On May 29, 1989, Michael Jack Schmidt announced his retirement from Major League Baseball.
Schmidt played out 42 games of the 1989 season, but stepped away from the game just prior to his 43rd. He announced his retirement at Jack Murphy Stadium before the Phillies took the field against the Padres.
Nagging injuries and age had caught up with the 39-year-old infielder. He missed the last two months of the ’88 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. His struggles to open the ’89 season led him to admit that he simply couldn’t do it anymore. He was hitting only .203 with 6 HR at the time of his retirement. He was mired in a 2-41 slump at the plate and was leading the Phillies with 8 errors. In his tearful speech, the opening of which is below, he said: “Over the years, I’ve set high standards for myself as a player, and I always said that when I couldn’t live up to those standards I would retire. I no longer have the skills needed to make adjustments at the plate to hit or to make some plays in the field and run the bases.”
Schmidt retired with 548 career home runs, 3 NL MVP Awards, a World Series MVP Award, 10 Golden Gloves, 6 Silver Slugger Awards, and 12 All-Star Game appearances. He led the National League in home runs 8 times and in RBI 4 times. In 1995, he was inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
In the first inning of a June 10, 1974 road game in Houston, a 2nd-year Phillies third-baseman hit the longest single in the history of the game.
After a Dave Cash leadoff walk and a Larry Bowa single, Mike Schmidt stepped to the plate to face Houston lefthander Claude Osteen with no outs and runners on first and second. Osteen challenged Schmidt with a fastball and Schmidt absolutely crushed it, sending the ball towering to center field and on its way well over the fence. Even though Astros center-fielder Cesar Cedeno knew the ball was gone, he did the customary trot back to the wall. But, before Schmidt reached first base, something went wrong. That something wrong was caused by a public address speaker suspended from the Astrodome ceiling 329 feet away from the plate and 117 feet in the air. Schmidt’s ball was hit so hard and so high, that it struck the speaker and bounced all the way back to shallow center field. Dave Cash, who was on second base at the time, said “I took one look and knew it was gone. Then I took another look and there it was coming down in front of Cesar Cedeno.” Fully expecting the ball to sail far over the fence, the Phillies base-runners didn’t break very hard and Schmidt was in full-on home run trot mode. When Cedeno collected the ball, Cash was on third, Bowa on second, and Schmidt, perplexed, was standing on first.
Also confused was the Astros play-by-play announcer: listen to the call here.
It was the first ball in Astrodome history that struck a speaker, but ground rules were in place for such a contingency. The rule related to the speakers is that as fixed objects in fair territory, they are in play. Therefore, on one hand, Cash, Bowa and Schmidt could have advanced if the ball careened far enough away from Cedeno. And on the other hand, if Cedeno got under the ball and caught it, it would have been ruled a fly out.
By all accounts, had Schmidt’s blast not struck the speaker, it would have traveled somewhere between 500 and 600 feet. Those who witnessed the shot said that the ball was still rising as it hit the speaker. Astros manager Preston Gomez called it “the hardest hit ball [he'd] ever seen at the Astrodome.” Cesar Cedeno said he “never saw a ball hit that far in his life.” Michael Jack was left wondering: “I would have liked to see where it would have landed.” I’m pretty sure June 10, 1974 was the only time things like that were said of a single.
I love how Schmidt wanted to do this to all sorts of trucks but his lawyers wouldn’t let him. I bet Schmidt’s lawyers were like, “Mike, you can’t just put on a blank uniform and run around smashing trucks’ grills in with your bat.” And Mike was like, “Why? The other trucks can’t handle it?” And Mike lawyers were like, “No because it’s insane.”
Alright, well we’ve shown you our All-Moustache Roster, now it’s time to determine the very best, who will receive the prestigious “Philly Sports History Phillies Face Furniture Award” (or PSHPFFA, for short) (Term “face furniture” courtesy of beardrevue.com). So vote below, and let us know who has the sweetest lip toupee in Phillies history. If you need to look over the Nose neighbors one more time, you can do so below. All ten of our finalist’s moustaches are posted after the jump. Voting ends Monday at 11:59 p.m., and on election day we’ll have a run off vote between our Top 3 vote getters. After you vote, click “like” below to help us spread the word and put democracy in action!
On May 11th, 1980 the Philadelphia Phillies were playing the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. The Phillies defeated the Reds 7-3 and the top of the 7th was a historical one. Pete Rose drew a leadoff walk against Reds reliever Mario Soto. With Bake McBride batting, Rose took advantage of the rare off day for Johnny Bench and stole second on catcher Don Werner. McBride grounded out to the left side for the first out of the inning. Then with Mike Schmidt batting, Rose took off and made it safely to third. Like John R. Finger who wrote about this game in 2009, I vividly remember watching the game, and unless my mind fails me, I clearly remember Rose, a former Red, talking trash when got to 3rd base.
Schmidt walked and set the stage for something that hadn’t happened in the National League since Jackie Robinson did it in 1954. Schmidt broke for second and when the throw went to through, Rose took off for home for the rare three stolen bases in a single inning.
Jayson Werth is the only Phillie to perform the feat since Rose, he did it practically 29 years to the day when he swiped three bags in one inning on May 12, 2009 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On April 18, 1987, the 2-8 Phillies were at Three Rivers Stadium facing the Pirates and found themselves down 6-5 in the 9th inning after blowing a 5-0 lead. With 2 on and 2 outs, Mike Schmidt stepped to the plate against Don “Caveman” Robinson and made history:
Not only did Michael Jack belt his 500th HR on this day in 1987, but he did so with two outs in the 9th inning and the game on the line. Always a competitor, accomplishing a milestone to win a game was the way Schmidt wanted it to be. As he was getting closer and closer to 500, he stressed that he wanted it to come at a time to help his teammates…and his timing couldn’t have been better.
After the home run, Schmidt was jumped at the plate by his teammates. And according to Jayson Stark, then Inquirer staff reporter, the scene in the clubhouse was more memorable than the celebration on the field:
They gathered around the tiny tape recorder in the locker room, hoping to relive the moment one more time.
“Hey, we want to hear how Harry (Kalas) called it,” Chris James yelled to broadcaster Chris Wheeler. So Wheeler slipped the tape into the recorder. James and every Phillies player in the locker room gathered around him.
Mike Schmidt was about to hit his 500th homer. Again.
He was about to rescue the Phillies’ day and rescue the Phillies’ season. Again.
“Swing and a long drive,” Kalas roared in a voice so loud, you might have heard him in King of Prussia whether you had a radio or not. “There it is. No. 500. Career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt. . .”
The clubhouse shook with cheers. Again.
“Gee,” Schmidt deadpanned after listening to the tape one more time, “I thought he’d show a little emotion.”
Everyone in the room broke up. It had been a great day in the life of the ’87 Phillies, thanks to Mr. Mike Schmidt.
That’s a scene I’m sure Schmidt, as well as anyone else lucky enough to be in that room, will never forget.
As an aside, it was fitting that Schmidt’s 500th HR came off a Don Robinson pitch. Robinson was one of the best hitting pitchers of his time and ended up with 13 home runs in his career and three Silver Slugger awards.
Schmidt was the 14th player in baseball history to join the 500 Home Run Club and his career total 548 HRs stands 15th in league history. He’s the only Phillie to reach the 500 HR plateau; that is, until Ryan Howard joins him. Hopefully Howard’s 500th comes at a time as opportune as Schmidt’s.