Schmidt’s 500th homer brings cascade of emotion
Given the setting, the circumstances and the history, Mike Schmidt’s 500th home run was certainly worthy of a major celebration.
But for the era – and with Schmidt’s business-like approach to his stellar career – the reaction caught everyone off guard.
Schmidt’s three-run blast off Don Robinson of the Pirates turned a 6-5 Pittsburgh lead into an 8-6 Phillies win on April 18, 1987. Schmidt clubbed Robinson’s center-cut 3-0 fastball and deposited it into the second deck at Three Rivers Stadium, rallying a Philadelphia team that had squandered a three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth.
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Schmidt knew it was gone as soon as he hit it – and jubilantly slapped his hands together after dropping the bat before breaking into an animated dash down the first base line, punching the air like pistons with his left and right hands.
“Swing and a long drive! There it is! No. 500! The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!” Phillies announcer Harry Kalas, the 2002 Ford C. Frick Award winner, exclaimed on the radio.
“Gee,” Schmidt deadpanned to the Philadelphia Inquirer after listening to the call in the clubhouse after the game. “I thought he’d show a little emotion.”
Schmidt became just the 14th player to reach the 500-home run mark and just the second full-time third baseman, following Eddie Mathews. Coincidentally, Kalas called Mathews’ 500th home run when both were employed by the Astros in 1967.
Meanwhile, Schmidt joined Reggie Jackson as the only active members of the 500-home run club.
After Johnny Ray’s three-run homer in the eighth gave Pittsburgh a 6-5 lead, Robinson got Greg Gross to ground out to lead off the ninth then allowed a single to Milt Thompson.
Juan Samuel forced Thompson out at second on a grounder, but Samuel stole second and was wild pitched to third before Von Hayes walked.
Up came Schmidt, who was 0-for-3 with a walk in his first four plate appearances.
“They don’t walk me, even when the count went to 3-and-0,” Schmidt told the Inquirer. “They don’t want to put the winning run at second base. And there’s no reason to fear me based on my at-bats today. The game situation dictates that they go right after me.
“All I wanted to do was hit the ball hard on the ground or a line drive.”
Schmidt did more than that – delivering what may have been his most memorable homer since his 11th-inning blast off Montreal’s Stan Bahnsen on the penultimate day of the 1980 season gave the Phillies the National League East title.
“It was sort of like going back to 1980 in Montreal,” Gross – who played in both games for the Phillies – told the Inquirer. “They were pitching around him with a guy who had never had an at-bat at this level, Don McCormack, hitting behind (Schmidt). Today it looked like Robinson was trying to do the same thing. He was trying to make the perfect pitch on him. But he hit that home run.
“And I don’t think you could write a better script than that. Do you?”
Schmidt finished his career with 548 home runs and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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