Ozzie Smith spent his baseball career taking peoples breath away.
By PETE GRATHOFF
The Kansas City Star
With 13 Gold Gloves, 15 All-Star Game appearances, a World Series ring and a place in the Hall of Fame, Smith has done it all. But he was stopped in his tracks recently when he was approached by a former Negro Leagues player.
We were at a function, Smith said Wednesday at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and I dont remember exactly who it was, but he said to me: You could have played for us.
Smith paused, and said: You know, what an honor.
On Thursday, Smith joined Royals Hall of Famer Frank White, Mike Thompson of Rawlings (which hands out the major-league Gold Gloves each year) and museum president Bob Kendrick in announcing the all-time list of Gold Glove Negro Leagues defensive players.
A special panel of historians and journalists chose the winners.
Nine have their names on these awards, but we could probably name nine teams of nine, Kendrick said. These guys would be a SportsCenter highlight every night and thats the kind of players we are talking about.
They played with great dogged determination, and they played defense as well as anyone. So if anyone deserves Gold Gloves, it is these heroes of the Negro Leagues.
The nine special Gold Glove awards were for pitcher Leon Day, catcher Raleigh Biz Mackey, first baseman Walter Buck Leonard, second baseman Newton Newt Allen, third baseman Ray Dandridge, shortstop Willie Wells, and outfielders James Cool Papa Bell, Martin Dihigo and Oscar Charleston.
White, who won eight Gold Glove awards with the Royals, said Negro Leaguers had a profound effect on him as a kid. He fondly recalled watching the players take infield practice without a ball.
They would mimic all sorts of plays, and White was enthralled.
They were not only great athletes, but they were also great baseball players, White recalled. It was kind of like watching the Globetrotters and the Washington Generals. The baseball players were that good.
Kendrick said he had no trouble recruiting Smith and White for Thursdays event, which included a special Gold Glove award for Buck ONeil, whose name is synonymous with the museum.
Kendrick choked up as he spoke about ONeil.
He is as excited as he can possibly be as with all of those other Negro Leagues players who have left us, Kendrick said. They have a pretty good game going on up in heaven right now with some of those guys who are there.
And now some of them are officially Gold Glovers.