ST. LOUIS — It's been a rough few months for the Cardinals and their fans.
After the franchise lost a legend in Lou Brock on September, they were dealt another crushing blow to begin October with the loss of Bob Gibson.
Cardinals icon Ozzie Smith knew both legends better than most, and he chatted with 5 On Your Side sports director Frank Cusumano about his relationship with the late Gibson.
"It's hard. You never know how you're going to accept it. You knew it was coming, but you never know exactly how you're gonna feel when it happens and this this hurt. This was a gut punch," Smith said of Gibson's death at the age of 84.
Smith said when he came over to St. Louis in 1982, meeting all the legends associated with the franchise came with some weight, since they were guys he had grown up idolizing.
"It was intimidating at first, but you know because Bob... the scowl, you know. That's what people see first, the exterior, and to me, It was always a defense mechanism to say that, hey, you know what, I'm serious about my craft of what I do," Smith said of getting to know Gibson. "And once you're able to get by that, you know, you find a very warm, very caring, a very competitive and very courageous, fun-loving, great sense of humor person that I've had some wonderful times with."
Smith shared some stories about fun times he had with the outwardly serious Gibson, including some classic razzing the two used to dish out.
"I would always tell him I wish he had thrown in and hit me. If you'd of hit me I would have taken my bat and hit run out and hit you right in your kneecap. And he said, you know, if I was a shortstop they wouldn't even know who you are."
Smith said the legendary Gibson intensity was just how he was when working on his craft. The no-nonsense nature between the lines is what helped make him one of the all-time greats.
"I never saw one day where Lou (Brock) wasn't smiling. Whereas with Gibson, you know, some days when he was pitching, you know he didn't even speak to his teammates," Smith said. "And people knew that, because that's how he took his craft. He took it very seriously, took a lot of pride in it, and especially wearing those birds on the bat."
With the loss of Brock and Gibson, and the recent passing of Red Schoendienst in 2018, Smith is suddenly one of the remaining pillars of Cardinals legends. It's not a responsibility he's taking lightly.
"Unfortunately, you know, we're losing guys at a rapid rate. So, you know, I'm going to do whatever I can to represent the organization, myself, my family and the city of St. Louis," Smith said. "I think that, you know, this is a very special place, it has been for me since 1982. You kind of grow into these situations and it is what it is. So I'll handle it as best I can and hopefully I can do it for another 25-30 years."