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100 Greatest Phillies: 1 – Mike Schmidt

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 26, 2009 08:08 PM | Comments: 58
100 Greatest Phillies, Posts

Mike Schmidt
Third Baseman
1972-1989

Career w/Phillies: .267 AVG / 548 HR / 1,595 RBI / 174 SB

These days, 548 home runs doesn’t seem so grand. It seems each season another hitter who dumped balls into seats during the 1990s surpasses Mike Schmidt’s now mortal total of 548. But a closer examination of Schmidt’s career shows you why those 548 mean much more. Take the nine Gold Glove awards at third base. Take the 10 winning seasons under Schmidt’s reign. Take the 18 seasons in a Phillie uniform, still a franchise record. Always a Phillie, never intimidated, and never surpassed, Mike Schmidt is the greatest third baseman in baseball history and, yes, the greatest Phillie of them all.

It’s a forgone conclusion for most. Sure, you can consider Steve Carlton or Pete Alexander or Ed Delahanty. But Schmidt is the gold standard at third base — his combination of raw power, clutch performance, baseball intelligence and defensive gracefulness remains untouched at the hot corner. Eddie Matthews had the bat; Brooks Robinson had the glove. Alex Rodriguez had the bat and some glove; Scott Rolen had the glove and some bat. But Schmidt had everything.

Scouted on a ballfield in Canton, Ohio, and drafted by the Phillies in 1970, Schmidt rapidly ascended to Philadelphia an incredibly raw player. Anthony Hewitt raw. He hit under or at .200 his first two seasons with the Phillies, striking out a ton, taking his licks. He finally jumped into the starting role for good in 1973, and very quickly assured fans he was the guy for a little while.

The power came first; the glove was right there. Now flashing a trademark mustache, Schmidt swatted 36 home runs and drove in 116 in 1974. As Schmidt progressed, so did the Phillies — pitcher Steve Carlton bolstered the staff while a growing contingency around Schmidt (Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski) settled into their roles. By 1976 the Phillies were not just a playoff team, but a downright buzzsaw. Inexperience and a little lack of that extra something kept the Phils from grabbing a pennant.

As Schmidt ran through his elite prime the numbers raced up. 38 home runs in 1975. 38 more in 1976. Another 38 in 1977. He led the league in bombs from ’74-’76. His average also climbed from .249 in ’75 to a respectable .274 in ’77. Even more impressive — his on-base percentage rose toward .400, mainly because of high-walk seasons. He even stole close to 30 bases twice. And of course, the Gold Gloves started in 1976.

But as the 1970s closed, Schmidt’s game stalled. An uncharacteristically poor 1978 signaled a possible downfall. But Schmidt returned in 1979 with a 45-homer season, second in the National League. His best was yet to come.

1980 was special for Schmidt. He hit a career-high 48 homers, drove in a career-high 121 and hit a very nice .286. His game also transcended into a clutch game, as he belted the home run that won the National League East for the Phillies. Seven wins later, Schmidt was a regular-season MVP, a World Series MVP (two homers, seven RBI) and a champion.

Meanwhile his defense was becoming legendary. He tracked balls like a Hoover, glided across the Veterans Stadium turf as he made tough plays look simple, and even maxed out his body many times for the sake of making an out.

Truly, no player made baseball look so easy as Mike Schmidt.

His game took off even more in 1981, despite a strike shortening the season. He hit .316 with 31 homers and 91 RBI in just 102 games. He easily won his second MVP award as Phillie fans wondered just how good that season could’ve been. Luckily, Schmidt returned with more treats as the ’80s continued.

A 35-homer season was helped by a .280 average in 1982. He hit another 40 bombs in 1983, rattling off a slew of 30-homer seasons after that. His apex in this run would be 1986, a 37-homer, .290 average season that landed Schmidt his then-record third MVP award. In the later stages of his career Schmidt had fancied himself an average hitter, striking more than 150 hits per season consistently while striking out less than 120 times per season consistently. With age came finer play.

