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Celebrity Interview: Ozzie Smith, Hall of Fame Shortstop, Fights Corporate Power

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      America is no longer a Democracy. It has become a Corporatocracy ruled by Multinational Corporations. 29 years ago, life was simpler. We only had to fight against local corporate greed. Our strongest weapon were unions who had the power to strike, to affect the corporate control, to force changes. 29 years ago, the Professional Baseball Players Union called for such a strike and one of the its most outspoken leaders was a young shortstop named Ozzie Smith. I had the honor of interviewing him in July, 1981. The following interview, reprinted from the Winners Hall of Fame, are the thoughts he shared with me and are espeically relevant today, given the NBA strike ….

 

Ozzie: Even after all we baseball players have gone through with the strike, people don’t realize that professional baseball is a slave system within a free enterprise system.

That’s all baseball players are: slaves. Face it. They can trade us whenever they want. Property. That’s all we are. We have nothing to say about it.

I don’t think the fans realize this is the issue underlying the baseball strike.

I don’t know if you read the other day that Bill Buckner’s brother quit. He’d been in the minor leagues 10 years. He has spent his entire career playing in the minor leagues. Now, the way the system works, if he had come up to the major leagues after spending those 10 years, he would still have to put six years of big-league experience in before he can choose where he could go and work. This means he spent 16 years in one organization before he had the freedom you have right now to say, “Hey, I don’t want to work for you anymore. I want to go work for another magazine”

It’s in the Constitution that people are free to choose who they want to work for. Yet, we don’t have that freedom.

After a player gets his six years in, what the owners want to do is make another young guy, who is trying to get his timing, suffer and pay for the free agent’s right to work where he chooses. The owners accomplish this by getting a minor leaguer draft choice compensation for the free agent who leaves their club. A lot of people don’t realize this, but a minor league draft choice can be significant. Do you know who the Dodgers got as compensation for Lee Macy becoming a free agent? Fernando Valenzuela!

I’m saying that it is not fair that someone should have to suffer because I want the freedom to work for another club.

Isn’t the free-agent market value affected by how good a player compensating for him is?

Absolutely. I, as a free agent, should not be punished because I put my time in and now want to choose what club I play for. Yet, any team wanting me must subtract from my value to them the value of the player they are giving up as compensation. At the same time, the club the free-agent is with may not offer him as much to stay as they would if they didn’t know who they were getting as compensation.

It’s a punitive system. A way for the owners to punish any player who wants to leave their club in search of his market value or better working conditions.

Control. The owners have all the control.

In spite of the strong feeling the players have on this issue, did they not compromise their standing in order to end the strike? 

Yes. I don’t know if the fans realize it, but it was a program the players came up with that finally solved the problem: the Free Pool Concept.

What we suggested by way of compromise is that everybody put somebody in the pool, representing every team. I forget the exact number of participating players per team, but it was a number we could live with. But it didn’t have to come from the team that signed the free agent. It was as good a compensation as we could make. We had gone as far as we could as far as compensation was concerned.

Still, the compromise had to go against your grain. 

Everything the players have gotten so far they have won in court and you don’t want to give something back you’ve won in court.

We felt compensation was a mythical issue to start with. We felt we made a mistake by even acknowledging the fact the owners needed some form of compensation. A guy gives them 16, 17 years of his life — what more should they expect from him? Personally, I don’t think the issue of compensation should even come up. I don’t think it is even an issue.

According to the owners, they need to control to protect themselves from skyrocketing player salaries. 

I think anyone, in whatever job they do, wants to get their fair market value. I think that is all baseball players are concerned with — getting their fair market value.

The value in the marketplace right now was not created by players. There was no player that went to an owner with a gun and said, “Hey I want this much money. Pay me or I’ll kill you.” Rather, it is the owners saying to the player, “Hey here is what I have for you.” If someone in this free society offers you $75,000-$80,000 pay to perform the job of your choice, who in their right mind is going to say, “No, that’s all right, I’ll just work for $20,000.”

