37 Years Ago Today Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith Trade Was Finalized

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On this date in 1982, the history of two major league franchises was changed forever as Ozzie Smith finally agreed to be traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after two months of delay.

On December 10, 1981, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres agreed on a six-player trade. The Padres traded defensive wizard Ozzie Smith, Al Olmsted, and Steve Mura to the Cardinals for offensive shortstop Garry Templeton, Sixto Lezcano, and Luis DeLeon. The centerpieces of the deal would be Ozzie Smith and Garry Templeton, obviously, though Lezcano was viewed as a decent prospect.

The major issue was that Ozzie Smith had a no-trade clause in his contract and demanded more than twice his salary to waive it. The two sides went back and forth and finally, on February 11, 1982, the trade was finalized.

The San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals agreed on a trade of two shortstops with different attributes. Garry Templeton was known as a great hitter, while Ozzie Smith was revered for his glove work and trademark backflip.

Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round (14th pick) of the 1975 draft, it only took Templeton two years to reach the majors as he made his professional debut on August 9, 1976. He ended up hitting .291 that year in 213 at-bats. Very impressive for a 20-year-old.

In his six seasons in Cardinal red, Templeton hit .305, slugged 25 home runs and drove in 281 runs. He was regarded as an offensive shortstop, at a time where the position traditionally offered nothing in terms of hitting.

Credit: Sporting News

He is probably most commonly known for his comments about not showing up to play the 1979 All-Star game (which he was elected as a reserve). He had better numbers than Dave Concepcion and Larry Bowa, who were elected as starters. Templeton openly stated: “If I ain’t startin’. I ain’t departin”. He did not play that year in the all-star game and was only elected to one more Mid-Season Classic (1985 with Padres).

The Padres were in the middle of a contract dispute with Ozzie Smith and had grown tired of him wanting more money. Templeton had worn out his welcome in St. Louis after saluting fans in the stands with a rude gesture (after not running out a ground ball) in late August 1981. The Cardinals’ management grew tired of his antics and bad attitude.

Garry “Tempy” Templeton was beloved by the fans because of his hard-nosed attitude and the offensive presence he provided to the lineup. A switch-hitting shortstop with a decent bat is what I will always remember. The confidence he brought to the team also comes to mind. He also never really displayed that bad attitude that plagued him in St. Louis while a Padre. He, for the most part, was relatively drama-free. Knee problems kept him from truly showing his great athleticism on a nightly basis. He did play in 141 games or more in seven out of his 10 years, though in the later years he never really seemed healthy.

Ozzie Smith went on to be a Cardinal mainstay for the next 15 years. He went on to win 11 straight Gold Gloves for the team and was nominated to the all-star game 14 times. He will go down as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game’s history.

Templeton showed flashes of dominance, but in the end, he never hit as he did for the Red Birds. Padre fans still loved him though. Even when he was dealt to the New York Mets for Tim Teufel on May 31, 1991, fans still cheered for him. He finished out the year with the Mets but retired at the end of the season at age 36.

Garry Templeton amassed 4,512 at-bats as a Padre with a .252/.325/.418 batting line. He totaled 43 home runs and drove in 427 runners while stealing 101 bases. The numbers really don’t do it justice, as that was a different era of the game. He was truly a solid shortstop for that time. He wasn’t fantastic by any means, but he was our starting shortstop for 10 straight years. For 10 years, Padres fans took comfort in knowing “Tempy” was there. Padres fans long for that comfort with the modern team. Hopefully one day, the San Diego Padres will be lucky enough to have a Garry Templeton plug the shortstop hole for 10 years.

Lucky indeed.

5 thoughts on “37 Years Ago Today Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith Trade Was Finalized

  1. This is one of those trades that turned out the way it did because of how the players aged. When the trade happened Smith couldn’t hit a lick and Templeton could. Smith’s OPS #s for 1978-1981 were .623, .522, .589, and .549. Dreadful.
    Templeton’s were .680, .790, .759, .709. A world of difference. Hard to remember but Templeton was the better player in 1981. Of course Smith went on to become a much better hitter and Templeton declined rapidly due to injuries.
    And Lezcano was no prospect in 1981, having already played 850 games over 7 years. He was a very good hitter.
    This is the overlooked aspect of that trade. The Padres got back 2 very good players for a SS who could not hit. Lezcano had a great 1982 (OPS of .860, OPS+ of 164), declined in ’83 and was traded in ’84, to Philly I think.
    Medical exams in 1981 were very different from today. This is a trade that wouldn’t happen today because Tempelton’s physical would reveal the knee deterioration.

  2. A few comments…I was a season ticket holder during that era and not only a fan, but a student of the game. I am an old man now, but still learning. The wizard of Oz was the best defensive player I have ever seen. I believe it was Alvin Dark that was responsible for drafting him. I think his request for salary adjustment was justified and logical when he asked to be compared to 5 other shortstops with similar time and stats. It was Joan Kroc that belittled him in the press, offering him a gardening job. After watching the movie, “The Founder”, my opinion of her was sustained. NEVER a sports fan, she was all about money and was looking for short-term investments. She could not wait to sell out.
    What should have been addressed in this discussion of Templeton is how much a racist environment existed in St. Louis at that time and how hard it must have been for a southern California boy like Templeton to accept and “go along to get along”. I respect him for his behavior. Remember when his mouth got bloodied against his old team and he had to be forced to come out of the game? Dick Williams had to physically pull him off the field. The next day he was back in with a face full of stitches. Ever notice how much he smiled as a Padre? It should also be noted that Templeton was the first (and I believe there was only one other) to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in a single season. From a defensive side, he had a cannon arm that found the mark. I don’t remember many throwing errors. He also still leads the world in a play that I cannot name correctly, but can describe as fielding the ball, stepping on second and throwing to first to complete a double play. They say the astroturf was the cause of his knee deterioration and what possibly kept him out of the hall. I saw a video of the arthroscopic surgery to his knee. The surgeon said there was no cartilage left. It was said that he wrapped his knees before every game and never once complained or asked for a day off. I heard an interview back then of a few Hall of Famers. They were asked to name 3 players, young in their careers that were HOF candidates. They all agreed on 3 names: Winfield, Dawson and Templeton.

  3. This article is much too gracious towards Templeton, IMO. Ozzie quickly surpassed him as the superior of the two.
    Interesting anecdote: when the trade was being discussed, a friend of mine wrote a letter to Ballard Smith, the then-Padres president. He got a letter back that basically said this (paraphrase): We may be trading away the best defensive shortstop of all time, but we’re getting a Hall of Famer in return.

    I kid you not.

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