But in 1988, Schmidt injured his rotator cuff, shortening his season terribly. The writing was already on the wall, and in 1989 Schmidt played poorly. He was hitting .203, unquestionably having his worst season since 1973. After a game in San Diego, Schmidt decided he couldn’t do anymore.

Years of shutting himself off from the fans and even the media poured out as Schmidt said only this in a press conference:

“Some 18 years ago I left Dayton, Ohio with two very bad knees … and a dream to become a major-league baseball player. I thank God that dream came true.”

He completely broke down.

After a moment, Richie Ashburn moved to console Schmidt as he painfully cried away his career.

The legacy lives on: Thirteen 30-homer seasons. Nine 100-RBI seasons. More than 2,200 hits. More than 1,500 runs scored. Ten Gold Glove awards. Three Most Valuable Player awards. And of course, those 548 home runs.

Sure Barry Bonds and Co. have surpassed titans like Schmidt. But to this day, you can still contend that, again, no one made it look easier than Michael Jack.

Comment: There ain’t nothin’ more to say. This list is outta’ here.

Avatar of Tim Malcolm

About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1947 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 580 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    Great list.

    I remember listening to Harry call number 500 for Michael Jack.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jim

    boom baby

    well written, great list

    will you now have a compacted version with links to each players page?

     
  • Posts: 0 Jim

    interesting note too, he hit all his milestone home runs, incluidng his first, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and last all at away parks

     
  • Posts: 0 BurrGundy

    It was an honor and pleasure to watch this professional play the game of baseball. He was a giant and is a legend.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phil

    I knew he’d be #1. He is the epitome of Phillies baseball. Hard working, blue collar, and amazing to boot. Best 3B of all time. Top 20 best players of all time. Mike Schmidt is just simply amazing. I am so proud to say he played on my favorite team. He was the player that got me into the game of baseball.

     
  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    I’ll probably write a postscript with the full list pretty soon.

     
  • Posts: 130 Amanda Orr

    Avatar of Amanda Orr

    Awesome list Tim. You put a lot of great work into it!

     
  • Posts: 580 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    There’s a link to the full list (and other lists) in the right sidebar.

    http://www.philliesnation.com/100-greatest-phillies-of-all-time/

     
  • Posts: 0 TBT

    Here’s an oddity: IIRC, after Schmidt hit #500 in Pittsburgh, he returned to the field to finish the game and had to play shortstop thanks to some move or another by whoever was managing leaving no one else capable of fielding the position.

     
  • Posts: 0 whizkidfanatic

    It is a great ending even a bit anticlimactic…now that it’s over it’s seems inevitable that Schmidt had to be number one. He may not have been our most lovable star; mercurial, introverted, moody, even a bit haughty at times, yet he was without doubt the finest player to ever wear a Phillies uniform. He learned to conquer his own demons and at his best, which means for most of his career he did what only the greats one can, make a tremendously difficult game look easy.

    I have always felt that one of his greatest talents was least appreciated; his baserunning. He often stole successfully but usually only when it was important. He was a superb baserunner and seldom made mistakes after his rookie years. A great talent and a fitting end to Tims list.

    I came late to this party of Tim’s but have fully enjoyed it. It has energized much opinion and discussion that has been largely informative and interesting. We will all have our quibbles with his rankings.

    I will still argue that Del Enis belongs in the top ten.

    My only major disagreement is his ranking of Granny Hamner in the 90′s. This one is absurdley off. Hamner was a three time all-star who made it as both a shortstop and second baseman. For eight seasons until injuries cut his career short he was the equal of PeeWee Reese and Alvin Dark. He was in no way a “mediocre” player, and should rank somewhere in the 60′s at a minimum. But hey, it’s all our own opinion and I say thanks Tim, for reawakening the memories!!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Phil

    Yeah, I totally forgot to thank you Tim for your amazing list. It was a pleasure to read, and I hope you saw me sticking up for you constantly! Don’t listen to the naysayers that disagreed with you throughout.

     
  • Posts: 0 Woodman

    MICHAEL JACK SCHMIDT….. #1….. no doubt!

