Ten years later, Smith still has beef with management

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith waited for his turn at bat during a 1996 game while manager Tony La Russa checked the lineup card. (Associated Press file)

Following the Hall of Famer's comments, La Russa said Smith was no longer welcome to be part of the team.

ST. LOUIS -- Comments made in a newspaper interview have reopened an old rift between Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and manager Tony La Russa.

In an article in Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Smith said he will never be part of team-related activities as long as current management is in charge of the Cardinals. He did not say specifically if he was referring just to La Russa or also to general manager Walt Jocketty.

The rift dates to 1996, Smith's last year with the Cardinals and La Russa's first, when the manager chose Royce Clayton over Smith as the starting shortstop.

Smith's 10-year personal services contract with the organization -- which included mostly appearances at events such as playoff games and season-openers at Busch Stadium -- ends after this season.

La Russa had previously said Smith had an open invitation to serve as an instructor at spring training. Not anymore.

After reading the article, La Russa told the newspaper in Monday's edition that Smith is no longer welcome.

"Speaking personally, I don't think he would be good for our ballclub," La Russa said. "For him to repeat those comments is really unreasonable. That invitation is no longer there.

"He's not welcome."

Smith had made it clear in the Sunday story that he didn't want to belabor his discontent with La Russa.

"It's bringing up bad stuff," Smith said. "I don't want it to be ... where it seems like I'm crying about this or that.

"I've moved on. I've been able to find a life beyond here."

But in the article, Smith also said he still considered himself a member of the Cardinals and "at some future point, when things change, when management changes, I'm more than willing to come back because it's where I belong. I know it's where I belong. That time will come. When it does, I'll welcome it with open arms."

Don't expect La Russa to be part of the greeting committee.

"When my time is up, they can welcome him with open arms, but I don't want to be anywhere that he is," La Russa said. "I won't ever be around when he's around. Cardinals fans can embrace him all they want to, and it won't be uncomfortable because I won't be there.

"If, as he says, he has his rightful place ... when they welcome him back -- and he deserves to be there because he was a Hall of Fame player -- he won't have to worry about running into the old skipper.

"I won't be in the area. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror."

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