Would you?

Probably not.

 

Ozzie doing his last trademark flip on the day he retired.

A lot of people resent ballplayers making that kind of money but, as businessmen, the owners are not going to offer to pay you something they can’t afford. So, if they can afford it why not take it?

If you bring people to the ballpark, you should get paid for it. If you make somebody some money, you should get a piece of it. That’s basically what it boils down to.

We’re talking about big business and all baseball players want is their market value.

Perhaps it seems to people that no matter how much a baseball player gets paid, he wants more. Where is the ceiling? 

All I know is I’m here for a very short period of time and we, as baseball players, have got to make it while we can. The owners are not going to offer you a lot of money when your day is over and gone. You have got to make it while you can when you’re a valuable commodity.

I could go out there tomorrow and crack an ankle and not be able to do the things I’m able to do now. Some people don’t take this into consideration. The reason people are blown away so much by baseball players’ salaries is because the subject is so publicized. Olivia Newton-John made $11 million last year and nothing is ever said about it.

This is a free enterprise system — you get what you can while you can. That’s why it’s so depressing sometimes to hear people say, “They’re greedy, so forth and so on.”

Isn’t that the American way: to get as much as you can?

Is it right to think that way? 

Hey, whether it is right or wrong, I’m not going to go out there and play the rest of my life for $15,000 because it is a game that people used to play on the weekend and because it is a game that people enjoy. People call this fun. A game. But this is the way I make my living. My livelihood. And I think anybody who is into what they do for a living ought to get paid top dollar. I’m no different than anyone else.

The American Way is the free enterprise system: get as much you can while you can. You’re not going to live forever. People want to enjoy life. They don’t want to work all their lives until they’re 85 or 90 to have all the riches in the world and then be unable to enjoy them because they have no health.

But why can’t a certain amount, “X.,” be enough money? 

Because that is not the American Way. Man will never, never be satisfied. We got to the moon and now we’re looking for someone else to go. If it is greed, then it is greed. That is the nature of man.

Do you think that is why the Third World countries resent us so much? 

We can’t worry about what the other people think because as long as man has been around, it has been that way.

Dog eat dog? 

Dog eat dog. Survival. Make it. Get as much as you can while you can.

What if you sign a contract to play for a specified amount? Would you try to get out of it to obtain your fair market value? 

If I sign a contract, I am going to live up to that contract. I am not going to try and break it. I will play it out.

Ray Kroc, as is true of some other owners, claims he lost $2.5 million on the Padres last year. Is it right asking for more money? 

First of all, that is not my problem. The Padres is a business like any other franchise that does turn a profit. It should be able to turn a profit within the same system.

Secondly, a major league ball club is an investment. This club, the Padres, was bought for somewhere between $4 million – $8 million. Now baseball clubs are selling for $20 million and up. So, when the man claims he is losing $2.5 million a year, that statement is without any regard whatsoever for the money he will make when he decides to sell the ball club.

Also, don’t forget that during the strike we players asked the owners to open their books, to show if they really were losing money. We said, “Okay, if you are losing money, show us your books and then we’ll take another stand.” How many opened their books? Not too many. And I haven’t seen any Ray Kroc books.

When I interviewed Ray Kroc in April he said he didn’t understand why “most baseball players don’t do a damn thing in the off-season when they could be going to college or training in a new profession.” He suggested that instead of looking to the owners for more money, they should look to themselves to take advantage of investing the money and should plan for a job when their baseball careers end. 

That’s just the barrier between owners and players. They don’t really get into what the guys are doing. I think there are a lot of things that the owners could do. They could help us to get into other areas and so on. Just a word here or there. When we go out there in the world, people just look at us like here is just another dumb baseball player. The owners don’t realize that this is the way we are looked upon. That is why you see so many high school students get a lot of money — because the owners know they are depriving them of their education. Some of these kids right out of high school don’t realize the importance of formal learning.

So these guys have a lot of money early in their lives and they figure the owners going to give them more money as they go up the ladder. They figure this is easy, why should I do anything else? That is why you see a lot of guys not getting the education they need. They earn a lot of money right out of high school and figure that if getting money is this easy, why should they work?

What about you? 

I try to make one sound investment per year. If I can do that say, most of my career, it should fare well for me when it is over. It has been my goal from day one to do that.

What are you doing with yourself in the off-season? 

I have gotten so much out of this game that I wanted to give something back. I wanted to do something that was totally different so what I came up with was a program called “Operation Grand Slam,” where I take a baseball clinic into juvenile hall. I think I am reaching some people who are really in need. Kids who are really down and out and feeling the world has given up on them.

If I can get one kid to change his life, just one to change his life and his way of thinking, I think I’ll have done all that I can do.

You are now in your fourth year of professional baseball and have only enjoyed one year of good salary ($300,000). You could have gotten $300,000 elsewhere. Why didn’t you go for all you could get? 

Next year is my fifth year; the following year I will be eligible to go out on the market. I’m not really looking for that right now. I’d love to finish my career here in San Diego. There are not many people who start with an organization and finish with it. That is a rarity in this game and I would like to be able to say I only played for one organization. Whether it will be like that, I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Is winning the World Series the ultimate reason for playing baseball? 

Yes. Winning a World Series. Being with the best.

Would you stay with the Padres if you cannot see the possibility happening? 

I possibly would. Yeah, I would. This is an important time in my career. My next two years, if I don’t feel that we have made progress — I’ve been here 4 years and now is the first significant progress we’ve made as far as people and talent are concerned, taking a step in the right direction. If in the next two years I don’t see any way we will be able to win a championship here, I’ve got to give some serious thought to moving on. To bigger and better things. The ultimate goal is winning the World Series, at least getting into the playoffs.

I won my first Gold Glove award last year in my third year, was in my first All-Star game this year; so, in a very short period of time, I’ve achieved a lot of the things guys only dream about in this game. I’m no different than anyone else in that I want to win and I want to win big. I want to win a World Series. That’s the goal. Not only to participate, but to win.

Recently, quite a few of the White Sox players as well as their manager, because of a special situation arising from the split season, stated publicly that they would throw baseball games this year if it meant making the playoffs. Would you? 

No. I wouldn’t. I would not intentionally throw a ball game. Not for the money. Not even to make the playoffs.

I’ve always been taught, have been brought up to believe, that when I cross the lines on that field, I go to win.

If I can’t win the championship honestly, it is not worth winning. 

There is a discrepancy in the things you are telling me, in the way you are representing yourself. On the one hand, I hear you telling me that you believe in getting all you can while you can, that is the American way, that it doesn’t matter whether it is right or wrong to feel that way. 

Yet, on the other hand, you help underprivileged kids in the off-season, play on the Padres for less money than you can earn elsewhere, won’t break a contract, won’t throw a game even if it means winning the championship, would stay on the Padres even if they can’t win the World Series as long as they progress – 

Ozzie, are you un-American or what? 

What I’m stating is the way the real world is. I can deviate from the norm. I consider myself different, in  doing things like I do, but that doesn’t make it the right thing for everybody else to do. I don’t expect everybody else to do the same things that Ozzie Smith does.

I just want to get what I’m worth in this game while I’m in it, because I know I’m not going to be in it all my life. What I do after this may not provide for me and my family as well as the thing I’m in right now. I want to stay on the same level when I get out of this game as I am on now.

What I’m saying, and please understand what I’m saying, is that because I like the way I am doesn’t change the way the real world is.

Are you trying to change it in your own way? 

I am not on a crusade to change the whole thing. There are certain things that I grew up believing — that you don’t always take. That is the way I was brought up. You give. It has always been with me all along. It has been no different since I’ve been here. I don’t do something for somebody and expect something in return.

You don’t? 

I don’t. I know everybody doesn’t think like I do. That doesn’t bother me. I’m able to be my own person.

I’ve got my own personal values but I don’t expect anybody else to live up to them. If I sign a contract, I’m going to honor it. What anybody else does is not my problem.

The way people are is the way they always have been. I would have to go to such extremes to try and change things that it would bring about utter chaos. Right now I have no solution to the problems of the world around me except taking care of myself. Being better. Trying.

My kids — whenever I do have kids – I will help them to realize what is going on. Maybe we can change it through our kids. I think that is where the problem has to be attacked. At the home base. The learning process starts at home.

I would teach them patience and perseverance. The importance of consistency in performance. Day in and day out. Don’t look for the highs and the lows; maintain an even keel. It’s the cornerstone of winning.

When I was young, my mother always told me to be patient with myself, to make sure not to rush myself. I would often ask her if I would ever get a chance to play professional baseball. She would say, “If it’s meant to be, you will. Your time is not here. When it is, you’ll know it.”

At that time I thought, “I will never get a chance.”

But I was patient and went on to college and, sure enough, here I am today in 1981, closing out my fourth year in the major leagues.

Epilogue: You cannot take on the Goliaths of this world without incurring their wrath although for Ozzie it worked out for the best. When conflict with Padres’ ownership developed not long after this interview, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for shortstop Garry Templeton in 1982. Upon joining the Cardinals, Smith helped the team win the 1982 World Series. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. Affectionately known as “The Wizard”, he is considered by most as the greatest shortstop to ever play the game. 

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30 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Stephanie – New Mexico said:

    This article about Ozzie Smith resounded the most with me. Although is was from 1981, I think it is very relevant to current times and I enjoyed it.

  • Thorn – New York said:

    Wow. That guy had long answers. Interesting slice of his perspective, and enlightening.

  • Joe – California said:

    I really enjoyed this.

  • Britt – Tennessee said:

    First of all let me say that this website has some wonderful articles large and small, for better or for worse. I was very impressed by how surprising it was once seeing the whole site together and I am glad I checked it out. Good on you sir!

    This Ozzie interview was acctually the first piece i read and this article came back to me time and time again. I think this is because I get all nostalgic anytime I read about the greats that were performing when I was a young boy and just learning about the great game of baseball. Ozzie Smith always stuck out in my mind because the position of SS is so difficult and he pulled it off with style and grace. I also feel that so many players who played along side of him have had their reputations ruined by the steroid scandal, but not Ozzie. He has danced above the waters of such scandal and even with his outspoken nature and great talent, he has come through unscathed and still considered a hero. The article also peaked my interest by being a reminder that things have been much changed since that interview but the lessons on corporate greed and corruption are easily forgotten unless someone like Mr. Smith can lend his voice to the shape of things. I would love to see this article expanded on with some of the opinions of today’s players to draw a parallel to the light shed in this interview.

  • Christopher – Louisiana said:

    I liked you article on Ozzie Smith. As a former collegiate and hopeful professional baseball player, I definitely could relate to some of the trials and tribulations that Mr. Smith had breaking into the big leagues. In all professional sports, the aspiring athlete is a commodity. Teams are businesses and want to make as much money as possible. With that being said, I feel like baseball may be the hardest of all the professional sports to break into.
    I liked several things about your article. You approached a common subject from a different point of view. When you did this interview in 1981, I am sure there were not many writers broaching the subject of corporate greed in sports. Also, the questions you asked were not cliche, softball questions. I am sure that many people have not seen Ozzie Smith in this light before.
    Somethings I did not like in your article. I understand that this was an interview piece, but I felt like the article was just mostly interview and a long one at that. I would’ve like to have seen more of your commentary on the subject.

  • Mary said:

    My first thoughts when seeing this article were sort of a childish astonishment at Ozzie’s name. I was a huge Cardinals fan growing up and collected a lot of his memorabilia; to see him taking on corporate greed and using his fame to do so is brilliant. More stars need to be like him, as well as people in general.

