From combined dispatches
Ozzie Smith finds out today whether he will backflip into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
The Wizard of Oz, a 15-time All-Star who showed how shortstop should be played, heads the list of candidates for induction to the Hall next summer.
Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage top the holdovers from last year, when Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield were elected on the first try.
To be elected, players must be listed on at least 75 percent of the ballots of 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Just 36 players have been elected in their first year of eligibility. There are 251 people in the Hall, overall.
Smith, 47, has kept mostly a low profile since retiring at the end of the 1996 NL playoffs, although he has done some television work, including “This Week in Baseball.”
“Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and turn the page, and my life goes on,” he said after his final game. “It’s been a great career and I have a lot of great moments to look back on, and I’m going to try and enjoy life a little bit now.”
He spent 19 seasons in the major leagues, breaking in with San Diego in 1978. Smith played four years with the Padres, then finished with 15 years in St. Louis.
Smith won 13 NL Gold Gloves all in a row from 1980-92 set shortstop records for most assists (8,375) and double plays (1,590) and entertained fans with a backflip when he ran out to shortstop at the start of games. The Cardinals retired No.1 in his honor.
“I don’t think anybody ever played the position any better than he played it,” former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said. “Was he the best? He made more diving plays than I’ve ever seen. I don’t see how it was possible to play it any better than Ozzie played it.”
If there’s any knock on Smith, it’s offense: He batted just .262 in his career with 2,460 hits, 28 homers and 793 RBI.
YANKEES/METS: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city will not build stadiums for the Mets or Yankees this year because of its budget crisis.
A few days before he left office last month, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani signed tentative deals with the teams to construct two new $800 million stadiums, with the city paying half of that cost. However, Bloomberg said that “it is just not practical this year to go and to build new stadiums.”
Also, Todd Greene, who will compete this spring for a job as Yankees backup catcher, agreed to a $650,000, one-year contract that avoids salary arbitration.
ISHII: The New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels were among the teams that bid to obtain the rights to Japanese left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii.
Several teams have expressed interest in bidding for Ishii, who was 12-6 with a 3.39 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 175 innings for Yakult last season.