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Phillies legend Schmidt now clear of skin cancer

Mike Schmidt says he's doing much better after being diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma last August.

Former Phillies third baseman and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Former Phillies third baseman and Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

CLEARWATER, Fla. - After finding a seat on top of a picnic table outside the Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field yesterday morning, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt quickly repositioned himself. He said something about trying to avoid the sun.

In the 20 minutes that followed, Schmidt explained why he was wary of the sun and why he was unable to perform his regular duties as an on-field guest instructor this spring training, too.

Schmidt, 64, was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma in August and underwent two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments in the months that followed. Schmidt, who arrived in Clearwater this weekend to begin his second tenure with the Phillies broadcast team, said the latest scans on his body have been clear of skin cancer. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

"It was kind of a rough road for 2 to 3 months - I'm out of it now," Schmidt said. "I feel fantastic right now."

In January, the Phillies announced that Schmidt would be unable to make his 13th straight appearance as an instructor in camp because of a health issue. It turns out Schmidt was in the middle of chemotherapy.

He had his last treatment on Feb. 14, a day after Phillies pitchers and catchers held their first workout of spring training.

"I had been in chemo-infusion centers sitting in a chair with a needle in my hand with people that are dying all around me," Schmidt said. "I was hoping I would never see anything like that. But it became normal for me, for over a month. And I was usually the most fortunate person in the room."

Schmidt looked healthy as he shared the news, a few hours before jumping into the broadcast booth to begin "Sundays with Schmidt." He will join play-by-play man Tom McCarthy and fellow new analysts Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs for Comcast SportsNet's 13 home Sunday broadcast this season.

Schmidt was contacted about a position shortly after longtime broadcaster Chris Wheeler and former teammate Gary Matthews were removed from their positions in early January. Schmidt, who worked in the Phils broadcast booth in 1990, the season after he retired, said he was unable to consider himself a candidate for a full-time position because of his health.

He likely wouldn't have been interested in a full slate of games anyway, considering the stress and demands of travel, especially as a Hall of Fame celebrity. The "Sundays with Schmidt" fit into his current lifestyle.

"I'm very excited about it," he said.

Schmidt said his current contract is a 1-year agreement with Comcast, but he didn't seem opposed to continuing the relationship beyond 2014. He's also hoping to be back on the field in 2015 to continue his longtime role as a guest instructor in spring training. Schmidt has in camp for every season since 2002.

"God willing, I will be in uniform next year," Schmidt said. "I'm looking forward to that, especially with a lot of the guys who are back. I'd love to get to know Roy Halladay. I've got the little stubble on my face, trying to look like Roy Halladay. It just isn't working. I'd love to get to know him and Brad Lidge and some of the younger guys who are guest-instructing. I've got it on my calendar."

But after an 18-year playing career with the Phillies, which included three MVP awards, 10 Gold Gloves and a World Series MVP, Schmidt said he no longer has the cloak of "invincibility" many elite athletes maintain. He is now a cancer survivor aware of his growing age.

Schmidt's trademark brown mustache is gone, replaced by a light gray stubble. His hair is thinning some, too.

Although he spent his career playing under the sun - and enjoyed a majority of his postcareer outside, too, playing golf - Schmidt said melanoma runs in his family. One of his grandfathers suffered from it, even having to have an ear removed.

"He didn't die from it," Schmidt said, "but he suffered from it."

Schmidt's melanoma came in the form of a mole on his back. He said he had to have all of the lymph nodes removed from under his left arm during one of the surgical procedures.

Schmidt is currently a month removed from chemotherapy. He has his next scan today and plans to stay on top of it with more scans every 3 to 6 months.

Schmidt invoked the words of another Hall of Famer when talking about his health. As Lou Gehrig once told a crowd at Yankee Stadium, Schmidt called himself the "the luckiest man alive" for making a random trip to his dermatologist late last summer.

"I was doing a closing on a house and I had a thing on my hand," Schmidt said. "I just went in and said, 'Can you look at this?' and he said, 'Why don't I take a look at your whole body while you're here?' Obviously the moral of the story is, everybody, get your skin checked.

"I caught it early. If I hadn't gone in to see my dermatologist in late August, I might still have it. It might be more than Stage 3. Even though that was a tough couple months, I'm a very lucky man."

In the middle of his chat with the media, Schmidt once again considered his seat under the early-morning Florida sunshine.

"You get scared of the sun," Schmidt said. "It's an evil thing."