As a 23-year-old rookie in 1973, Mike Schmidt hit .196 with 18 home runs in 132 games. Not the greatest start. However, when his 18-year career with the Phillies ended in 1989, he had amassed 548 home runs. A Hall of Fame inductee and the greatest player in Phillies history.
Schmidt couldn’t have written a more dramatic script for his 500th home run on Saturday afternoon April 18, 1987. Hollywood would have been proud.
The 37-year-old unloaded his historic home run on a 3–0 pitch with two runners on base and two out in the top of the ninth inning and the Phillies losing, 6–5, to the Pirates. Schmidt drilled Don Robinson’s pitch into the sand-colored wall behind the Phillies left-field bullpen, giving the Phillies an 8–6 win in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium.
The greatest personal thrill for Schmidt and his good friend, Harry Kalas, came precisely at 4:53 p.m. Kalas’ emotional call was filled with goosebumps, “Swing and a long drive, there it is! Number five hundred. The career five hundredth home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!”
“Schmidt pumped his arms and legs for a giddy moment before he reached first base, then continued his tour of the bases in his normal, stately majesty,” wrote Paul Hagen, Philadelphia Daily News baseball writer. “It’s a relief,” Schmidt said in Hagen’s article. “I had a lot of pitches to hit lately but all those at-bats I was fighting that adrenaline, fighting the image of the ball flying out to left field.”
Only 13 other players had reached that level in baseball history.
“I started 1987 needing five home runs for №500,” Schmidt said. “It was scary as the possibility of choking on those five was real as everyone was focused on how long it would take me. The team was having a rough start, I believe 1–8, as we went to Pittsburgh for a three-game series. I had hit three in the first seven games and was rolling, feeling pretty good myself.”
Schmidt moved to within one of 500 by homering off Bob Patterson in the first game of the series on Friday night. It came in the second inning. He was hitless in three more at-bats, adding a 10th-inning walk.
The next afternoon, Schmidt popped out in the first with two runners on base, walked in the third, flied to left in both the fifth and seventh innings. “We were behind by two in the top of the ninth as a rally started,” Schmidt recalled. “Got two men on base, Juan Samuel beat out a double play, and Von Hayes walked on four pitches. I came up with two on and ran the count to 3–0 and got the green light. A little known fact is that I finished the game at shortstop.“