    The article was lengthy and hard to skim through, though. I got about halfway through before I decided to stop and take a break. For a blog, it’s too long, but the content is genuine and offers insight into a world gone corrupt.

  • Trena - Arizona said:

    I read this article about Ozzie Smith and the fights for corporate power. Let me just say you did an excellent job, but there was a few things I didn’t particularly like. For starters, it was lengthy. When readers or bloggers go to read a blog, they’re looking for something that gets to the point (in my opinion anyways). After reading the story, I went through the comments and this one in particular caught my attention because of its reference about America being a corporatocracy. This caught my eye. I thought this article was great(: God Bless!

  • Peter – Louisiana said:

    I was a huge fan of his when I was younger, and am a casual baseball fan today. The interview/article was thought-provoking and interesting, and I appreciate the glimpse it gave me into the inner workings of his mind and his thoughts on the state of baseball during his playing years. Thank you

  • Jeff – Oklahoma said:

    I read a few stories and found them refreshing with the portrayal of faith-based everyday ordinary people. I especially liked the Ozzie Smith and Tom Brady stories as I am a sports nut and have admired Ozzie for many years with his charitable ventures.

  • Court – Colorado said:

    The caption about America being a corporatocracy caught my eye. I found his view about the principles of baseball business interesting–at first. I don’t usually care for raw Q&As, and this was no exception. I didn’t finish reading the “story” because it wasn’t a story…it was a Q&A, which to me is something to reference in order to write a story. The only exceptions are when the interviewees are people who are particularly articulate, such as writers. But even then, an article is a more polished format that offers more to the reader by actually offering less. A writer should sculpt the Q&A as if it was a beautiful piece of stone ready to become an even more beautiful statue.

    Your top story rotating montage moves too quickly. I don’t have enough time to read the captions.

  • Phil S – Colorado said:

    The interview with Ozzie Smith was outstanding. He’s always been one of my favorite ballplayers, but not having seen too many interviews with him, I didn’t know that he expressed himself so well or that his opinions were so well-thought out. The best element of the interview was that it wasn’t a puff piece. The interviewer challenged Ozzie and made him justify his positions, which the player did exceptionally well. The fact that Ozzie answered the questions with such style and intelligence made the interview for me.

  • Garrick – Arizona said:

    I liked your interview with Ozzie Smith.

  • Chris – Florida said:

    The interesting thing about the article is his words could be used by a professional athlete during this period of the NBA lockout. Like what James Harrison said about the NFL during that lockout period, Smith’s words resonate beyond a simpleton’s understanding of an athlete’s contribution and responsibilities to the game. I think it was quite impressive you were able to get such explosive commentary from a player who turned into a perennial All-Star and a Hall of Fame inductee. I specifically embraced the way you pushed Smith to the limit with your questioning while not going overboard. He seemed to respect the way you asked him things in a way that forced him to think outside the box. It is refreshing to read something that revels the inner part of an athlete. It humanizes him or her in a way you would never realize.

    While the interview does a valid job in presenting the information, it would have been nice to see you end the article with some sort of opinion, considering you ask such opinionated questions throughout the conversation. I would have liked to see you do a follow-up to this article, keying in on what you thought of the man and what he had to say.

  • Milt – Ohio said:

    Good read and well done, I don’t necessarily agree with Ozzie on all points, but again I am not in the industry. My disappointment is that he looked at it completely as an owners vs. players equation – where are the fans (the customers) that really pay for the game. While there is something to be said for market value and the money – there is more to be said that it is too expensive for a family of four to go to more than one game a year. I think I read the average price to take a family to a game was over $120, that can buy quite a few groceries. Baseball is in danger of losing the public – I think there is already a disgruntled generation and if they continue to put money over sport, it will continue. As far as pay, why not let the pay come from major league baseball in general, base pay in direct proportion to time as a paid professional, performance pay based on how they contribute, and finally bonus based on overall attendance for the season?

