ST. LOUIS — Ozzie Smith is one of St. Louis' most celebrated sports heroes. "The Wizard" is beloved in town, and really all over the country.
Now, he's weighing in on the issues that have the country talking this week, including the death of George Floyd in police custody, the subsequent protests and his own experiences with racism.
Smith talked with 5 On Your Side sports director Frank Cusumano on Cusumano's daily radio show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. You can listen to the entire interview here.
"It's very disheartening. It's something that's been going on for a long time as far as police brutality and the like, and it finally reached a boiling point. When you have the opportunity to sit and watch in real-time, someone lose their life. I think that's part of what we have here. It's real for a lot of people now that probably didn't think it was really going on. When you're able to see it in real-time it really has an effect on you," Smith said.
"It's heartbreaking to watch. And I think we've lost some of the importance of that with all of the violence and stuff going on. But hopefully, the violence part has subsided and now we can move on to make some real changes to make our place a better place to live."
When Cusumano asked Smith if he thought racism might still exist in locker rooms of sports teams around the country as well, the hall of famer had this to say.
"I don't know. There's probably still some (racism within locker rooms) there. It's not as obvious because you're part of a team that's going against someone else, you know. I think it might be a little bit in everything that we do. But we have to be able to live with it and learn how to deal with it. It's a tough thing when you've been raised a certain way to just have that erased through your life. For a lot of people it's just the way they've been raised," Smith said. "But I think getting out and having the opportunity to meet and opening yourself to listening to other people and the problems they may have, whether you think they're real or not. You still have to be able to sit down and listen to people and it's about communicating. And I think in this town we're well on our way to doing that."
Smith also told a personal story about and encounter he had with racism when he first became a Cardinal.
"When I first came to St. Louis in 1982, myself and Willie McGee were trying to figure out our way around town. And we got stopped by the cops. And we hadn't done anything wrong. I was a passenger at the time and Willie was driving. And he asked Willie for his license and Willie got his license out and showed him. So I leaned over and asked him, 'What did we do wrong?' And he says, 'Nothing yet.' So that was a little earth-shattering because we were new to town and we had no idea. We were driving around trying to get our bearings of where we were going to live and all of that. That was my foray into all of this," Smith said.
"But since then I haven't had any problems as far as racism is concerned. I think being a part of the organization here I think a lot of those things are taken out of the equation because baseball, and baseball players in this town are so revered."