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Mike Schmidt

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Michael Jack Schmidt

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1995

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[edit] Biographical Information

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"No other third baseman ever did what he did with both his bat and his glove. Not Brooks Robinson, not Eddie Mathews, not Pie Traynor." - Dave Anderson of the New York Times, writing in 1989 after Mike Schmidt retired

Due to his blend of fielding skill, power and patience, Mike Schmidt is considered perhaps the best all-around third baseman in major league history.

Mike Schmidt played high school and college baseball in Ohio and was a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1971 amateur draft. The Phillies were, to put it mildly, in rebuilding mode, and by late 1972 Schmidt was in the starting lineup. A graceful fielder at third base (he was the Phillies' emergency shortstop for many years), a fast runner with keen instincts on the basepaths, Schmidt was initially overmatched at the plate, batting .196 in his rookie season (1973) with only flashes of power. He struck out at a hideous rate in 1973, earning him what seemed a lifetime default level of boos at Veterans Stadium. Phillies fans never really took in that Schmidt walked at an equally astonishing rate that made his strikeouts fairly irrelevant.

Things seemed to turn around for Schmidt in a single at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning against Tug McGraw of the New York Mets (whom he would later be a teammate of) on Opening Day, April 6, 1974. With the Phillies trailing 4-3, Schmidt hit a walk-off home run to win the game. He only hit two more home runs in April, but flirted with .300 all season, finishing at .282 with the first of three consecutive home run championships.

By 1979 the Phillies were a perennial power in the NL East, Schmidt was an annual Gold Glove winner, All-Star, and home run champ, and the team itself had been through three devastating playoff losses, confirming to many Philadelphia fans that the club, and Schmidt in particular, had talent enough to reach a certain level but not the wherewithal to transcend it.

Things changed in a hurry again in October of 1980, as Schmidt hit his 48th home run to break a tie in extra innings of the division-clinching game against the Montreal Expos' Stan Bahnsen. He was to add seven RBIs in the World Series and take home season and Series MVP trophies for the champion Phillies, effectively erasing doubts about his clutch ability forever. Schmidt's 48 homers in 1980 were the MLB record for a third baseman until broken by Alex Rodriguez 27 years later.

Schmidt won the 1981 All-Star Game with a dramatic late home run, and won his second league MVP award that year as well. He hit 26 home runs in July, August and September of 1983 as the Phillies won another pennant, and batted .467 in the 1983 NLCS (though only .050 against the Orioles in the World Series). He held the record for the most HR in three straight seasons with the same number (38, 1975-77). Dale Murphy was second with 36 each year from 1982-84. Adam Dunn has since hit 40 homers four years in a row (2005-08), setting a new mark.

By 1985, the Phillies had moved Schmidt to first base, a move that fans and Schmidt himself chafed at; at one point, stupefied by boos, Schmidt broke the tension by taking the field in a garish fright wig. Back at third base, he won a third MVP award in 1986, leading the league in HRs for the eighth time and RBIs for the fourth.

Close-up of the statue outside Citizens Bank Park

Due in part to a rotator cuff injury, Schmidt notably declined at the plate during the 1988 season and ultimately missed the last third of the season due to the injury. When he returned at the start of the 1989 season, his skills had declined even further. Dissatisfied with anything less than greatness, he retired suddenly on May 29, 1989. That season he became the first retired player to be voted onto the All-Star team, and while he did not play, he did take part in the opening ceremonies. He retired holding the record for most RBI as a third baseman, with 1,419 of his career RBI coming in the role; he also holds the record for home runs hit as a third baseman, with 509.

In retirement, Schmidt has stayed on the margins of baseball. He was a Phillies broadcaster in 1990 and briefly managed the Phillies' Florida State League Clearwater affiliate in 2004, but did not seem satisfied with life in the minors, either. In 2005, he emerged as a candidate to replace Lou Piniella as manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but that came to naught. He did other intermittent broadcasting work over the years and in 2014, he was added to the Phils' television crew for Sunday home games.

A hard-nosed, cerebral, fiercely attentive player, Schmidt was notably influenced by Dick Allen and Pete Rose in his style of play, though he never became as outspoken as those teammates.

Much like Wade Boggs' fondness for chicken, Schmidt always credited his superstition of eating three pieces of buttered wheat toast before every game (unless it was a double-header, in which case he wouldn't have any) for his success at the plate.

In terms of playing style, the most indelible image of Schmidt is probably his handling of chopped ground balls on the artificial turf at the Vet and other NL parks: charging furiously from third, barehanding the ball on its descent, and whipping it to first base in one motion. He is generally conceded to be among the greatest third basemen of all time, and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1995, being elected on January 8th by the Baseball Writers Association of America. His first baseball card appearance was in the 1973 Topps set.

Following the 1980 World Series, Schmidt appeared with four of his Phillies teammates on Family Feud for one week in 1980. He, Del Unser, Larry Bowa, Dick Ruthven and Garry Maddox played against five members of the Kansas City Royals: John Wathan, Willie Wilson, Paul Splittorff, Dan Quisenberry and Dennis Leonard.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 12-time NL All-Star (1974, 1976, 1977, 1979-1984, 1986, 1987 & 1989)
  • 3-time NL MVP (1980, 1981 & 1986)
  • 1980 World Series MVP
  • 10-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1976-1984 & 1986)
  • 6-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1980-1984 & 1986)
  • NL On-Base Percentage Leader: 3 times (1981, 1982 & 1983)
  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader: 5 times (1974, 1980, 1981, 1982 & 1986)
  • NL OPS Leader: 5 times (1980, 1981, 1982, 1984 & 1986)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (1981)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (1976, 1980 & 1981)
  • NL Home Run Leader: 8 times (1974, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984 & 1986)
  • NL RBI Leader: 4 times (1980, 1981, 1984 & 1986)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader: 4 times (1979, 1981, 1982 & 1983)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 14 (1974-1987)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 13 (1974-1977 & 1979-1987)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1979, 1980 & 1983)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 9 (1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1986 & 1987)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 7 (1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982 & 1983)
  • Won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1995


NL MVP
1979 1980 1981
Willie Stargell & Keith Hernandez Mike Schmidt Mike Schmidt
1980 1981 1982
Mike Schmidt Mike Schmidt Dale Murphy
1985 1986 1987
Willie McGee Mike Schmidt Andre Dawson

[edit] Records Held

  • Home runs, third baseman, career, 509
  • Runs batted in, third baseman, career, 1,419
  • Most home runs in 1980s, 313

[edit] Further Reading

  • Thomas Boswell: "The Best of All Time", in Why Time Begins on Opening Day, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1984, pp. 215-221.
  • Danny Gallagher: "Schmidt outduels Bahnsen", in Remembering the Montreal Expos, Scoop Press, Toronto, ON, 2005, pp. 62-63.
  • Rob Maaddi: Mike Schmidt: The Phillies' Legendary Slugger, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2010.

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