Phillies Best Since the Vet: Mike Schmidt in a class by himself at third base

My grandfather, with a couple of his dress shirt buttons undone, his Dickies work pants rolled up a bit and his feet up on the porch banister, regularly waved his arms in disgust at the nearby transistor radio.

Sitting in an old, wooden rocking chair next to him on many warm, summer nights during my formative years, I knew that response.

It referred to only one Philadelphia Phillie — Mike Schmidt.

My grandfather hated it when Schmidt struck out — something he did 1,883 times during his 18-year career, all with the Phillies.

He despised it when Schmidt kicked a grounder or threw a ball away. The 12-time All-Star third baseman committed 313 errors, but won 10 Gold Gloves during his Hall of Fame stint in the City of Brotherly Love.

When Schmidt hit one of his team-record 548 home runs, made a great defensive play or drove in the game-winning run, my grandfather merely nodded with approval — and expectation.

He then grabbed his empty can of Schmidt's beer or decade-old coffee mug and went into the house.

My grandfather loved Mike Schmidt, but it was tough love.

The same can be said for many Phillies fans' relationship with one of the greatest players to ever play for the home team. But it is hard to argue with those who feel he is the greatest Phillie.

Schmidt was one of the best all-around players to ever play the game, but you had to do a lot to please my grandfather.

Those who dealt with Schmidt felt he deserved that stingy love. He was portrayed as arrogant and not fan-friendly.

When I was 8 years old, my dad took me to a charity basketball game at a nearby high school. The Phillies did such things in the offseason. Schmidt was among those participating.

After the game, Phillies players sat in chairs throughout the gym. Fans lined up to get the autographs they wanted. Free of charge.

Garry Maddox was gracious and smiled. Tug McGraw laughed, joked and posed for pictures, too.

Schmidt? He seemed like he was being put out. I didn't notice it at the time, but my dad saw the puss and attitude.

I grew to expect a lot from my athletic idols. I guess it's in the genes.

There is no way one can deny that Schmidt was a great combination of a powerful bat and skillful glove. His career numbers even impressed my grandfather:

• 1,595 runs batted in;

• 408 doubles;

• 1,506 runs scored;





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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