Phil-Literature: “Clearing the Bases”


Clearing the Bases: Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, Sham Records, and a Hall of Famer’s Search for the Soul of Baseball

by Mike Schmidt

Did anybody notice when I didn’t do one of these last week?  I kept thinking I’d get to it, but other, better things came up.  In my defense, my KDR in Battlefield 2 is now much, much more respectable.

For that reason, I think Mike Schmidt is about to shout at me.  The subtitle makes me think I’m about to get an earful of “In my day, we posted our weekly book reviews on time!” Opening this book, I feel like I’m bringing the car back after curfew and my dad’s bedroom light just came on.  But in the picture, he looks totally chill; like maybe he’s going to hand me a tropical drink with a crazy straw, and then scold me for being lazy.

Maybe I should just read the book.

Mike Schmidt believes in God.  He’d like you to know that; and he’s going to poke you with his faith infrequently throughout this book.  But that’s good for him, as not everyone is unfortunate enough to have religion ruined for them by four years in a comically corrupt Catholic high school.

Yes, he enjoyed injecting a few shout-outs to his personal beliefs on these pages.  But it’s Mike Schmidt’s book, not Mike Schmidt’s Baseball Reference page.  He wrote this so that he could say whatever he wanted; and he’s Mike Schmidt, so he knew that at the very least, everyone in the Delaware Valley would read it.  Besides, how could you criticize a guy for periodically hawking his religion when he includes gems like:

“Not a bad day at the office, all things considered:  5 for 6, 8 RBI, and 4 HR in a comeback win–all because I didn’t look at the horse’s balls!”

–Mike Schmidt said this

In an age where it just isn’t Spring Training without a cocky prediction and a wink at the camera from Jimmy Rollins, it’s hard to imagine Phillies players not embracing the garish, invasive tentacles of the Philadelphia media and fanbase.  We want to be there, with you, in the locker room, Phillies.  But you won’t let us in.  So we rely on the responses you give to personal questions while taking your pants off in the clubhouse to get us through the day.  We love you.  Why can’t you just be cool about it.

Mike Schmidt did not appreciate the way Phillies fans were.  He didn’t think it was endearing the way they screamed horrific profanity at him during a rain delay, then clapped their hands to the bone after he saved the day with a walk off home run.  Mike re-lives his time with us with a begrudging fondness, and gets through it quick, though–this isn’t a  memoir, it’s a soap box.  Again, this is Mike’s big stage to talk about whatever he wants. He’s not going to waste it going into detail over all the stories he’s told a million times at dinners and Phillies events and god only knows how many Alumni Weekends.

But he doesn’t stray too far from what exactly what you’d think; there’s no chapter on the feasibility of wild, Siberian foxes as domesticated pets or anything.  Mike takes on  baseball issues like steroids, but mainly because of that thing he said during that panel about how he would have done them.   He addresses that incident real fast… almost fast enough to make you think one of the main reasons he wrote the book was to correct himself.  Like the steroids section, several large chunks of his thoughts are separated throughout a stream of consciousness approach to exposition.  He just sort of flows through different topics, letting one set off another, and not really utilizing any sort of poetic prose; just stating what he believes, followed by a reminder of how great God is.

However, his most intriguing point comes at the end, when he addresses the void between players and fans of his age and those of today; that the permanent differences and scars are unavoidable,  that maybe some assholes have come along and shat all over everything, but the universal respect for the institute of baseball should allow even the stuffiest of old farts to evolve.

Based on the sentiments he describes, Mike could have dubbed this book “Too Afraid to Fail,” which is a phrase he uses to describe himself at one point, and would sum up his personal beliefs quite well.  But then of course you’d have a book on the shelves with the words “afraid” and “fail” next to Mike Schmidt’s smiling face (though the contrast is what I believe would have made people pick up the book).

The publisher naturally decided to go with a baseball metaphor of sorts, because as book laws state, if any former/current player, umpire, or coach writes 200 pages of something, you better remind everyone what sport they played in the title.  What we have here is a collection of thoughts on modern baseball from one of the best players in the game.  They aren’t arranged perfectly and they aren’t pronounced colorfully, but they are what Mike Schmidt wanted them to be: his version of whatever.

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