     
  • Posts: 0 Tim C

    Thanks Tim,
    This was great, especially for a 20 year old who missed most of these great players and only remembers his dad’s stories of 1980 and Mike Schmidt.

    Thank you

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe O'Phillie

    Great list , from Lerch to Schmidt.

     
  • Posts: 0 James Kay

    Schmidt’s HOF induction and 1980 World Series celebration speeches were clever, moving, and probing. He even seemed slightly humbled in Cooperstown.

    I believe Schmidt may be the only Phillies player whose wife had her own TV show. Does anyone recall The Donna Schmidt Show?

    His book “Clearing the Bases” is a worthwhile read.

    Schmidt was also number one on my list for all the right reasons that have already been voluminously described. But, if some supernatural creature like the Devil or a real Irish Leprechaun gave you the opportunity to play one season in the major leagues where you were endowed with the skills of either a Mike Schmidt or a Dick Allen. which would you choose?
    My choice, Dick Allen in a heartbeat.

    @ Tim – That was a fantastic journey. I thoroughly enjoyed every entry. Unfortunately because of time and space limitations many players worth examining and paying tribute to were not covered. Perhaps in the future you might devote some periodic space to past Phillies who did not quite make the list.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jason B.

    Awesome list. Schmidtty is the player that i pretended to be when I was a kid. In TBall, I used to try and emulate his swing. When I was a little older, I would try to do a Harry Kalas impression and it would always go,”Swing and a drive to deep left center field, and that ball is outta’ here, 3-run homerun, Michael Jack Schmidt!” He was my hero, as a kid, I never understood why it wasn’t until later in his career that he was finally appreciated. At his HOF induction, the fans of Philly forgave Michael Jack and he in turn forgave the fans. Some of my greatest Phils memories are of Schmiddty. When he hit his 500th in Pittsburgh, I was 10, and my dad was so happy, he let me have my first ever beer to celebrate. Thank you Tim for this list… you can tell it was well thought out, and although controversial at times, it was a pleasure to read.

     
  • Posts: 0 Tyler

    thank you, tim. as others have said, bein on the younger side (mid teens), i have missed out on a lot of great phillies and being able to look back to see what i missed is amazing.

    Great list.

     
  • Posts: 0 Griffin

    Great list Tim, job well done.

     
  • Posts: 0 NC Jason

    Thanks for this list Tim. It was great to read during the off-season. Really enjoyed learning about all of the past greats.

     
  • Posts: 0 bigbobster

    Being 16 years old, sitting with some buds on that Saturday back in 80, watching Schmidt hit that clutch home run on off Stan Bahnson to clinch the NL East, one of my top sports moments…The Phils were lucky to have a guy so dedicated to the game. As for the entire list, find a publisher, and get the book deal started, that’s how good some of the research was. Thanks for the hard work putting it together.

     
  • Posts: 0 James Kay

    Schmidt was also number one on my list. However, if you could be granted the opportunity to play one major league season being endowed with the skills of either a Mike Schmidt or a Dick Allen, who would you choose?
    My choice, Dick Allen in a heartbeat.

    Does anyone remember “The Donna Schmidt Show” TV program?

    @Tim – That was a fantastic journey. I thoroughly enjoyed every entry.

     
  • Posts: 0 T Marty

    Tim,
    This was a helluva ride. i check this site daily, but with this list, i couldn’t wait to see who was next. . You brought up names from the past i’ve heard of, but knew nothing. Names that i grew up with, names we grew up with, Legends we’ve read of, fan favorites, and a few that i plain forgot about. There’s been plenty of debate, and that’s great, this was your list, which you researched and compiled.. Excellent Job. definitely a great lead into the upcoming season, thank. Go Phils!

     
  • Posts: 0 Fran

    Great job Tim on this list. Just another reason why this is the best phillies blog out there. Probably the best baseball blog too.

    When are you going to post the people who correctly guessed the top 10?

