Ozzie breaks Aparicio’s record for assists at shortstop
It was a slow day in Denver for the Cardinals offense, but history was made nonetheless.
St. Louis lost to the Colorado Rockies 8-1 on July 14, 1994, and although Ozzie Smith went 0-for-3 at the plate, the future Hall of Famer shattered another defensive record, recording four assists to raise his career total to 8,018 and pass Luis Aparicio for the all-time record for career assists at shortstop.
Smith took part in three double plays and threw out one other Colorado hitter in the game to push past Aparicio’s mark of 8,016.
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After turning a twin killing in the bottom of the first, Smith pulled even with Aparicio by starting a 6-4-3 double play in the bottom of the third for his 8,016th assist. Then, with two outs in the Cardinals half of the sixth, the game was paused due to rain.
The assist that officially broke the record came in the bottom of the sixth when, after a 79-minute rain delay, Smith flipped to first baseman Gregg Jeffries to start an inning-ending double play that gave him No. 8,017. The play resulted in a standing ovation from the crowd of 63,745 on hand at Mile High Stadium.
Smith added another assist for good measure in the bottom of the seventh, throwing out Rockies shortstop Walt Weiss on a groundout.
“I know that my arm says that this is a lot of throws,” Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “My body says that it’s a lot of throws. First of all, to do this, you have to be around a long time. I think it says something about my durability.”
As Smith was speaking to reporters, Jeffries interjected.
“Quit being so modest,” Jeffries said. “You’re the best. Plain and simple.”
At the time, Smith already held the National League record for games played and assists by a shortstop. After passing Aparicio, he remained behind just two players on the overall career assists list: Bill Dahlen with 8,138 and Rabbit Maranville with 8,967.
“Nine hundred more, huh?” Smith said in reference to Maranville’s record. “That’s a lot of winging. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Smith was right about that, though he did ultimately pass Dahlen to claim second on the all-time list.
Smith, who began his career with the San Diego Padres before he was traded to the Cardinals in 1981, would retire two years later in 1996 after 19 major league seasons. He amassed 15 All-Star Game selections, and his 13 Gold Glove Awards are the most ever for a shortstop.
Smith finished his career with 8,375 assists, comfortably atop the all-time list for shortstops, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.
It’s no surprise the Wizard is in such rare company atop the defensive leaderboards, as his acrobatic fielding was what he was best known for throughout his career. Many have called him the greatest defensive shortstop ever.
"I think of myself as an artist on the field,” Smith once said. “Every game I look for a chance to do something that the fans have never seen before."
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum