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Schmidt, Brett relive old times before opener

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Phillies beat the Royals in the 1980 World Series, the opposing third basemen were Mike Schmidt and George Brett. Both would go on to be voted the Most Valuable Player of their league that season, and both were eventually enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

And both were at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, throwing out ceremonial first pitches as the Phillies opened their home season with an Interleague series against Kansas City.

Back then, they weren't close. In fact, Brett joked that he was "trying to avoid [Schmidt] at all costs."

Schmidt, who is a guest Spring Training instructor for the Phillies, remembered the '80 season as a turning point in his career.

"For me, it was the benchmark season of my career, because we won a world championship. Individually, I had some honors that year," he said.

"But the thing I remember most is that ... I struggled in the early going in my career with hitting under pressure. Hitting at the end of the season, hitting in the postseason. In our last series of the year we had to go to Montreal and win two out of three, and I hit a couple big home runs for us then. I didn't do much in the playoffs, but I won the MVP in the World Series. So I remember it as a team championship year for us, a big year in Phillies baseball history and a year when I was pretty happy with the way I played under pressure."

Brett, a vice president for the Royals, was in Philadelphia for the first time since Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson for the final out in Game 6, setting off a celebration for Philadelphia's first World Series title.

"That was the summer of hell for me, because it was the run at [batting] .400," Brett said. "We had a 20-game lead with 30 games left in the season and no one cared if we won or lost. They only cared if I got two hits that game and stayed above .400. When I went over .400 with six weeks left in the season, the last thing in the world I expected was to be over .400 a month later. But I still was. And the amount of time that took away from me and being with my teammates was really a learning experience for me.

"Unfortunately I never had another opportunity. It was my best year ever as far as average goes. Finally beat the Yankees. We had lost to them in '76, '77 and '78 in the playoffs. Sweeping them in 1980 ... It was my first World Series and even though we lost, I thought it was a great experience."

And since then, two of the best third basemen of all time have become close. It began with Brett's induction at Cooperstown in 1999. They've spent a lot of time together since. And they really seemed to enjoy hanging out together on Friday.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for
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