     
  • Posts: 0 IRONPIGPEN

    Michael Jack

     
  • Posts: 0 rob

    And where else do we see the number 548? That’s right, Philadelphia City Hall is 548 feet tall. That alone is reason enough never to adopt the metric system.

     
  • Posts: 0 Paul Abbott

    I WAS ROBBED!

     
  • Posts: 0 Paul

    The greatest third baseman to ever play the game. All five tools and always a good teammate. He played his entire career in pinstripes, withstood several poor managers and some poor management toward the end of his career.
    He appreciated those veterans that went before him and took many youngsters under his wing to help guide him. Even after retirement- his love for the only organization has always been present.
    Mike had several abilities that were not always available to be seen. He was an excellent bunter, showed great hustle (I saw him turn a check swing into a triple) and for fun would turn a double play during infield practice from second to first -throwing the ball from behind his back.
    Always a hard working gentleman, a credit on and off the field.

     
  • Posts: 0 had_my_phil

    Tim, I tuned in everyday. Thanks so much for the list. Amazing.

     
  • Posts: 0 ryan

    the most anti-climactic ending ever.

    i still had my money on Rex Hudler

     
  • Posts: 0 Craig

    Fantastic series there Phillies Nation. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Give yourselves a pat on the back!

     
  • Posts: 0 Lewisauce

    I’ve pointed this out before, but it bears mentioning again: yeah, the kids today seem to be surpassing him, but so many of them are cheaters. If you remove the proven cheaters (Bonds, Sosa, Palmiero, Maguire and, sadly, now, A-Rod) from the all-time HR list, Michael Jack Schmidt is still No. 8 all-time.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jeff Y.

    Good list. Why were Pete Rose and Tony Taylor left off?

     
  • Posts: 0 Meat Balls

    Hey Tim,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your daily accounting of The List. Have you published The List 1 – 100, names only? I read the Nation everyday, but my memory could use a refresher of who is on the list and in what order. There is nothing like a trip down memory lane! Thanks!

     
  • Posts: 0 BigDaddy

    Great List! Tim
    I tell eveyrone who tours the Bank, Definitely the greatest Phillie of all time.
    Keep up the great work!

     
  • Posts: 0 Kim Batiste

    Screw this list, you dont know an athlete when you see one!

     
  • Posts: 0 Tom G

    Tim…
    Great List…it has been a total hoot to watch it unfold. You took a lot of guff from pompus bozos and remained standing…It was great meeting you all in Clearwater, if the family and I head up this summer, I would like to buy you guys some beer…tailgate…etc…

    Great job, and look forward to the season!

    TOM

     
  • Posts: 0 Tom G

    One of the top base runners in his era too…great 1st to third!

     
  • Posts: 0 Tyler

    so what’s the all-time greatest phillies line-up???

     
  • Posts: 0 J-Mills

    Glad I found this web site. Thanks for the great list and all the history on the old-timers. I feel very fortunate to have grown up watching Schmidt and Carlton. It will be interesting to see where Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels end up on the list when their careeers are over. I know I will enjoy every minute of it.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Tim..

    Great work.. I remember the day this list started, and thinking it would take SO LONG TO GET TO #1… but we’re there, and what a great idea to get us through the off-season..

    with still a week+ to go, I like Tyler’s suggestion of an All-Time Greatest Lineup.

    Maybe we could vote between now and Opening Day, and post the results.. which would be voted on by the readers, so people can’t really bitch too much?

    It might be hard, but Baseball Cube lists what spot in the order most guys hit
    1. Ashburn, 2. ?, 3. Abreu, 4. Schmidt… would be a good debate

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Nice read! I guess we shouldn’t give up on Anthony Hewitt…

     
  • Posts: 0 Greg B

    I completely agree. Great reading and educational for a lot of Phans including myself that didn’t know a lot about old time players and Phillies history way back in the day. I’m a better fan for reading it. Thanks.

     
  • Posts: 0 From Section 113

    GREAT JOB Tim!

    Schmidt led league in HRs- 8 times, RBIs-4 times, OPS- 5 times.
    **1976- 12 HRs in 1st 15 games of the season!!!!

