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Wizard lands on Wheaties box
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07/24/2002 4:55 pm ET 
Wizard lands on Wheaties box
Just another highlight in Smith's memorable week to be
By Matthew Leach /

Ozzie Smith was all smiles Wednesday during the unveiling of Wheaties' newest commemorative box, to be available nationwide in August. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)
ST. LOUIS -- All-Star, Gold Glover, postseason hero, World Series champion, soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer. Now add one more title to Ozzie Smith's résumé: Wheaties poster boy.

The former Cardinals and Padres shortstop will appear on a special-edition box of the famous cereal, joining a long line of baseball greats that dates all the way back to Lou Gehrig in 1937.

"I'm very honored," Smith said at a news conference Wednesday morning, "and I think as an athlete growing up you always dream about having your face on a box of Wheaties. Because it's not until you get your face on a box of Wheaties that you're really considered a champion. My journey is complete."

Broadcaster and St. Louis resident Bob Costas introduced Smith, emphasizing that athletic success is not, in itself, enough to get a ballplayer on the familiar orange box.

"You don't have to be just a great ballplayer or great at what you do," Costas said. "That's not quite enough. Excellence is an important criterion. But there has to be something about what you represent that captures the idea of baseball and the idea of Wheaties as the 'Breakfast of Champions.' And Ozzie Smith has that kind of iconic standing."

The engagement was another in a long string of commitments for the next Hall-of-Famer. Smith will be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday. He is the only player in this year's class, and that has multiplied the demands on his time since it was announced in January that he would be inducted.

"It's been very hard," Smith said. "Being the only guy going in, the requests, they don't stop. It's leading right up until the very day. I'm hoping that I can get to Cooperstown to be able to just take a day. I'll get there today (Wednesday) and maybe tomorrow will be one of those down days. But Friday I'm right back at it."

Smith admitted that as much of an honor as enshrinement is, he is looking forward to the day after the ceremony as much as anything.

And then there are the nerves. The man widely considered the greatest defensive shortstop in the history of the game knows how many eyes will be on him on Sunday. If his acceptance speech doesn't go well, everyone will know about it.

"I don't think you can really know until you're standing there and you're looking in the faces of those people that you're going to speak to and talk about," Smith said. "I'm sure it's going to be a totally different atmosphere for me with all of the Hall-of-Famers sitting there and the spotlight on me. You want to do well on a platform like that. So am I nervous? Yes. I'm very nervous. But hopefully I'll be up to the challenge."

Smith has hardly had time to catch his breath recently, but he has had the chance to do a little reflection. While the demands have been, well, demanding, he appreciates the exposure he has received. He said that as easy as it looked for him to play shortstop, perhaps some fans didn't realize the amount of effort that goes into a Hall-of-Fame career.

"I think this week they probably have a better idea," Smith said. "I think with all of the things, the kind of depth they're going into on my life, 'Beyond the Glory' and all those types of stories, I think they're getting a better feel. The true baseball fans who came to the park before the game understood that, but I think the casual fan is getting a much better idea now."

Smith puts most of his time and effort now into things like charity work, travel and media commitments, and his television work with CNN, but Smith hasn't lost his sense of humor. His representative teasingly asked during the news conference whether Smith has considered a comeback, and "The Wizard" didn't miss a beat.

"I was telling people earlier this morning, I'm gonna eat my Wheaties," Smith joked. "And depending on how good the Wheaties are and how the regimen goes, if I try and come back, you'll know it was the Wheaties."

Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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