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4.20.2007

April 20


April 20, 1976... One of my favorite stats of this day has always been that it marked the date Mike Schmidt hit career home run number 100. Schmidt's home run prowess early in that '76 season has become newsworthy of late, associated with Alex Rodriguez's season opening fireworks display. Schmidtty's 11 bombs in his first 12 games that year made him the fastest in history to 10 in a season, withstanding even A-Rod's impressive run. Thanks to BaseballReference.com, we can take a closer look at Schmidt's early '76 efforts...

That magical #100 was launched in Pittsburgh off Pirates southpaw John Candelaria in the 4th inning, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead in a game they would win 5-1. Schmidt batted in the 6-hole that day and his was the game's only big fly. Proof that the Phils have always driven their fans mad, catcher Bob Boone followed the homerun with a double, advanced to 3rd on a sac bunt, then was thrown out by the Candy Man in an attempt to steal home! Bob Boone averaged 2 steals per season throughout his career, and 2.5 caught stealings per season. (How long until I can read "CS: B Boone (2, Home by J Candelaria/M Sanguillen)" on BaseballReference.com and have it linked to a press clipping further explaining such an incomprehensible act?)

The game that seems to have cemented Michael Jack Schmidt into the record books as the fastest to 10 home runs in a season was the Phillies 5th game of the '76 season, a wild 18-16 win at Wrigley Field. Schmidt connected 4 times off Cubs pitching, accounting for 4 runs, 5 hits, and 8 rbi in total. The Phillies scored 14 of their 18 after the 7th inning. Father of Nick Swisher, Steve, singled in 2 runs for the Cubbies in the bottom of the 9th off father of Tim McGraw, Tug, to send the game to extra innings.

Despite the fast start, ol' #20 only tallied 38 home runs in that 1976 campaign. An extended homerless drought between May 21 and June 9 coupled with a stretch of only 1 long-ball between August 20 and September 12 prevented Schmidt from breaking the team record of 43 homeruns in a season, set by Chuck Klein in 1929. 3 years later, Schmidt would break that record with 45 dingers, then break his own record the following year with 48. In 2006, league MVP Ryan Howard outslugged the hall-of-famer by 10. Nevertheless, Mike Schmidt finished 3rd in NL MVP voting in 1976, was an all-star, a gold-glover, and led the senior circuit in total bases and home runs.

BaseballReference.com makes one more relevant connection especially interesting to me. Mike Schmidt was 26 years old in 1976 and the one career in the entire history of baseball most closely resembling Schmidtty's through age 26 was Ron Gant's. Their runs, hits, doubles, triples, batting averages and slugging percentages were very close. Schmidt had more homers, Gant countered with more steals. Not sure if Mike had a dirt bike though.

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Amazing... after writing all of this and wondering who in the world would ever find it interesting, my friend Chris (of Yuck fame) just emailed me to let me know his wife gave birth to their first child earlier this morning, a boy. Seeing how Lukas has no choice but to be a huge Philly fan like his pops, maybe the post has an audience after all.

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Although I got no love for the Fightins, your post resonated with me because I watched a lot of Sillies baseball back in the 80's. I enjoyed Harry and Richie - they were the best.

I watched to mainly root against the Phillies, though.
 
Don't make me put you on notice.
 

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