Thursday, August 23, 2012
The 1979 Philadelphia Phillies were coming off of three straight NL East titles and three bitter NLCS defeats. In an effort to push the franchise over the hump the organization signed the biggest available free agent on the market... superstar Pete Rose. With Charlie Hustle wearing red pinstripes, batting lead-off and manning first-base the Phillies were the clear favorites to waltz away with the world championship. Except things don't always go the way you expect in baseball.
Instead the "We are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates won the NL East leaving the Phillies 14 games behind a distant fourth. Then the Pirates went on the win the World Series and Phillies fans were beginning to believe their window of opportunity for a championship was closed for good. It all turned out OK the next year, but 1979 was painful to Phillies fans.
After a mediocre 1978 season, Mike Schmidt returned to his typical elite level in 1979. With Rose now playing first, Schmidt was finally elected as the third base starter for the NL All Star team. He hit 45 home runs and drove in 114 runs. More importantly, for the first time in his career, he walked more times than he struck out. Mike Schmidt had developed into a great player.
My first 1979 redux card used a beautifully lit Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated image. It looked great. But late last night my browser bumped into a rare image of Michael Jack Schmidt sporting the infamous all-burgundy Phillies uniform... and just like that I had a new colorization project. Worn only once on Saturday night May 19, 1979 in a 10–5 loss to the Expos. The all-burgundy "Saturday Night Specials" uniforms never saw the turf of Veterans Stadium again.