    All that being said, the article was good as it stoked some passion regarding the topic. It was direct and on-topic and gave me a little insight into the opinion of Ozzie.

  • charlie said:

    Mr. Scandalios indeed wrote a powerful piece with his Ozzie Smith interveiw. He perfectly presented a picture perfect painting of a seemingly far away time period.

  • MaryAnne -- Utah said:

    I liked the article for some atypical reasons:

    1.) The article was great because it was controversial. I read a few comments at the bottom and some people didn’t like it because they felt that Mr. Smith wasn’t a cookie cutter hero. But isn’t anyone who stands up for what he believes a hero? Even (and maybe especially) when others don’t agree?
    2.) At first glance, it seems the article strayed a little from the main topic. However, on second examination, it was fitting. He allowed the audience some insight into what baseball players do, and why their freedom is so important.
    3.) Isn’t it interesting that Smith’s responses seem to be in direct contradicition? He debases the idea of being controlled by the system, yet he says it is a dog eat dog world. He wants to get all that he can out of his career, yet he denies those in charge that same right. You caught the other contradiction (“un-American?”) and called him on it. And he, in reply, said that that is the “real world.”
    4.) Finally, this was an exclusive interview. He said some incredibly revealing words, and that really captured my interest. He had a very unique perspective, and you expertly showed that to the audience.

    Thanks!

  • Steven -- Canada said:

    I am a huge baseball fan, so I gravitated towards this article/celebrity interview. First of all, I think the overall focus of the article could be changed to better match the magazine’s purpose. Fighting corporate greed clearly serves as a potent example of a “winner within us.” Yet, Ozzie also expressed his humanitarian work with underpriviliged children as a volunteer with “Operation Juvenile Hall.” I find this hands-on experience a far more compelling “winner within us” tale than his abstract critique of corporate baseball.

    Please excuse me if the interview was simply transcribed into print. If that was the case, steering the article in a particular direction was not an option. If, on the other hand, you held the reigns to choose specific quotes and insert them where you wanted, I would like to point out by way of an example, an alternative focus.

    If Jesus arrived at my doorstep and offered me 45 minutes of his precious time, I would be more inclined to ask him what he had for breakfast than delving into his abstract philosophy or societal critique. Jesus the person…what makes him unique and colorful could then be sprinkled into the article on top of his more abstract ideas.

    Having said that, I recognize the challenge in writing any sort of profile and perhaps your objective was not to write a profile, but rather let Ozzy speak his mind and focus on “Fighting Corporate Greed.” Regardless, I am not a big fan of the question and answer interview format, especially if the manuscript is simply transferred from audio to print. This approach seems to be a literary shortcut better left for radio. When a writer takes the time and struggles to find a general theme in what has been said and then works dilligently to weave quotes with personality traits, a theme emerges. The result may not be what we originally envisioned, but that’s the way it goes.
    This becomes increasingly difficult when an interview is conducted either over the phone or through email. All the filler forms of expression like hand movements, eyes wandering, voice intonation, and even what a person wears are not available to the writer.

    I think much of what the Wizard said was repeated over and over and as a result, the article was not concise. It could have been whittled down into a much shorter piece. This would have amplified some of the insights you phrased as questions, especially when you referred to Ozzy’s comments as somewhat contradictory. You pulled the accusation off in a light-hearted manner that weaved together the entire interview and inspired a nice response.

