Advertisement
Share

Mike Schmidt Decides to Quit : Unhappy With His Play, He Bids an Emotional Farewell

Times Staff Writer

In a emotional announcement punctuated by frequent pauses and finally ending in uncontrollable sobbing, eight-time National League home run champion Mike Schmidt announced his retirement from baseball Monday.

Schmidt, reading from a three-page handwritten statement, said he had become convinced his skills had deteriorated to the point that it was time to end his 17-year major league career, all with the Philadelphia Phillies.

“Over the years I’ve set high standards for myself as a player,” Schmidt said. “I’ve always said that when I don’t feel I can perform up to those standards it would be time to retire. My skills to do the things on the field, to make the adjustments needed to hit, to make the routine plays on defense and to run the bases aggressively have deteriorated.

“I feel like I could easily ask the Phillies to make me a part-time player, to hang around for a couple of years to add to my statistical totals. However, my respect for the game, my teammates and the fans won’t allow me to do that. For that reason, I have decided to retire as an active player.”

Schmidt, 39, made the announcement at a hastily called news conference at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium before a scheduled game between the Phillies and San Diego Padres.

Advertisement

“This is something I have been mulling over for about a week,” Schmidt said. “It’s been a week, maybe a little bit longer that I felt a deterioration of my skills. I prayed about it, thought about it, talked to my family and my advisers about it. I gave it a period of time to turn around. On the field, I looked for signs. Every night, I looked for reasons to continue as an active player, and they weren’t there.”

The timing of the announcement caught many of the Phillies off guard. Team president Bill Giles said that he had hoped the news could be held long enough for Schmidt to play a farewell game in Philadelphia, but once word leaked out, that was impossible.

“I talked to him a little bit (Sunday) after the game,” said third base coach Larry Bowa, who played with Schmidt for parts of 10 seasons, “and he said, ‘That’s it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean that’s it?’

“ ‘I can’t play up to my standards, and that’s it.’ He said, ‘Don’t try to talk me out of it.’ ”

Schmidt told Phillie Manager Nick Leyva of his decision Sunday night as the team traveled to San Diego after a game in San Francisco. The players were informed of the decision in a meeting Sunday night in San Diego.

The news conference was held in a dimly lit locker room, now used by San Diego Charger rookies. Schmidt’s teammates and coaches had all gathered around the room by the time Schmidt, dressed smartly in a blue blazer with a red handkerchief stepped nervously to the rostrum.

He pulled out his statement and began reading, but it some became clear that Schmidt would have trouble finishing.

He stopped several times to compose himself, but he could not hold back the tears.

“I only cry at funerals and weddings, and this isn’t either,” he said, trying to break the tension. “I figured I would (cry), but I didn’t know it would that bad. It makes it tough to do something like this when your teammates are around.”

Standing nearby was Chris James, who took over for Schmidt at third base Monday night. He, too, had tears in his eyes.

“He told me, this is the beginning of a new era for me,” James said later, his eyes still teary.

Schmidt, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in the off-season, started the season well, hitting .261 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in April. But a series of nagging injuries that have bothered him for much of the past few seasons finally caught up to him.

He slumped in May, batting .117 (seven for 60) with seven RBIs, and he had not hit a home run since May 2. For the season, he was batting .203 with six home runs and 28 RBIs.

Schmidt broke in with the Phillies on Sept. 16, 1972, and wasted no time establishing his reputation as a slugger. He hit a home run in his first game--against Montreal’s Balor Moore--and went on to hit 548, more than any third baseman in history and seventh on the all-time list.


Advertisement