American baseball player
In his eighteen-year major league baseball career, Mike Schmidt's skill helped lead his team to five division titles,
two National League (NL) pennant titles, and two World Series games. He was an essential part of the Philadelphia Phillies' 1980 World Series championship—the only one for that team. When he retired in 1989, he ranked seventh in all-time home runs, having hit 548 in major league play. He held major league, team career, and team season records that ranked in the double digits. In his first year of eligibility for baseball's Hall of Fame, Schmidt garnered one of the highest percentages of votes. He was the 26th player to be voted in his first time on the ballot.
From Unremarkable to Exceptional
Schmidt was born on September 27, 1949, in Dayton, Ohio, one of two children of Jack and Lois Schmidt. He was an athletic child who had interests ranging from tree climbing to more organized sports such as football, basketball, and baseball. He also learned how to play golf from his father. Eventually he gave up tree climbing and opted to concentrate on baseball and basketball.
Schmidt's high school and early college years in baseball were unremarkable. He attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, playing basketball and baseball. Unlike many players who look forward to a career in sports, Schmidt did not win any scholarships for his participation. A knee injury forced Schmidt to quit basketball, and it was then that he began to focus on baseball.
During the summer before his sophomore year of college, Schmidt took a more serious approach to the game. He played for the Dayton Summer League team after approaching the coach several times. His persistence paid off, and coach Ted Mills brought him in at shortstop. His fielding and hitting impressed Mills so much that he called the Ohio University baseball coach, Bob Wren, and told him about it. He also wrote the California Angels about Schmidt's abilities.
When Schmidt returned to play for Ohio University, his batting average had gone from .260 to .310. During his college career, Schmidt was twice named All-American Shortstop. He helped his team win the NCAA District 4 title, and place fourth in the College World Series in 1970. By the time he graduated, Schmidt had a batting average of .330 and had hit a total of twenty-seven home runs.
Building a Reputation
In 1971, Schmidt was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent two years in the minor leagues. He played one season with the Reading (Pennsylvania) Phillies and most of the next season with the Eugene (Oregon) Emeralds. He was called up to the major leagues in September of 1972. It wasn't until 1974 that Schmidt came into his own as a Phillies player. While he led the league in strikeouts he also led the league in home runs, and continued to do so for the next two years. That same year he hit one of the longest singles recorded in major league history. In a game against the Houston Astros at the Astrodome, Schmidt hit the ball 329 feet from home plate and 117 feet in air, smashing a speaker that hung from the ceiling. In later years, he got his swing under control and had four more seasons as the home run leader (1980-81, 1983, and 1986). In 1984, he tied for that lead.
By 1978, Schmidt was considered one of the Phillies' best players. He was reluctantly elected to the position of team captain and his game suffered many setbacks that year. He hit only twenty-one home runs and seventy-eight Runs Batted In (RBIs). He got himself back together the next season and hit a career high forty-five home runs.
|1949||Born September 27 in Dayton, Ohio|
|1971||Drafted in second round by Phillies, plays two seasons in minor leagues|
|1972||Called up to play for Phillies|
|1973||First full season in major league; meets Donna Wightman|
|1974||Hits one of the longest singles in major league history: 329 feet from home plate, 117 feet in the air; marries Wightman|
|1975||Despite striking out 180 times due to sprained left shoulder, he stills leads the National League in home runs; steals a career high 29 bases|
|1976||Hits four home runs in one game at Wrigley Field, helping team to a come-back win against the Chicago Cubs, 18-16|
|1977||Becomes a born-again Christian|
|1978||Daughter Jessica Rae born December 19; elected team captain|
|1979||Hits a career high 45 home runs|
|1980||Breaks his own career high by hitting 48 home runs; helps take Phillies to World Series|
|1981||Begins providing tickets to games to those who couldn't normally attend|
|1983||Becomes highest paid baseball player with a $2.1 million per year salary|
|1985||Begins raising money for the United Way by having companies donate $100 for every home run he hits|
|1986||Surpasses Lou Gehrig's 494 home runs|
|1988||Second year of his two-year contract not renewed by Phillies|
|1989||Announces retirement from baseball on Memorial Day; elected to play for the National League in the All-Star Game, but does not play|
|1995||Baseball Writers' Association of America votes Schmidt into the Hall of Fame with an overwhelming 96.52 percent of the vote; 26th player to be voted in his first time on the ballot|
|2002||Becomes commissioner for United States Professional Softball League|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1970||Ohio University wins NCAA District 4 title; fourth place, College World Series|
|1974, 1976-77, 1979-84, 1986-87, 1989||Elected to All-Star team|
|1974-76, 1980-81, 1983-84, 1986||Led league in home runs|
|1976||National League record for most homers, hitting 11 in April|
|1976-84, 1986||Gold Glove award winner|
|1980||Most Valuable Player; Phillies win World Series; voted World Series MVP; National League Player of the Year|
|1980-81, 1984||Led league in RBIs|
|1980-84, 1986||Silver Slugger award winner|
|1981||Most Valuable Player|
|1983||Phillies play in World Series; voted Greatest Phillies Player Ever|
|1986||Most Valuable Player; National League Player of the Year; became first Phillies player to ever play in 2,000 games, June 9, 1986|
|1990||Phillies hold a tribute night and retire his jersey|
|1995||Inducted into Hall of Fame; fifth place, Isuzu Celebrity Golf Challenge in Lake Tahoe|
|1996||Ninth place, Isuzu Celebrity Golf Challenge in Lake Tahoe|
For the Philadelphia Phillies, 1980 was an unforget-table year. With Schmidt's excellent fielding and batting ability the team won their only World Series championship. He was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the National League (NL) that year as well as MVP for the World Series. He bested his previous career high home runs, hitting forty-eight. Schmidt related his feelings about being part of the 1980 World Series championship team to Joe O'Loughlin of Baseball Digest, "Every organization has a team that's really special, and the 1980 club is that team for the Phillies.… I'm honored to be on that team and be a central figure on it."
The 1980s continued to be excellent years for Schmidt. He became one of eleven players to be elected MVP two years in a row, when he was named MVP in 1981. In 1983, he helped the Phillies team to the World Series, but they ended up losing to the Orioles. That same year, he became the highest paid player in baseball with a $2.1 million per year contract. In 1986, he won his third MVP award.
In 1988, Schmidt encountered the first major injury of his career. A torn rotator cuff put Schmidt on the injured list. While he was undergoing surgery for the shoulder injury, the Phillies announced that they would not renew the second year of his two-year contract, which was worth $2.25 million. Schmidt elected to spend one more season with the Phillies, but ended up announcing his retirement on Memorial Day, 1989.
An Uneasy Fame
Despite the glowing statistics and broken records, Schmidt's years in baseball weren't always easy. He spent his entire career playing for the Phillies, becoming one the best players they ever had. Still, he had an uncomfortable relationship with Phillies fans that effected his personal life. Obsessed with succeeding, Schmidt was quiet, introspective, and superstitious. His focus on the game came at the expense of fun. Looking back Schmidt related to Frank Fitzpatrick, a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service writer, "There's no question at all that I didn't enjoy my professional life like I wished I would have.… I didn't allow myself to enjoy it because of my obsession for succeeding, my obsession for wanting to be the best."
Schmidt was often criticized in Philadelphia newspapers and by fans for being too sensitive or for not trying hard enough. He was just as likely to be booed by Phillies fans as he was to be cheered. He stopped inviting his family to home games because people in the crowd would yell at them. Schmidt endured the criticism quietly by focusing on his game throughout his career. He told Fitzpatrick about the moment when he finally felt reconciled with Phillies fans, "It was a night at the end of '86, when I passed Lou Gehrig , who had 494 homers, and was getting close to 500. I got a great ovation, and there was something about that night that got me over the hump."
|EE: Eugene Emeralds (Pacific Coast League, Class AAA); PP: Philadelphia Phillies; RP: Reading Phillies (Eastern League, Class AA).|
It took fourteen years playing in Philadelphia for that reconciliation to arrive. During most of his career he felt uncomfortable with the attention he received from fans. He felt his privacy was invaded, and avoided going out in public as much as possible. If he did appear in public, he would try and disguise himself with hats and sunglasses. That discomfort and fear of the fans lingered even when Schmidt was accepting his 1995 induction to the Hall of Fame. With an estimated 25,000 to 28,000 people in attendance, most of them Phillies fans, Schmidt was worried. He told Jayson Stark in the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "I was concerned about it. Probably more than anything, I worried about catcalls or some nasty thing called out during some quiet time." Luckily for Schmidt, the fans had nothing but love and appreciation for him and fellow Phillies inductee Richie Ashburn.
Address: Mike Schmidt, 373 Eagle Drive, Jupiter, FL 33477.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY SCHMIDT:
(With Barbara Walder) Always On the Offense, Atheneum, 1982.
Where Is He Now?
Upon retiring from major-league baseball, Schmidt sold his home in Pennsylvania and moved to Jupiter, Florida. He initially made some unsuccessful attempts to stay involved in the game, including commentating for Phillies games. He offered to coach the Phillies but was turned down. His attempt to invest in a baseball franchise in Miami fell through as well. His reclusive habits, formed in Philadelphia, were shed and he became a regular suburban dad. He eventually turned his focus towards raising his family, improving his golf game, and fishing. Although he has attempted to participate in Senior PGA tournaments, he has yet to qualify. Much of his competitive golfing is done on celebrity tours, including his own Mike Schmidt Celebrity Invitational.
In 2002, he returned to the Phillies team as spring-training instructor for eleven days in February. He even acted as coach for an exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He told Marcus Hayes of the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service that coaching the game was fun but "I don't know if I could take 162 of these." Instead, he's decided to take on the role of commissioner for the newly formed United States Professional Softball League.
(With Rob Ellis) The Mike Schmidt Study: Hitting Theory, Skills, and Technique, McGriff and Bell, 1994.
Brookover, Bob. "Mike Schmidt Back to Play Teacher." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (February 25, 2002).
Brookover, Bob. "Schmidt Returns to Reality After Brief Managerial Stint." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (March 7, 2002).
Fitzpatrick, Frank. "Mike Schmidt Wishes He Could Have Enjoyed His Hall of Fame Career More." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (January 8, 1995).
Glick, Shav. "Morning Briefing: So Far, He's Been Striking Out in Efforts to Get Another Life." Los Angeles Times (July 10, 1992): C2.
Hayes, Marcus. "Mike Schmidt Finds His Managerial Calling in Florida." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (March 4, 2002).
O'Loughlin, Joe. "Mike Schmidt Interview." Baseball Digest (March, 2001): 60.
"Phillies Won't Take Option on Schmidt." Washington Post (September 9, 1988): D6.
"Sports Flash." Newsday (November 7, 2002): A75.
Stark, Jayson. "Schmidt Calls Induction The Greatest Day of His Life." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (July 30, 1995).
"Hall of Fame release from Monday, January 9, 1995." CBS Sportsline. http://cbs.sportsline.com/u/fans/celebrity/schmidt/career/hallofame.html (December 9, 2002).
"Mike Schmidt." BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/S/Schmidt_Mike.stm (December 9, 2002).
"Mike Schmidt's Speech, Tribute Night, Saturday May 26, 1990." CBS Sportsline. http://cbs.sportsline.com/u/fans/celebrity/schmidt/career/awards.html (December 9, 2002).
"Ohio University." CBS Sportsline. http://cbs.sportsline.com/u/fans/celebrity/schmidt/career/university.html (December 9, 2002).
"Phillies Records." CBS Sportsline. http://cbs.sportsline.com/u/fans/celebrity/schmidt/career/(December 9, 2002).
Sketch by Eve M. B. Hermann