How the Phillies’ all-time home run hero ended up being king of the hoagies.
By Maury Z. Levy
THE CHEERING HAS BEEN OVER FOR OVER A YEAR now. And the booing, that callous cacophony that alternately drove him to his best and drove him to the brink, is but a bitter memory. Now, out here in the real world where fair trade weighs heavier than foul balls, it is time for Mike Schmidt to wake up and smell the onions. Mike Schmidt, one of the best baseball players who ever lived, one of the greatest natural athletes in the history of sport, has had old number 20 retired, thank you very much, and is now selling hoagies in Richboro.
There is something about that that makes Mike Schmidt proud and something that makes him angry. Bo Jackson, who sells Nikes out the wazoo, will never hit as many home runs as Mike Schmidt, but he’s on television every three minutes. Geez, even Tim McCarver, a nice guy but an average baseball player, beat Mike Schmidt out for a job as a color analyst on network TV. Tim McCarver couldn’t hold Schmidt’s bat when they played together in that championship season, but Tim McCarver, who does shtick, who tells bad jokes, who makes corny puns, is at network now.
And Lenny Dykstra, who’s had a good year or two as a baseball player, but is a pig of a man, will make more than Mike Schmidt ever made. And he will show up on David Letterman. And he will, like former felon Pete Rose, have kids across America sliding head first and getting dirty and learning how to spit and curse and dribble down their shirts.
But what about Mike Schmidt? What about the man with all the Gold Gloves? What about the man who hit more home runs than almost anyone else on the planet? What about everybody’s All-American? Tomorrow, he will be in the Hall of Fame. Today, he is selling hoagies in Richboro. He just doesn’t understand it. Then again, maybe he does.
“I DON’T LIKE COMPARISONS,” SCHMIDT SAYS. ”But I would think that my career speaks for itself. My image speaks for itself. My track record speaks for itself. My honesty, integrity, family life, all the things I’ve ever stood for and accomplished in my career are marketable.
“Occasionally, I get a little jealous that I’m not as easily marketable as an Andre Agassi, because he’s not married, he wears that off-the-wall shit, and he can do whatever he wants. There are a lot of people who can get away with doing things that make me a little jealous, things that I never did or can’t do now to help market myself.
“I’m marketable to Dean Witter and to banks and things like that. I’m marketable for the honest family man in me. And I have the local milk commercials and the Chevy spots. But I’m not a rebel. I’m not a guy who came back from drug addiction. I’m not a guy that people are lined up to write a book about because I spent two years in prison. Read the rest of this entry »