By Marc Farzetta
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Just before the Phillies went on to lose their home opener to the Royals on Friday, two of the franchises’ greatest players sat under the stands, in a dimly lit media room to hold a press conference. There sat the Royals’ George Brett and the Phillies’ Michael Jack Schmidt.
Between the two Hall of Famers there were 25 All-Star Appearances, four MVP’s, 856 home runs and two World Series Championships, but what jumped out of this press conference was not accomplishment; it was regret. “Oh yeah big time regrets,” said Mike Schmidt when asked if he has some regrets about how he handled the fans and the media during his 17 plus years in the big leagues. “It’s hard to put it into words. I just wasn’t mature enough, just way too sensitive. [I] should have been able to play through it. [I] should have been able to have a ‘Tug McGraw’ type of attitude on the field, but I don’t get a second chance with that.”
It sounds as if the man that was once quoted saying, “Philadelphia is the only city, where you can experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day,” would like to take back a few of those words.
During his playing days, Schmidt had relationship with Philadelphia that nowadays would be described on Facebook as “it’s complicated.” The most famous example came in June of 1985. The then (31-40) Phils went into Montreal for a three-game series with the Expos. Schmidt was having one of the worst seasons of his career, batting .237 with nine homers. The Montréal Gazette quoted Schmidt in a story describing Philadelphia Fans as a “mob scene” and “uncontrollable.”
The third baseman went on to say he didn’t feel that the one World Series he won and a trip to another was appreciated in the ‘city of brotherly love’. “I’ll tell you something about playing in Philadelphia. Whatever I’ve got in my career now, I would have had a great deal more if I’d played my whole career in Los Angeles or Chicago.” That of course did not sit well with Phillies fans. Schmidt would quickly apologize for his comments and when the team returned to the Vet, he took the field wearing sunglasses and a long haired wig leading to laughter and applause from the fans.
Now, 28 years removed from calling Philadelphia fans a “mob Scene” and “uncontrollable,” the 63 year-old Schmidt sat under those same fans, in that dimly lit media room expressing a change in his relationship with Philadelphia.
“It’s really good right now,” said Schmidt with a smile. “[Philadelphia] is a tough town to be in if you didn’t understand the passion that the Philly fans have for their teams, as I [understand it] now.”
As he went on he displayed a desire to go back and talk to his younger self.
“If I could go through it now versus when I was a young ballplayer I’d be a lot better at handling it. I would have a totally different perspective on it. I wouldn’t think that I individually could change the personality of this city with a comment in the media or something on the field. I wouldn’t have felt that I had to prove something every at bat. I would have flowed with it more, you know? Had some fun with it, but that’s sort of a 63-year-old brain talking to a 25-year-old ballplayer.”
These days Michael Jack does seem more like a light-hearted guy. He’s now seen having fun in spring training with current Phillies and starting Friday’s press conference by boasting “I got George Brett’s autograph.” (Later in an ironic moment during the 17 minute press conference, Schmidt a 10-time Gold Glover, dropped the ball he had Brett sign).
It seems since the day Schmidt retired, with that teary-eyed press conference on May 30th 1989, the appreciation from both himself and the fan base has done nothing but grow. Both sides contributing to making their relationship less and less complicated.
Marc Farzetta is a Host and Update Anchor for SportsRadio 94WIP. You can follow Marc on Twitter @MarcFarzetta