Interview with Mike Schmidt: On Booing, Pat Jordan, Mustaches, and Wine Pairings

Interview with Mike Schmidt: On Booing, Pat Jordan, Mustaches, and Wine Pairings

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.

You've heard your fair share of boos over the years in Philadelphia and you were arguably the best third basemen ever. What's your perspective on the booing argument? Is booing that big of a deal?

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?

Schmidt: No.

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.

You also made a notable soda ad back in the day that ended up appearing in Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'… have you seen that? Anyone ever point that out to you?

[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.

Okay then. Have you seen the Nike t-shirt that features the outline of your mustache on the powdered blue background with maroon cap? Have you seen that?

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.

You've got your own wine, Mike Schmidt 548 Zinfandel, what should this wine be paired with?

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.

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”