  • Alex Scandalios, Editor (author) said:

    Osborne Earl “Ozzie” Smith (born December 26, 1954) is an American former shortstop in Major League Baseball who played for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals from 1978 to 1996. Nicknamed “The Wizard” for his defensive brilliance, Smith set major league records for career assists (8,375) and double plays (1,590) by a shortstop (the latter since broken by Omar Vizquel), as well as the National League (NL) record with 2,511 career games at the position; Smith won the NL Gold Glove Award for play at shortstop for 13 consecutive seasons (1980–1992). A 15-time All-Star, he accumulated 2,460 hits and 580 stolen bases during his career, and won the NL Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting shortstop in 1987. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2002. After tension with his new manager Tony La Russa developed in 1996, Smith retired at season’s end, and his uniform number (# 1) was subsequently retired by the Cardinals. Smith served as host of the television show This Week in Baseball from 1997 to 1999, and continues to be an entrepreneur in a variety of business ventures.

  • bill owens said:

    could you tell me how old ozzie smith is today

  • bill owens said:

    can you tell me how old ozzie smith was when he was when he started playing baseball for the redbirds and how old is he know

  • Charlie said:

    Being a baseball fan the first story I read was this Ozzie Smith interview. I was impressed with the depth of the story/interview, but frankly thought it needed polish. Difficult in an almost verbatim re-telling, but the lengthy piece could have flowed better.

    I looked briefly at other stories and am attracted by the indepth nature of the work. I have been disappointed to see newspapers moving away from the weighty stories and detailed, painstaking work that made them special. I always believed – still do – that context, history and background detail tells the reader not just the story, but what the story means and why it matters.

  • norman w -- Connecticut said:

    I enjoyed your piece on Ozzie Smith from 1981. What strikes me is the same situtations are happening now. The NBA, the NFL and MLB all have contracts that expire this year and there are discussions like this one going on right now. It’s a facinating look back to a time when salaries were just starting to rise. Now, the money you quoted as “a good salary” are below the minimums that players receive in all sports

  • will -- California said:

    Compare your excellent piece on Ozzie Smith – that opens with a well-deserved slap at America’s corporatocracy – and what he said about the (then) feudal MLB system, to Kroc’s comments about paying his players. I’ll come down on the “Wizard’s” side every time.

  • Laurie Flood -- California said:

    As with most of the others that responded, my attention was definitely drawn to read the article by the opening box and calling America a “Corporatocracy.” This indeed drew my interest such that I read the article to its completion. It made me think about the Sacramento Kings at the end of their heyday. Players who were best friends of others on the team began to be traded away as they began to pass their prime playing years. At first, two of these players became the prime “work horses” of the team and were clearly being ground down trying to carry the team at its former level of competitiveness in the grueling NBA schedule. One soon clearly performed less to his former level and appeared to be not giving his best efforts anymore. The other continued to be the “work horse” for quite some time. Later, the latter also appeared to be purposefully giving less effort.

    As a fan, I understood the heartbreak of no longer living near and working with your best friend, but I resented wasting time watching a team that no longer was the inspirational underdog, because of the extraordinary sums of money these men receive for playing a game. The article, at first, really made me think about how families of sports stars must constantly face the threat of pulling up roots and having to leave friends and family behind and move to cities that are foreign to them and possibly not in their desired climate or region.

    Unfortunately, this is a magazine of inspirational stories of real life people. After the initial few paragraphs, the interviewer explores the question of whether it is not understandable that the limits on the free agent policy keeps the owners from having to pay ever higher prices for athletes, raising the cost of tickets for the average fan. I felt as though Ozzie Smith’s answers showed an absolute lack of understanding whatsoever that the more an owner paid the players, the more the fans would ultimately pay in ticket prices. When he basically asserted that it was okay in a free market system for him to receive any salary no matter now high, I lost all respect for him. This is an interesting story, but this man is not a hero, in my opinion for his work to help more players become free agents. Maybe if the author would have written a story on the charitable organization that Smith founded, and only on that, possibly Ozzie Smith may have been a good candidate for an article in this magazine; but, in my mind, he is clearly not inspirational to me in the least by virtue of the information given in this article.

  • Timothy said:

    I recognized his name and remember all those sweet back flips he used to do.(baseball was fun once!?) Anyway, as far as subject matter is concerned, I enjoyed. The writing and interpretation on the Ozzy Smith interview was easy to follow, and actually gave some pretty good insight on the man and his situation at the time.

  • bh said:

    i like the ozzie smith interview piece. he is right about the owners can trade whenever they want.but over the last twenty years i think the players have gained more control then the did when he was doing that interview. the players now command weather stay or go. albert pulhos is a perfect example. he told the cardinals that if they dont have a deal done by spring training that he would test the market next year. so the players and the control they have in baseball is in the court. they do and say as the please.

  • daniel said:

    I have explored this site and appreciate the positive tone throughout. The overarching lack of cynicism is both refreshing and unique. I read and enjoyed this reprinted interview with Ozzie Smith, which I felt was candid and well-balanced. This type of question-and-answer format is appealing to me because it allows the interviewee to speak for himself with little framing by the author. I have to admit that the hyperbole in the opening paragraph (“We are no longer a Democracy.” and so on) was rather off-putting, as I think the same point could be made in a less salacious manner, however the interview itself was excellent.

  • Tabatha said:

    After reading your interview with Ozzie Smith, I was impressed with your words “America is no longer a Democracy. It has become a Corporatocracy…” Although I feel that we are losing that particular battle, I still believe that someday we might win. The best way to do that, I believe, is by uniting and empowering the people. I also believe that change can be influenced by more positive actions, and that the media can play a huge role in getting inspirational stories to the masses.

  • Kathy B said:

    I loved the article about Ozzie Smith. His natural leadership ability shines forth in this interview, from way back in 1981. I’m not much of a ball fan, but I lived in St. Louis from 1987 – 2008, and I saw Ozzie everywhere. Ozzie lived out the dreams he described in the interview – he was a big hero to so many, a generous philanthropist, and a kind neighbor to all. I watched Ozzie reach out to poor kids in my urban neighborhood and give a sense of hope and connection to many young people. In the interview, Ozzie’s sense of self and comfort with himself is clear – and reading it now, one can see the young leader emerging even back then, in San Diego. I’m proud of Ozzie Smith – proud to be his neighbor in St. Louis, and proud of the strong legacy he left with the Cardinals; I believe his impact on our City continues to this day.

    Thank you for a great magazine.

  • Kevin D said:

    My attention was grabbed by the first article you had on the page about Ozzie Smith. I must admit that I am currently not a huge baseball fan. However when I was young and living in St. Louis he was my favorite baseball player at the time. Somewhere mixed in my boxes squirreled away in my parents attic there is an old baseball glove with his signature on it. When I was growing up the St. Louis Cardinals where a big deal and it makes me happy to find out that my favorite player then was also concerned about workers rights. Its good to see people using their positions of power to create positive change. What also helped to grab my attention was the opening statement.

    ” America is no longer a Democracy. It has become a Corporatocracy ruled by Multinational Corporations. 29 years ago, life was simpler. We only had to fight against local corporate greed. Our strongest weapon were unions who had the power to strike, to affect the corporate control, to force changes.” —-
    Its really difficult for one person to take on a corporate entity. We all gain inspiration from those in history who have opened up the eyes of those around them to the inconsistencies of large corporate interests. It would be wonderful if we could encourage these super stars such as Ozzie Smith in our current day and age to fight for workers rights beyond the baseball stadium. Using their position of prestige to promote workers rights in all forms of employment. From the grocery stocker at your local store to the plant technician at the near by factory.

    “It’s in the Constitution that people are free to choose who they want to work for. Yet, we don’t have that freedom. ” —-

    I really enjoyed this saying from Ozzie. It reminded me of a seasonal job that I took this fall working for an organic food packing plant. The packaging plant was run by moslty latinos. Most of which spoke only spanish. Working here gave me a new perspective on what actually is goin on with the labor force that provides us with food. This reminded me of Ozzies words because they point out that they do not have the freedom to choose where they work.

    I enjoyed reading the article despite my lack of interest in baseball.

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