We had the chance to speak with Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt for ten minutes this morning as part of Michael Jack's starring in a Field of Dreams-esque commercial by the official soft drinking sponsor of MLB, Pepsi Max. We only touched on soda briefly, and not in anyway Schmidty was expecting, but we did ask him about the Phillies hot start in 2011, their attempt at small ball, Pat Jordan's New York Times Magazine article on the Four Aces, Mike's legendary mustache, what to pair with his personalized wine, and some other fun stuff.
Our first question to Mike was about him winning our Greatest Philly Athlete of the last 30 years March Madness tournament. You can see his answer to that here.
Enrico: In spring training you mentioned you'd like to see a little bit more small ball out Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies. How would you assess their first 14 games? They haven't exactly been living off the long ball, playing a bit of small ball along the way. How would you assess their start?
Mike Schmidt: They're 10-4. That's good considering who they're missing with Utley and Brad Lidge, and Ben Francisco has sort of assumed the role of Jayson Werth in the lineup, behind Howard and in front of Ibanez. I think everybody should be quite happy. We haven't thrown a shutout every game, obviously there have been a couple rough outings, but for the most part the big three, big four guys have shut down a potential losing streak -- just nip that in the bud real quick. I believe Halladay did that over in Washington. They had lost the Blanton game, and Halladay and Lee went ahead and won two close ballgames for them. That's why they're paid the big bucks. That's why they call them stoppers.
Yes, we've been getting on base and moving some runners around, hitting some sacrifice flies. We've been hitting a few home runs, but haven't relied on the home runs. It'd be nice to think that they can go in this fashion, winning 10 of 14 games, win at that rate the entire season. It'd be nice. They're are going to run into some down times for sure, and they're going to get hot, they're going to get hot and win 10, 11, 12 in row a couple of times during the season.
Right now things are good. Seeing them a lot on national television. I'm getting to see them in Florida quite a bit. We gotta get some people healed up and then we can really put the peddle to the metal.
Cole Hamels had a real rough outing a couple of weeks ago at Citizens Bank Park and got showered with some boos as he walked off the field. Now in my opinion, not all boos are created equally. Booing a guy on a particular day doesn't mean you think he's a bad ballplayer, it's more of a disappointment in his performance that day.
Schmidt: I don't know anything about that particular incident.
How about fans booing a player in general? Does a player just brush it off?
Schmidt: Unless you have ear-plugs, then you can't hear it. You just have to absorb it and react to it in the simplest form that you can and realize that the people care. It's sort of an old tradition in Philly, if you will. Maybe "tradition" is the best way to describe it. Disappointment in a performance or disappointment in an outcome of a ball game -- basketball, football, baseball, hockey -- in Philly will lead to a chorus of that sort of sound in the stadium. In most cases, it's not directed directly at a person for any personality issue. It's just general fan disappointment in Philadelphia. I think it'd be taken with a grain of salt by the player, knowing that the next time he goes out and throws a good ball game there will be a standing ovation. There won't be any boos.
One of the more interesting articles I've read recently was the New York Times piece by Pat Jordan on the Four Aces. Did you read that?
Basically Jordan quoted you as saying that none of the Phillies four aces are the kind of guys that scare you like the Bob Gibsons of old. Does that ring a bell?
Schmidt: I was on a show with Larry Bowa recently and he referenced that. I didn't read the article. I don't even know what was said, if it was taken out of context, I don't know. But the way you just stated it, I don't have a problem with that. I think it's a pretty normal description of what goes on when you face the Phillies starters. With the exception if you're a left handed hitter facing Hamels or Cliff Lee, you might find it a little uncomfortable with those guys throwing 95, they've got their sharp breaking pitches. Could get a little uncomfortable in that regard. For the most part, right handed hitters with Halladay, who I would consider sort of Tom Seaver-like. He gets you out. He strikes you out. He doesn't need to knock you down. He doesn't need to be what we would say 'mean.' That doesn't mean he isn't. He's just not an uncomfortable pitcher. He makes you go to home plate and he gets you out. At the end of the day you're 0-3 or 0-4, and you had a couple of pitches you think you shoulda hit line drives, but you grounded them out to shortstop. You go, you take your shower, the same thing happens to you the next day against Cliff Lee and you leave town and you're 0-12. All you did was break four bats and strikeout six times.
Now on to some more oddball/fun stuff. You're in a new commercial for Pepsi Max, is that correct?
Schmidt: Yes, it's being released tomorrow.
[Ed. note: 6:45 into 'The Wall' here]
Schmidt: No. Don't forget who you're talking to now, I'm 61.
There's a brief moment where they show a giant billboard with your face on it about 6:00 minutes in promoting a soda brand. I was just curious if you've ever seen that.
Schmidt: No. I may try to find it now I guess.
Schmidt: No, I haven't?
They have a nice line of t-shirts featuring some of the greatest mustaches in baseball history. They have you, they have Rollie Fingers, they have a couple of other guys…
Schmidt: Really? I don't know. Mine sure doesn't stand out. It's funny you mention that, Fingers is sitting right across the table from me right now and we were talking about mustaches earlier today.
How about guys in the game today? Best facial hair in the game today? Jayson Werth's beard?
Schmidt: Off the charts.
Anyone else stand out to you?
Schmidt: No. Sometimes I get a little taken back by some of the things I see: earrings, tattoos, hair, stuff like that. Then my wife has to remind me, 'take a look at yourself back in the 80's.' Imagine some of the stuff we had going. I had a beard. I played with a beard. I played with curly hair. I played with a permanent. We used to all get our hair curled back then so we used to just shake our heads and walk out of the shower. I don't want to throw any stones at anybody today because if you take me back to my youth, I made some of the same decisions.
Schmidt: That's a good question. It's probably better with some nice cheeses and fruits on a tray as sort of an appetizer, a 4:00-5:00 pm snack. As a just a drink of wine rather than a wine to go with dinner. It's not what I would consider a full-bodied dinner wine. It's more of a drinkable Zinfandel. It's actually a Red Zin, so it's more of a drinkable wine with cheese and fruit.
Finally, our site is called The700Level.com, named after the infamous section of Veterans Stadium. Do you have one lasting memory of the Vet or the fans up in the 700 Level that stands out to you?
Schmidt: That's a tough one for me because I could write a book about my experiences at Vet Stadium. I would say in '80 when I jumped on Tug McGraw and I looked around and there were policemen on horseback keeping the fans in the stands. The whole celebration after that first world championship.