On December 10, 1981 the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres swapped disgruntled shortstops in Garry Templeton and Ozzie Smith respectively. At the time it seemed like a lopsided trade in favor of San Diego. Thirty years later it is considered one of the greatest trades in Cardinals history and not as good as the Padres expected.
After the 1981 season, Templeton was considered by many to be one of the best players in baseball. He was a two-time all-star and Silver Slugger award winner. In six years with the Cardinals he batted .305. While both Garry Templeton and Ozzie Smith were switch hitters it was no contest as Smith was a .231 hitter with the Padres.
Templeton had all of the tools, led the National League in triples three times and was the first man to collect 100 hits in a season from both sides of the plate. It seemed as he would be a fixture in St. Louis for years, but starting with an all-star snub in 1979 Templeton began to become a disgruntled young man. For the next three years he lobbied to be traded to a west coast team or one which played on grass (the Cardinals played on AstroTurf at Busch Stadium).
Meanwhile out in San Diego, Ozzie Smith was on his way to becoming the Wizard as a two time all-star and Gold Glove winner. Though far from a Garry Templeton at the plate, Smith covered more ground than any shortstop in baseball. In 1980 he set a major league record with 621 assists.
But after the 1981 season, Smith’s agent upset Padres owner Ray Kroc by asking for a salary increase. The Kroc’s refused and looked to trade Smith. They did not have to look far as St. Louis General Manager Whitey Herzog was more than willing to trade Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith. The trade was announced on December 10, but Smith postponed the deal until Herzog gave him salary arbitration. It was not until February 11, 1982 that Smith and Templeton switched teams.
Going into spring training 1982 it was believed by many that San Diego had gotten the better end of the deal. Templeton was the better all around player. Many thought that moving to California and playing on grass would make him content thus even better. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were getting a good field, no hit shortstop who would never hit more than .240 in anyone’s eyes.
While Garry Templeton was being hailed as the best player in Padres history not named Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith went quietly about his business of making the Cardinals a pennant contender. Smith joined a team of speedsters like Lonnie Smith, Willie McGee and Tommy Herr that could cover the AstroTurf on defense and run around it on offense. While grass may have been to Templeton’s liking AstroTurf was to Smith’s.
The arc of the two shortstops careers after the trade is amazing. Templeton never hit like he did in St. Louis while Smith’s offense improved. In 1982 Garry Templeton hit .247 while Ozzie Smith batted .248. Templeton would play 10 years in San Diego and never bat .300 again. Smith would play 15 for the Cardinals and bat .272 with a .303 season in 1987. As for defense Smith went on to win 11 straight Gold Gloves and was a perennial all-star.
Starting with a world’s championship in 1982, Smith helped the Cardinals win three National League pennants and one World Series. Templeton helped the Padres to their first World Series in 1984, but it would be his only post season appearance.
When the dust had settled on their careers Garry Templeton had become a footnote in the biography of hall of fame shortstop Ozzie Smith instead of the other way around.