who would have fatter contracts if they could figure a way to smuggle a base hit past the wizard of shortstops.

The base hit in the hole, a staple of baseball before the era of Oz, has all but disappeared. The line drive over the shortstop's head has gone the way of the woolly mammoth.

Smith is so agile out there, he's just grateful that all he has to do is scoop up the ball and throw it someplace. They don't make him catch it standing on his head--although he could--and he doesn't have to flip the glove off and throw the guy out left-handed, although he could do that, too. Ozzie is actually ambidextrous. He may even be amphibious.

The Dodgers should petition to have him dismantled. Maybe they should just send him to Cooperstown right now, instead of later, and leave the league alone.

In the seventh inning Wednesday, the Dodgers died on third, thanks to the ministrations of Ozzie.

The situation was this: Mariano Duncan had led off the inning with a triple. The next batter popped out. So, they walked Pedro Guerrero. The next batter, Bill Madlock, hit the ball in the worst place in the world--Ozzie Smith's glove, the elephant's graveyard of baseballs where most hits go to die.

This one killed two people. And the rally. The ball was a slow chopper. Hard for most fielders to get one out, never mind two. Ozzie is not most people. It flashed out of his glove almost the instant it hit the fingers. The double play was a blur. The Dodgers had been Ozzed. The run never scored.

That's the way Ozzie Smith is supposed to beat you. This, you can live with.

If he's going to start making like Rogers Hornsby, too, baseball will just have to do something about it.

If they can make it retroactive, the Dodgers will win the 1985 pennant. But, if they can't, the Whozits will walk the yellow brick road in this year's World Series, too. I expect Oz may stand there and call his shot one of these games.

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