PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : Cardinals' Smith Finally Makes a Mistake While Throwing Ball

It finally happened, right there in broad daylight, silencing the crowd of 30,882 at Busch Stadium.

Cardinal shortstop Ozzie Smith committed an error.

Smith, who was just three games shy of setting a National League record, picked up a ground ball hit by the Padres' Bip Roberts, threw off-balance, and wildly to first baseman Pedro Guerrero. The throw drew Guerrero off first, and as he caught the ball, he tried to tag Roberts going to first, but it was too late.

E-6.

"I'm human, I make a mistake every once in a while," Smith said. "This probably isn't the last one. I'll make more mistakes."

Still, it was the first time Smith made an error since Sept. 20, 1990, 69 games ago. Smith had played 60 errorless games this season, just three shy of the National League record set last year by Spike Owen of the Montreal Expos. Smith also had handled 267 chances without an error, 19 less than the National League record set by John Kerr in 1946.

"You guys look at that stuff a lot more than I do," Smith said. "That's unimportant to me.

"I guess it would have been a nice feather in my cap, but I get enough accolades."

Said Roberts: "I have all the respect in the world for Ozzie. He's been playing the game for 13 years, and he's still on top of his game."

He was supposed to be the finest catcher who's come along since Benito Santiago. Scouts said he was every bit as good as Sandy Alomar Jr.

But when Todd Zeile struggled in his rookie season last year for the Cardinals, and Joe Torre became manager, the new boss decided a change was needed. Torre moved Zeile to third base, just like he was moved from catcher to third during his playing career.

"They thought they'd be helping my career," Zeile said. "They felt the fact that I wasn't catching every day and going through that physical wear and tear would help me put up better numbers offensively.

"Still, I always liked catching and I had always been a catcher. Here I am in my first year, and they wanted me to play a completely new position.

"I could have come into it trying to play hard ball and said, 'Hey, I'm going to play third base. If you want me to play there, I want out.' But that wouldn't have done anybody any good. And I didn't really have any leverage anyway."

So what happens?

In his first season at third, Zeile leads all National League third basemen in fielding, committing only five errors in 162 chances. He's batting .282 with 26 RBIs.

"He's playing the position as well as it's being played right now," Torre said. "He's surprised a lot of people. Maybe the only one he hasn't surprised is himself."

Said Zeile: "You know what, now I have no desire to go back behind the plate."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
68°