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For Cards fans on your gift list: Ozzie's key to the city and Gold Gloves still up for grabs

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 29, 2012 - How much is a key to the city REALLY worth? 

$572 and counting, if you’re Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

That’s the current bid on Smith’s 1997 key to the city of St. Louis inscribed, “On behalf of the Citizens of the City of St. Louis WE THANK YOU for 14 years of Wizardry.” The award, presented by then-Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., is one of 90 items currently up for grabs at SCP Auctions of Laguna Niguel, Calif., which is conducting an online auction on behalf of the masterful shortstop.

Ozzie's bronze key, which is mounted on a wooden base, started at $100 and has drawn nine bids, so far.

Gee whiz. And a key to the city seems like such a priceless honor.

Smith, who retired in 1996, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 and remains a huge favorite with St. Louis fans. According to a news release issued by the auction house in October, he apparently decided to clean out a few closets as part of his estate and family planning.

"My family and I have decided together which of my pieces to keep and which to share,” Smith said, according to that news release. “I will forever cherish every experience associated with earning these awards that I shared with the Cardinal Nation and the baseball community. I hope those who are passionate about collecting and preserving such items will gain a similar measure of joy through their ownership."

Since it is the season of gift-giving -- and receiving -- we’ve been following the auction that started on Nov. 14. The folks at the Riverfront Times have been doing the same, and we would have to agree that a cel from "The Simpsons” inscribed by creator Matt Groening -- currently at $1,060 -- is one of the coolest things on the auction block. But here at the Beacon we’re keeping an eye on that key to the city.

At last peek, we found an interesting range of bids:

Out of our league

* The current bid on Ozzie’s 13 consecutive Gold Gloves, awarded between 1980 and 1992, is $151,645, five times the $30,000 minimum.

* Smith’s last game glove, a Rawlings fielder’s glove, which he has signed, is at $14,802.

All bling is not equal

* Smith is selling some championship rings, including his 2011 World Series ring going for $29,233 and 2006 is at $21,962.

* Also pricey: His 1985 National League championship ring sits at $21,405 and the 2004 model at $9,983.

* The 15-time All-Star has placed 11 of those rings in the auction. At least a half-dozen All-Star rings have drawn nary a bid. (There's a $2,500 starting bid on each.)

Stocking stuffers

* A 1996 photograph presented to Ozzie by the Florida Marlins has attracted three bids, so far, and it’s going for just $134 (34 bucks over the minimum).

* A silver commemorative plate awarded to Smith in 1994 by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum stands at just $148, after five bids.

By our very rough calculations, the Wizard would haul in more than $350,000 if the auction ended today. But since the bidding continues through Dec. 1, we’re guessing old No. 1 is hoping those prices will still -- in the words of Mike Shannon -- "get up, baby, get up."

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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