When you think of Ozzie Smith baseball cards, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?

If you’re like most veteran collectors, it’s his 1979 Topps rookie card:

1979 topps ozzie smith rookie card

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You remember that one …

It’s the card that still looks wrong, somehow, after all these years because Ozzie belongs in St. Louis Cardinals red & white and not — NOT — the McDonald’s uniforms that passed for San Diego Padres togs in the 1970s.

The Ozzie rookie card wasn’t always a top-of-the-hobby item since Smith was regarded as a light-hitting defensive specialist for much of his career. That’s not all that far removed from reality, but he did improve as a hitter, becoming league-average or better at the plate during his prime.

And “defensive specialist” morphed into Legend of Leather owing to Ozzie’s electric, acrobatic style at shortstop and his 13 straight National League Gold Glove awards.

As we turned more attention toward The Wizard of Oz, his rookie card naturally landed on the Most Wanted list, and we noticed that it was almost always off-center. In fact, of the 6047 Smith rookie cards that PSA had graded as of this writing, only five of them received a perfect “10” rating, with just 346 more checking in at PSA 9. And, across all grades, 1696 of the cards got qualifiers — most of them OC (off-centered).

So when you combine Ozzie’s star and his RC’s condition scarcity, you have a popular card that can bring into three figures even for PSA 8 copies (affiliate link to eBay “sold” listings).

Simply put, that Ozzie Smith rookie card is a hobby icon.

But the funny thing is … it’s not Ozzie’s first card. In fact, it’s not even his first Major League card.

That’s because, during his Ozzie’s rookie year with the Padres — that would be 1978 — Family Fun Centers issued two regional sets in Southern California. While the California Angels issue was a fairly boring white-bordered, black-and-white picture deal, the Padres set was something to behold.

Taller than the standard Topps cards of the day (and this day, for that matter), the Family Fun Centers Padres set featured wood-grain borders with a full-color player photo over the top two-thirds of the front. Below the image was the Padres’ friar and the Family Fun Centers logo, with the a player “nameplate” toward the bottom of the card.

The overall effect made the cards look like little trophy plaques you might find in your dad’s den (1970s speak for “Man Cave”). Here’s how Ozzie Smith looked on his:

1978 Family Fun Centers San Diego Padres Ozzie Smith

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If the card fronts were awesome — they were — then the card backs were down right delectable:

1978 Family Fun Centers San Diego Padres Ozzie Smith (back)

Can you believe that jazz?

Full player name …

Vital stats …

Lifetime stats (Ozzie still didn’t have any when the cards were issued) …

“My Greatest Thrill in Baseball” in the player’s own words …

Facsimile autograph …

Big old headshot, clear enough to actually identify the player.

We wouldn’t see card backs like these in any major set for several more years, but Family Fun Centers pulled it off way back in 1978.

And did you notice that Ozzie is card #1? Yeah, the card number is the same as his uniform number. Same goes for the rest of the set.

Anyway, you might expect a 40-year-old regional issue to be fairly scarce, and the PSA Population Report tells us that is likely the case here.

The grading giant has handled only 95 of these 1978 Family Fun Centers Padres cards in total, though 71 of those have been Ozzies. Among the Wizard submissions, six have graded at PSA 10, and another 18 landed at PSA 9.

A quick check of auction sales tracked by PSA shows 14 Ozzie cards changing hands in the past couple of years, mostly PSA 9s and 10s. Prices have ranged from $73 for a PSA 5 all the way up to $905.55 for a “10” that sold in September 2017.

So, while the first Ozzie Smith card is indeed tough, it’s not impossible to own. In fact, you can sometimes find them for sale online (check  eBay listings here and Amazon here), across a variety of conditions.

In the end, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that Ozzie Smith is the subject of a “hidden” rookie card that’s escaped the attention of many collectors for four decades.

The man is, after all, a Wizard.

(Check out the rest of our player-focused posts here.)

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