I’m guessing that it wasn’t long before Ozzie Smith became The Wizard. The greatest fielding shortstop ever is featured here in his 1979 rookie card (which I have taken my usual exemplary care of, judging from the prominent crease running diagonally through his quizzical, slightly mournful expression), and I’m thinking that even by the time this card came out his Padre teammates were looking up to him. There was undoubtedly something about him–related but not wholly confined to his spectacular defensive play–that suggested his future greatness. I imagine his Padre teammates gravitating to him for support, for here was a man who, though only 5’10″, was able to stand up tall in the sinking quicksand of Padreness.
The below excerpt from Taxi Driver
features a conversation between Travis Bickle, played by Robert DeNiro, and The Wizard, played by the great Peter Boyle, who, sadly, passed away a couple days ago. But it’s fairly easy to imagine a somewhat similar conversation occurring between The Wizard of the Padres and any of a number of his struggling teammates, such as, oh, Derrel Thomas, whose utilityman career at the point of his chat with Ozzie had consisted entirely of being repeatedly shuttled back and forth, positionless, between the vague, ill-defined Giants and the vague, ill-defined Padres.
Wizard: Things uh, things got ya down?
Wizard: Yeah, it happens to the best of us.
Travis: Yeah, it’s got me a real down, real…I just wanna go out and, and you know like really, really, really do somethin’.
Wizard: The taxi life you mean?
Travis: Yeah, well. Naw, I don’t know. I just wanna go out. I really, you know, I really wanna, I got some bad ideas in my head, I just…
Wizard: Look, look at it this way, you know uh, a man, a man takes a job, you know, and that job, I mean like that, and that it becomes what he is. You know like uh, you do a thing and that’s what you are. Like I’ve been a, I’ve been a cabbie for seventeen years, ten years at night and I still don’t own my own cab. You know why? ‘Cause I don’t want to. It must be what I, what I want. You know, to be on the night shift drivin’ somebody else’s cab. Understand? You, you, you become, you get a job, you you become the job. One guy lives in Brooklyn, one guy lives in Sutton Place, you get a lawyer, another guy’s a doctor, another guy dies, another guy gets well, and you know, people are born. I envy you your youth. Go out and get laid. Get drunk, you know, do anything. ‘Cause you got no choice anyway. I mean we’re all fucked, more or less you know.
Travis: Yeah, I don’t know. That’s about the dumbest thing I ever heard.
Wizard: I’m not Bertrand Russell. Well what do ya want. I’m a cabbie you know. What do I know? I mean, I don’t even know what the fuck you’re talkin’ about.
Travis: Yeah I don’t know. Maybe I don’t know either.
Wizard: Don’t worry so much. Relax Killer, you’re gonna be all right. I know. I seen a lot of people and uh, I know.