    When he retired (not now) he was: 7th in HRs ALL TIme!
    Since he retired 9 people have passed him in all time OPS+ and RBIs.

    What many people don’t realize is that he led the league in HRs 8 freakin times. Barry Bonds and Aaron only did it 4 times. Only 1 other guy did it more times. He was truly the top power hitter of his era.

     
  • Posts: 0 Mr. Phil

    Tim, I find it hard to believe you are only 24 years old. As an educator I take pleasure in your writing expertise. Throughout the winter I logged on to this website to read the posts. For me the best parts were the anticipation of the 100 Greatest Phillies list and who would pop up next. The comments and interest generated by the rankings was entertaining, from naysayers to supporters. I consider myself very knowledgeable on baseball from the 60′s to the present, and treasured reading about boyhood memories of Tony Taylor, Tony Gonzalez, Willie Montanez, and other Phillies that made an everlasting impression on me. They may not have been superstars but boy, did I ever have a connection with them. That’s what sports does for a person, and especially baseball. You have made my time spent here very enjoyable because of your research and writing style.

    Great job, keep it up, and yes, Mike Schmidt is without question the all time #1 Phillie.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phan in TN

    Interesting and informative…

    I had already surmised a while ago that our patron saint of the Phillies would be number one. Each white male Phillies fan is obligated to have Mike Schmidt as a hero until we discovered the wonder that is William Shatner and then Denny Crane.

     
  • Posts: 0 Justin

    Every Phillie fan from any point in time would have to conclude that he was the greatest player in the team history. There’s no player that I’d put ahead of the great Michael Jack. Well done, article was amazing, that man is a God amongst Phillie faithful, I’d still love to see him come to the big Phils, since he already managed with Clearwater, and see him as the hitting coach or bench coach. Seeing him as 3rd Base Coach for Team USA just made me want Schmidty to don the red pinstripes as a coach.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phighter in NYC

    Growing up with the 1970s-1980s Phillies was pure joy — I didn’t realize until the late-80s, 1990s and early 2000s how lucky we were to have such an assemblage of phenomenal talent. And Michael Jack was the best of them. A man of understated grace, an extraordinary defensive player and a monster hitter. He has earned his status as a Philly legend. I thank him for all those years, even if some fans didn’t always fully appreciate him. I did — I still remember forking over $85 of my paper-boy money in 1983 to get his mint condition rookie card.

    Thank you, Tim, for this list — the debate was entertaining, and the anticipation of seeing who turned up next was a great time-waster at work. In fact, thanks for the site. I can’t tell you how many late nights at work last year were made easier by tuning in to read the excellent posts/game recaps and the comments from the hordes of fans as the game was unfolding. This site will always be linked to my memories of the great 2008 WFC season.

    Now, it’s time to gear up for 2009. I’ve got my 17-game pack, and plan on losing my voice every time I make the trip. Ryan, Chase, Jimmy, Cole, Lidge, Vic — last year we finally got our parade, this year we get a dynasty. Damn, I’m psyched!

     
  • Posts: 0 Lloyd K. Fox

    Wonderful list!!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Gavin

    Tim, Thanks so much for putting the time and research into an awesome list. I learned a ton about the Fightin’ Phils. We appreciate your awesome ability to say what we are all thinking. Great Job!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Georgie

    Tim, thanks for doing this, the amount of time and research you put into it is obvious, and your true love of the game shines through. It was a great way to make the offseason go a little faster, and has been a fun topic of discussion for my 87 year old dad and myself. he was a Philly A’s fan before the Phillies, and your list has brought back many fond memories for him which he has shared with me. Also, there were a few facts he was unaware of and it turned into a learning experience for both of us. The debates throughout were fun, I don’t know how you kept your cool with some of the comments, but maybe there was steam coming out of your head at times!

    Whiskidfanatic, funny you mentioned Granny Hamner’s placement, that’s the one my dad thought would be higher too!

    Again, thanks Tim, I’m so glad I found this site last summer, it has become an addiction, albeit a harmless one.

     
 
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