“What this game needs,” the black Philadelphia Phillie was telling the white Philadelphia Phillie, “is some white superstars. And it needs them fast. And that’s just what you could be, kid.”
The white Phillie grinned and stood up in front of his locker. He pushed back his long reddish hair, matted down his mustache and flexed his freckled muscles. “You hear that, America?” he shouted. “Mike Schmidt is the great white hope!”
Then Mike Schmidt, who is white, and Dave Cash, who is black, both laughed.
If anyone had suggested a year ago that Mike Schmidt could be the next white superstar, or the great white anything, the whole baseball world would have laughed. Mike Schmidt had just finished his first full season as a Phillie, and if he had accomplished anything, it was that he had perfectly concealed any superstar potential he might possess. He had batted .196 in 132 games, which is dreadful, and he had struck out 136 times in 367 at‑bats, which is worse.
But in 1974, at the age of 24, Mike Schmidt found a batting groove, and the Phillies found a slugger. Schmidt led the major leagues in home runs with 36, finished second in the National League in runs batted in with 116, and batted .282.
“I was hoping to hit .250, drive in 80 runs, play decent third base and maybe help the club a little,” says Schmidt. “I never thought all this would happen so fast.”
So much happened so fast that as late as the beginning of September, when the Phillies’ “Yes We Can” motto melted into a lie, Schmidt was a legitimate contender for Most Valuable Player in the National League.
“I don’t want to black-cat the kid,” says Danny Ozark, the manager of the Phillies, “but if Schmitty continues to progress the way he has, he’ll be the highest-paid player in this game some day. The front office won’t be able to find enough money to pay him.” Read the rest of this entry »