While the focus today is on the rubber game at Yankee Stadium and the end of a Phillies’ 11-game road trip, the focus here is on the past, specifically 20 years ago tomorrow, Memorial Day.
Not on the three-city California trip, I was spending the holiday at home when Vince Nauss, my assistant called: “You’ll never guess what is happening. Mike Schmidt is retiring.” Shocked, to say the least.
Schmidt had decided after the previous game in San Francisco that he would retire before the next day, Memorial Day in San Diego.
Vince brings you the inside story:
“I’m not sure how many people Mike told before I got to the clubhouse but I no sooner stepped in the door to the visitors clubhouse at Candlestick after the game ended and Mike called me over to his locker then basically backed me into the locker so his back would be turned to everyone else. He said, ‘I need to tell you something because you’re going to have to make some arrangements for a press conference. I just played my last game.’
“I don’t know whether I was able to maintain a poker face or not, but the writers were watching and pounced on me right away wanting to know what was all that about.
“I suggested to Mike that he give this further consideration and not make his decision final until we got off the road trip. His mind was made up though. The next morning (Memorial Day) in San Diego, I went to Mike’s room and went over his remarks for the news conference. I just helped word-smith it a little, but the content was all his, straight from the heart.
“The Padres PR department was a big help in setting up a press conference in a football lockerroom right next to the Phillies clubhouse. I was able to bring Mike in through a connecting door from the Phillies training room.
“One final note. I got raked over the coals by the SF media because I asked the scorer to reconsider changing his scoring of an error to a hit for Mike. A Giants writer claimed that I was pressuring the scorer so that Schmidt’s last at bat would have been a hit instead of an error. I thought that he deserved a hit and had nothing to do with it being his last career at-bat,” added Vince.
Schmidt flew to Philly from San Diego for another press conference the following day. Decided the best place to have it was on home plate at the Vet where Michael Jack had so many great at-bats. Over 100 media showed up. Knowing the emotion of the day, I put a box of tissue on the shelf of the podium. Michael needed it as he began by reading a statement.
The entire press conference ran something like 90 minutes, which is very long.
At age 39, 46 games into the 1989 season and an 18-year career with the Phillies, Mike Schmidt’s career ended. Not a story-book ending but Mike felt it was time and to his credit, he decided no more. Number 20 would never be worn again.