North Hills News Record - September 30, 1980
Murray's Corner: Schmidt May Soon Make History
by Jim Murray
Everyone's heard of Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Roger Maris or Mickey Mantle. But, how many people could identify, right off the bat, so to speak, Wally Berger, Chuck Klein, Gus Zernial, Rudy York, Roy Sievers, Nick Etten, Vern Stephens,. Tommy Holmes and Hank Sauer?
When it comes to old-time ball players, we all know Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajole and Rogers Hornsby, but who are Gavvy Cravath, Harry Davis, Tilly Walker, Bob Meusel or Frank Schulte? We've all heard of Ted Williams, but did you ever hear of Ken Williams or Cy Williams?
They were all home run champions. They belonged to that special fraternity of strong men ballplayers who had that special knack for propelling a thrown ball out of the park and leading the league in it. But most of these guys should not ever leave home without that well-known card. They could star in those "Do YouKnow Me?" commercials.
Michael Jack Schmidt of the Philadelphia Philles is the logical heir and successor to these home run champions today. Time will tell whether he gets Gavvy Cravath's place in history - or Mel Ott's (The National home run award is named alter him). Whether he'll be Ted or some other Williams.
Mike Schmidt hits a home run every 14 times at bat. Ruth used to hit one every nine times at bat. Ruth hit home runs with machinelike consistency. Mike Schmidt lends to hit them in explosive clusters. Twice in his career, Mike Schmidt hit four consecutive home runs. No one else has ever done that. Not Ruth, Aaron Ott, any Williams, Mantle, Mays or Maris. Mike hit four in Chicago in a 10-innlng game in 1916 and,. last year, he hit a home run his tail time up against the Giants, one day, and three in a row his first three times up the next day. Several people had done that Bui they were people like Stan Musial Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Mantle. The first team.
Twenty-six times in his career Mike Schmidt has hit two home runs in ia game. Only five active players are ahead of him.
This year Mike Schmidt will probably lead the league in home runs for the fourth time in his career. Would you believe Ty Cobb never led the league in home runs? Of all the great all-time old-time batters, only Hornsby was a home run leader. The home run championship was not a prized possession in those days.
Franklin Baker hit 12 homers in 1913 and became known as "Home Run" Baker. But Frank Schulte had hit 21 for the Cubs in 1911, and remained known as Frank Schulte. Gavvy Cravath hit 24 in 1915. One Cy Williams of ihe Cubs won four homer titles, one as early as 1916 (12) and one as late as 1927 (30). He hit 41 in 1923, more than some teams.
If the Philadelphia Phillies win the pennant this year, a distinct possibility, it will be in no small measure due to Mike Schmidt and the fact he has stepped up his home run production - already the best in the majors over the past six years — and cut his strikeout production (from a high of 180 in 1975 to a low of 103 in 1978).
But what a home run hitter needs to escape being a trivia answer on a quiz show is to break not the most difficult mark m baseball (Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak is that) but the most glamorous (choose one: Babe Ruth's 60 homers in 154 games in 1927 or Roger Maris' 61 homers in 162 games in 1961). What will it take to break that, Mike Schmidt was asked.
Well first the guy will probably have to be an outfielder, Mike Schmidt says. Mike is a third baseman, not ordinarily thought of as a Babe Ruth
position because of the
intense concentration required in the field — Whereas a rightfieder may have nothing to do or think about all day but batting.
Will it be a designated hitter? "I doubt it," says Mike. "Playing the whole game keeps you more alert and ready." Will it be a guy on a contending team or a guy with no pressure?
"Probably a contending team. Because they can pitch around you (i.e. , when in doubt, walk you if you're the only threat in the lineup). On a contender, they have to pitch to you. You see better pitches. Also you probably can't win the home run championship in an empty ballpark You need incentive, too."