Schmidt’s blast proves the difference in wild win at Wrigley
On a day when the wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field, not even one of the game’s greatest relief pitchers could shut down Mike Schmidt.
On May 17, 1979, the Phillies’ third baseman smacked two home runs – including the game winner off fellow future Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter in the 10th inning – to give Philadelphia a 23-22 victory over the Cubs. Schmidt finished the day with four RBI, four walks and three runs scored…and no idea what the final score was.
“After we scored seven runs in the first inning, I looked over to (Cubs second baseman) Mick Kelleher and told him this thing could end 20-20 because we both wear No. 20,” Schmidt told the Associated Press. “What was the final score? Honestly, I don’t know.
“You know, you say you never score enough runs in Wrigley Field, but usually it is said sarcastically. I guess it’s really true.”
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After the Phillies scored seven in the top of the first and knocked Cubs starter Dennis Lamp from the game, Chicago retaliated with six runs of its own in the bottom of the inning – sending Phillies starter Randy Lerch to the showers.
In all, Dave Kingman hit three home runs for the Cubs and teammate Bill Buckner drove in seven runs. The teams found themselves tied at 22 in the bottom of the eighth after Cubs catcher Barry Foote singled off of Ron Reed to drive in Steve Ontiveros.
Then, after a scoreless ninth inning, Schmidt homered off Sutter on a 3-and-2 pitch with two outs in the 10th. Rawly Eastwick retired the side in order in the bottom of the 10th to preserve the win on a day with an 18-mph wind blowing out to left field.
“I don’t know if I ever had a hit off Sutter,” said Schmidt, who said he knocked a split-fingered fastball out of the park for the game winner. “If he’s not the toughest relief pitcher in baseball, he’s certainly one of the toughest.”
The teams combined for 11 home runs, which tied the record for one game at the time.
The White Sox and Tigers have since combined for 12 home runs in one game on two occasions: In 1995 and 2002.
The Phillies and Cubs also combined for 50 hits.
“That had to be one of the greatest games ever played,” Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa said.
The barrage left Schmidt with 14 homers on the season – including 10 in May alone – en route to a season total of 45.
“Talk about whacko games,” Schmidt told Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “If the wind was blowing in a hundred miles an hour, I don’t think you would have seen quite as many runs.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum