Schmidt’s homer gives Phillies 1980 NL East title
It would be the greatest season of Mike Schmidt’s illustrious career, both individually and for his Philadelphia Phillies.
Fittingly, it was Schmidt who capped the team’s regular season run and put Philadelphia into the playoffs.
On Saturday, Oct. 4, Schmidt’s 11th-inning home run off Montreal’s Stan Bahnsen gave the Phillies a 6-4 win over the Expos, officially eliminating Montreal from the Postseason and clinching the National League East title for Philadelphia.
The Expos, who led 4-3 after eight innings before the Phillies rallied to tie the game with two outs in the top of the ninth, needed a victory to force a winner-take-all game the following day, which was the last day of the season.
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Schmidt, however, had other ideas. His long blast into the left field stands at Olympic Stadium scored Pete Rose in front of him in the top of the 11th, and Tug McGraw’s third scoreless inning later wrapped up the win.
“Maybe we have more heart now than we used to have,” Schmidt told the Philadelphia Inquirer following the game. “If we lost that game today and lost (Sunday), (the critics) could have had a field day – and justifiably so.”
The Expos and Phillies entered the three-game weekend series with identical 89-70 records. Montreal had taken two of three games from the Phillies Sept. 26-28 in Philadelphia, putting the Expos a half-game ahead in the standings. But the Phillies won four in a row over the Cubs to set up the deciding weekend series against the Expos.
Schmidt’s homer came on a 2-0 pitch with rookie catcher Don McCormack – who entered the game as part of a series of moves in the bottom of the ninth – on deck. Prior to this game, McCormack had made just one big league appearance, playing one inning without coming to bat on Sept. 30. Still, the Expos opted to pitch to Schmidt.
The result was Schmidt’s 48th homer of the season, breaking Eddie Mathews’ single-season record for third basemen set in 1953.
“The thing that keeps me from telling you how satisfied I am now,” Schmidt told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “is that there’s so much more of a hill to climb. I just want to carry on from here.”
Schmidt and the Phillies did just that, winning a thrilling five-game series against the Astros in the National League Championship Series before defeating the Royals in six games to capture the franchise’s first World Series title. Schmidt would win World Series MVP honors after hitting .381 with two homers and seven RBI.
He capped off the year by winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award, the first of three NL MVPs of his career. Schmidt set career-highs in 1980 with 48 home runs, 121 RBI and 342 total bases.
“He’s done it all year,” Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa said to the Philadelphia Inquirer following Schmidt’s home run against the Expos. “If he’s not MVP, I don’t know who is.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum