ST. LOUIS -- A decade after they feuded over playing time, Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith and St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa still agree to disagree.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published on Sunday, Smith, one of the team's most beloved players, said he did not want to belabor his disagreements with Cardinals "management" and still considered himself a Cardinal.
In 1996, Smith's last season, he and La Russa, in his his first season as Cardinals manager, squabbled publicly over Smith's playing time at shortstop. La Russa had made Royce Clayton the starting shortstop that season, saying he was a better everyday option; Smith felt he had not been treated fairly.
In the same interview, Smith said "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."
After reading the comments, La Russa, who previously had said Smith could be welcome at spring training as an instructor, rescinded any such invitation, the newspaper reported.
"When my time is up, they can welcome him with open arms, but I don't want to be anywhere that he is. 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."
Tony La Russa
"Speaking personally, I don't think he would be good for our ballclub," La Russa told the Post-Dispatch for Monday's editions. "For him to repeat those comments is really unreasonable. That invitation is no longer there. He's not welcome."
"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 told the newspaper. "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."
"I won't be in the area. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror."