Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Sad Anniversary

Twenty years ago today, Michael Jack Schmidt, the finest third baseman to ever pick up a glove retired.  Schmidt was 39, and his skills were deteriorating quickly.  Schmidt was unable to bear the idea of not playing the game up to his standards, and, unlike his Hall of Fame teammate, Steve Carlton, was unwilling to hang on too long and tarnish his great reputation.  Insisting on going out on his own terms, Schmidt suddenly and unexpectedly retired.  

The picture on the left is of Schmidt announcing his retirement to the surprise of fans and press alike. 

Mike Schmidt was the greatest Phillie ever, and the greatest third baseman to ever play the game.  I was fortunate enough to see his entire career and to appreciate the man for all of his greatness, even if Phillies fan didn't come around to doing so until it was nearly too late.

My favorite memory of Mike Schmidt was watching him hit his 500th homer, which happened in Pittsburgh while I was just about to graduate from law school.  Schmidt came up in the top of the ninth inning, with the Phils down two, with two out and two on.  After working the count to 3-0 against tough pitcher Don Robinson, Schmidt his 500th for a game winning homer.  The usually taciturn Schmidt was ecstatic and, for once, allowed his emotions to show as he made his way around the bases.  That's the Mike Schmidt that I will always remember.

I still miss watching you play, Mike, and I wonder what sort of numbers you would have put up playing in Citizens Bank Park instead of at the Vet.

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