10 definitive Mike Schmidt moments

Highlights in the career of the game's greatest slugging third baseman

May 28th, 2020

Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas sometimes referred to the best player in Philadelphia franchise history as Michael Jack Schmidt, as if the man’s first name or surname wasn’t enough to capture his excellence.

By any name, was a legitimate all-time great. He combined consistency with longevity by bashing 548 home runs, the most by any player who performed for just one team throughout his career. He won 10 Gold Glove Awards in 18 years with the Phillies, rivaling Baltimore’s legendary Brooks Robinson for defensive excellence at third base.

Here’s a look at 10 top moments or events from Schmidt’s career:

1. Quite a quartet
April 17, 1976

This might have been the most compelling four-homer game that any player has recorded. Schmidt actually went homerless in his first two plate appearances at Wrigley Field before connecting for a two-run clout in the fifth inning off Rick Reuschel. That narrowed Philadelphia’s deficit to 13-4. Another Schmidt homer off Reuschel in the seventh inning punctuated a three-run inning.

In the eighth, Schmidt followed Dick Allen’s two-run single off Mike Garman with a three-run homer that trimmed the Cubs’ lead to 13-12. The teams entered extra innings tied, 15-15, before Schmidt concluded his big day with a two-run homer off Paul Reuschel. Philly held on to win, 18-16.

2. Once more for the 500th time, with feeling
April 18, 1987

Schmidt, who wasn’t known for displaying considerable emotion on the field, pumped his arms and legs like a locomotive after belting his 500th career homer -- a three-run, ninth-inning drive off Pittsburgh’s’ Don Robinson. Schmidt’s milestone gave Philadelphia an 8-6 win.

“Whoever wrote the script for this should win a Pulitzer Prize,” Schmidt told reporters, noting that he had gone 0-for-3 to that point and was merely trying to drive in one run that would forge a 6-6 tie. Schmidt became the 14th player in history to reach the 500 level.

3. Near-unanimous pick

At the time, Schmidt’s vote total for induction into the Hall of Fame was the fourth-highest in history (96.5 percent, 444 of 460). Whoever wrote the text for his plaque at Cooperstown got it right: “Unprecedented combination of power and defense with unusual mixture of strength, coordination and speed …” it began.

4. Serious Series
Oct. 14-21, 1980

Schmidt batted .381 (8-for-21) with two homers and seven RBIs as the Phillies defeated Kansas City in six games to win the first World Series title in franchise history. Schmidt hit safely in each contest. His two-run, fourth-inning homer off Larry Gura was a key ingredient in the Phillies’ 4-3 victory in Game 5, and his two-run, bases-loaded single in the third inning of Game 6 helped the Phillies cruise to a Series-clinching, 4-1 triumph.

5. Follow the leader

Schmidt topped the National League in home runs eight times during this 13-season span. In the process, he twice rewrote the Phils’ home run record -- including in 1980, when he belted a career-high 48 (a mark since eclipsed by Ryan Howard, who amassed 58 in 2006). Schmidt’s 1980 total also established a single-season record for third basemen that the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez broke with 52 (excluding two as a designated hitter) in 2007. Schmidt’s career total of 548 home runs ranked seventh all-time when he retired in May 1989.

6. Raising the roof
June 10, 1974

Schmidt missed out on a home run but received plenty of style points for the remarkable drive he hit on this day at the Houston Astrodome. With Dave Cash on second base and Larry Bowa on first, Schmidt launched a Claude Osteen pitch to center field that looked like a sure homer. But the ball struck a public-address loudspeaker situated approximately 300 feet from home plate and about 117 feet high. According to some estimates, the ball would have traveled around 500 feet if unimpeded. Instead, Schmidt received credit for a single, according to the ground rules.

7. Multiple MVPs
1980-81, ’86

Schmidt won the NL MVP Award three times in a seven-season span and ranked in the top 10 in the balloting nine times in his career. His totals for the strike-shortened 1981 season resembled a full year’s output for most players. He batted over .300 (.316) for the only time in his career and complemented that with 31 homers and 91 RBIs in 102 games.

8. Catching a keen eye for talent
June 11, 1971

Schmidt was signed on this date out of Ohio University by Tony Lucadello, the renowned scout who had seen him play since Little League. Lucadello also signed notables such as Hall of Fame right-hander Ferguson Jenkins and outfielders Alex Johnson and Larry Hisle. Schmidt had two bad knees, but that didn’t deter Lucadello from recommending him to the Phillies, who drafted him in the second round.

9. Effective by any measure

Like most above-average defenders, Schmidt can be judged favorably based on modern metrics or traditional statistics. He led NL third basemen six times in participating in double plays, seven times in assists, four times in range factor (per game and per nine innings) and seven times in total zone runs.

10. A winner, period

The Phillies finished .500 or better for 10 consecutive seasons, their longest such streak in the modern era, with Schmidt on board. Granted, the ballclub made other prominent acquisitions during that span, including Steve Carlton, Jim Lonborg, Tug McGraw, Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Pete Rose, Bob Boone and Manny Trillo. But nobody did as much as Schmidt to transform the Phillies into perennial contenders.