On Saturday, Jimmy Rollins finally broke the Philadelphia Phillies‘ hits record with a single during their game against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. It was a milestone that Rollins had been working towards all year, and when it finally happened, the previous owner of the record, Mike Schmidt, came out to congratulate the Phillies’ shortstop at first base. It was a class move by Schmidt and a nice moment between two generations of Phillies players that the fans in attendance appreciated.
But make no mistake, Rollins can finish his career with the Phillies or be traded at the deadline in July, as some feel he may be now that he is the owner of the franchise hits record, but he will never be in the same league as Schmidt.
For fans who were around when Schmidt played between 1972 and 1989, it’s impossible to think there could ever be another player like him. His franchise record of 548 home runs is considered untouchable, and he is still the Phillies’ record holder when it comes to RBIs, games played, extra base hits, plate appearances and more than I could list here. Rollins could come close to a few of those if he remains with the team his entire career, but the odds of that happening seem to grow slimmer by the day.
Beyond the numbers and stats, there is the fact that for many Phillies fans, Schmidt is the prototypical Phillies ballplayer. He was tough, spoke his mind, and, most importantly, understood what it meant to play professional sports in Philadelphia. He knew that in order for the city to embrace you, you had to give 100 percent on game day and then somehow find an additional 15 percent to leave on the field. Philadelphia sports fans demand a lot of their athletes, but if you give your all, like Schmidt did, then you become a legend and they will build statues in your honor (which the Phillies did for Schmidt at Citizens Bank Park in 2004).
Rollins is a good player, but has always been too hot and cold to both the fans and the media, which is a big reason why most think he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame once his playing days are over. However, there was never any question when it came to Schmidt. Yes, he did rub some fans the wrong way with what he said and was a bit too forthright for some people, but in the long run, it did nothing to overshadow his accomplishments on the field. He was voted into Cooperstown in 1995 on the first ballet with a percentage of 96.5, then the fourth highest ever.
So, Rollins can continue to try to topple records and remain a member of the Phillies until the day he retires. It won’t matter, because there will never be another player who will come close to the greatness of Michael Jack Schmidt.