An Uneasy Fame
Despite the glowing statistics and broken records, Schmidt's years in baseball weren't always easy. He spent his entire career playing for the Phillies, becoming one the best players they ever had. Still, he had an uncomfortable relationship with Phillies fans that effected his personal life. Obsessed with succeeding, Schmidt was quiet, introspective, and superstitious. His focus on the game came at the expense of fun. Looking back Schmidt related to Frank Fitzpatrick, a Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service writer, "There's no question at all that I didn't enjoy my professional life like I wished I would have.… I didn't allow myself to enjoy it because of my obsession for succeeding, my obsession for wanting to be the best."
Schmidt was often criticized in Philadelphia newspapers and by fans for being too sensitive or for not trying hard enough. He was just as likely to be booed by Phillies fans as he was to be cheered. He stopped inviting his family to home games because people in the crowd would yell at them. Schmidt endured the criticism quietly by focusing on his game throughout his career. He told Fitzpatrick about the moment when he finally felt reconciled with Phillies fans, "It was a night at the end of '86, when I passed Lou Gehrig, who had 494 homers, and was getting close to 500. I got a great ovation, and there was something about that night that got me over the hump."
It took fourteen years playing in Philadelphia for that reconciliation to arrive. During most of his career he felt uncomfortable with the attention he received from fans. He felt his privacy was invaded, and avoided going out in public as much as possible. If he did appear in public, he would try and disguise himself with hats and sunglasses. That discomfort and fear of the fans lingered even when Schmidt was accepting his 1995 induction to the Hall of Fame. With an estimated 25,000 to 28,000 people in attendance, most of them Phillies fans, Schmidt was worried. He told Jayson Stark in the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "I was concerned about it. Probably more than anything, I worried about catcalls or some nasty thing called out during some quiet time." Luckily for Schmidt, the fans had nothing but love and appreciation for him and fellow Phillies inductee Richie Ashburn.