Why is this man smilling? It's because he's two-time NL home run king Michael Jack Schmidt — and on April 17, 1976, the day before this pic was taken, he'd "jacked" a record four consecutive homers during the Phillies' wild 10-inning, 18-16 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He would smile again before this day was done, hitting a two-run blast in the 7th inning off of Paul Reuschel to pad the Phillies' lead in their 8-5 victory. Reuschel, of course, was the pitcher who'd given up tater #4 in the previous game; his brother Rick had served up the first two, and Mike Garman had been tagged for the third (a grand slam). Schmidt would finish the season with a MLB-high 38 homers, giving him his third consecutive NL home run title; he would win five more before his Hall of Fame career was through.
Though he didn't win any MVP awards during the 70s (the closest he came was a distant third to Joe Morgan in 1976), Schmidt — who was born on this date in 1949 — was certainly the most valuable player that the Phillies fielded on a daily basis in that decade. Not only did the man wield a mighty stick, but he could also take a pitch (he was typically good for around 100 walks per season, and his lifetime OBP of .380 speaks louder than his lifetime .267 batting average), steal a base (he led the team in '75 with 29 swipes), and get along well with everyone in what was sometimes a very divided Philadelphia clubhouse. Dick Allen, a man at the center of much of the controversy that swirled around their Bicentennial squad, paid Schmidt a compliment in his autobiography Crash, calling him "An honorary black... [Schmitty] was sporting an Afro at the time, even if it was a red one."
The man could seriously handle a glove, as well. There's quite a few folks out there who think Mike Schmidt was the greatest third baseman of all time... considering that he played in the same decade as Brooks Robinson and George Brett, that's pretty damn impressive. There are also those who argue that Ken "Zamboni" Reitz should have been the rightful winner of some of the Gold Glove awards handed to Schmidt (whose fielding percentage was typically lower than Reitz's); then again, Schmidt had a much better range — an especially important distinction when balls are rocketing at you off the Astroturf, as they did every day at Veterans Stadium.
Which brings me to the latest edition of "High and Tight," the rock n' roll baseball column I pen on a weekly basis for Rolling Stone Online. This week, our panelists (incl. Alice Cooper, George Thorogood, Scott Ian, Steve Earle and Handsome Dick Manitoba) look back at our first baseball gloves. I forgot to mention in the piece that, while I upgraded from my crappy Bud Harrelson Sears job to a Wilson Bobby Bonds model, it was a Rawlings GJ54 Mike Schmidt model that I really wanted. But it was just a little too far outta my price range — and, as you can see from the pic above, that webbing would have done little to conceal the grip on my 11 year-old knuckle-curve, or whatever I thought I was throwing at the time...