Camden Courier Post - November 26, 1980

Schmidt is unanimous choice as MVP

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

PHILADELPHIA – Mike Schmidt, a man with a bat that is home run king, a glove that is pure gold and a world championship ring on order, has always known what was important in his life and what not to worry about.

 

Which is why the Phillies' dazzling third baseman planned to go to bed early last night instead of waiting up for a late night phone call from New York City to inform him he'd been unanimously voted the Most Valuable Player in the National League.

 

Schmidt was the first choice on all 24 ballots in the Baseball Writers Association of America voting. He finished with 336 points – a perfect score – to become only the second player in National League history to be voted MVP unanimously. The other was Orlando Cepeda, who turned the trick in 1967 while with the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

"WITH A new baby in the house and my wife Donna on such a hectic schedule, I guess I can wait until morning for the news," said Schmidt, who became the first Phillies player to win the coveted award since reliever Jim Konstanty did it while pacing the 1950 Phils to a pennant. Old-time great Chuck Klein also turned the trick in 1932.

 

That's a long time for an organization to wait to have a player at the pinnacle of the national pastime. But then, Schmidt's climb to the top was never marred by impatience.

 

He waded through the "lows" of his ever-improving career with the same easy-going attitude that was just as prevalent last month, when he embarked upon a series of clutch performances that vaulted the Phillies past the Montreal Expos in the final week of the season and ultimately exploded in a World Series that saw him bat .381 with eight hits and seven runs batted in against the Kansas City Royals.

 

Ironically, it was Schmidt's torrid finish in 1980 that added a measure of drama to the voting for the MVP Award by select members of the BWAA, who were required to cast their votes prior to the playoffs.

 

AS THE season moved into its final weeks, there was some sentiment out on the West Coast in favor of Los Angeles outfielder Dusty Baker, who would finish a surprisingly low fourth, behind runner-up Gary Carter of Montreal and Jose Cruz of Houston.

 

It was those "early returns" that were expected to keep Schmidt from taking the award unanimously, even though it was evident that he was destined to lead the National League in home runs (48), runs-batted-in (121), slugging percentage (.624) and total bases (342).

 

The race became a "no contest" affair in the final days, however. Mike's final homer of the regular season set a new record for major league third basemen, Eddie Matthews of the Milwaukee Braves having established the previous mark of 47 round-trippers in 1953.

 

In the Phils' last five victories of 1980, the powerful slugger with a reputation as an outstanding baserunner solidified his role as a clutch hitter by driving in the winning run in four of the crucial games.

 

HE WENT on to become the MVP of the World Series, a remarkable achievement for a guy who once went through an entire season and collected just one sacrifice fly and lived with fans who never believed him capable of delivering in pressure situations.

 

"Oh, I remember the hard times," Mike once said with a smile. "I went through a period in 1978 where I'd get booed just by putting on the uniform. I hit .251 with 21 homers and 78 ribbies... not a bad year for a lot of guys. But, the fans blistered me anyway.

 

"I guess what helped me overcome those things more than anything was the realization that I should play for the glory of God. That's what I've done. And, my prayers were answered."

 

Schmidt was booed for his defensive play when he first joined the Phillies. It was the result of fans who failed to realize that many of his throwing errors were directly related to a dislocated shoulder injury suffered during his first spring training with the big club.

 

"I NEVER tried to let those things bother me," he once explained. "I don't get tooexcited when things are going good and I don't get too down when things go bad.

 

"People shouldn't judge you as a person because of what you do on the field. I bet if people had a chance to spend some time with me, there are very few who wouldn't like me."

 

It's true. Schmidt's good nature and kindness toward others has prevailed oyer the years despite criticism about his ability, his friends ("He wishes he was black like Garry Maddox) and his composure (He was nicknamed Captain Cool).

 

"Turn the page. Tomorrow's another day," Schmitty would say in times of stress. And, he meant it.

 

NOW, at 31 years of age, the native of Dayton, Ohio, has been' named to receive an award that holds meaning for him.

 

When asked during September about the possibility of his winning the league's MVP Award, Mike said, "If we were to win this (the championship) and I won the MVP, it would be the greatest thing that could happen to me in baseball.

 

"I really don't have any great answers when I'm asked about. my most memorable moment or achievement. I mean, have four or five -individual accomplishments 'that were freaky... hitting four home runs in a row (twice), hitting the roof of the Astrodome and home run titles... but nothing that could compare to being MVP.

 

"That would mean a great deal because it would mean I was an integral part of a winning effort... that I was a major contributor to a winning cause, just as Pete Rose and Joe Morgan were in Cincinnati and Willie Stargell was in Pittsburgh."

 

 

A few million Phillies fans were well aware of that last night, when Mike Schmidt hit the sack early. Today, however, it's official.