Building A Reputation
In 1971, Schmidt was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent two years in the minor leagues. He played one season with the Reading (Pennsylvania) Phillies and most of the next season with the Eugene (Oregon) Emeralds. He was called up to the major leagues in September of 1972. It wasn't until 1974 that Schmidt came into his own as a Phillies player. While he led the league in strikeouts he also led the league in home runs, and continued to do so for the next two years. That same year he hit one of the longest singles recorded in major league history. In a game against the Houston Astros at the Astrodome, Schmidt hit the ball 329 feet from home plate and 117 feet in air, smashing a speaker that hung from the ceiling. In later years, he got his swing under control and had four more seasons as the home run leader (1980-81, 1983, and 1986). In 1984, he tied for that lead.
By 1978, Schmidt was considered one of the Phillies' best players. He was reluctantly elected to the position of team captain and his game suffered many setbacks that year. He hit only twenty-one home runs and seventy-eight Runs Batted In (RBIs). He got himself back together the next season and hit a career high forty-five home runs.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, 1980 was an unforget-table year. With Schmidt's excellent fielding and batting ability the team won their only World Series championship. He was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the National League (NL) that year as well as MVP for the World Series. He bested his previous career high home runs, hitting forty-eight. Schmidt related his feelings about being part of the 1980 World Series championship team to Joe O'Loughlin of Baseball Digest, "Every organization has a team that's really special, and the 1980 club is that team for the Phillies.… I'm honored to be on that team and be a central figure on it."
The 1980s continued to be excellent years for Schmidt. He became one of eleven players to be elected MVP two years in a row, when he was named MVP in 1981. In 1983, he helped the Phillies team to the World Series, but they ended up losing to the Orioles. That same year, he became the highest paid player in baseball with a $2.1 million per year contract. In 1986, he won his third MVP award.
In 1988, Schmidt encountered the first major injury of his career. A torn rotator cuff put Schmidt on the injured list. While he was undergoing surgery for the shoulder injury, the Phillies announced that they would not renew the second year of his two-year contract, which was worth $2.25 million. Schmidt elected to spend one more season with the Phillies, but ended up announcing his retirement on Memorial Day, 1989.