Schmidt, who hit 48 home runs during the Phillies' world championship season of 1980, figured Jim Thome would pass him. The first baseman came one short in 2003. Then he figured Pat Burrell might supersede him, but the left fielder hit 37 homers in 2002 and hasn't come close to passing that number since.
This year, the party is over. First baseman Ryan Howard has been an unstoppable force in his first full season in the majors. In the sixth inning of the Phillies' game against the Nationals on Tuesday night, Howard tied Schmidt's record by hitting a monstrous, three-run homer to center field off Washington right-hander Kevin Gryboski.
Schmidt, speaking in a conference call hours before Howard joined him atop the list, said he won't lament losing the record after 26 years. He still has a bigger number out there.
"Forty-eight? I was thinking 548," Schmidt said, jokingly referring to his career total. "I'm happy for Ryan. He might take it where no one can reach it."
"The old numbers aren't going to last for long. I'm quite happy for Ryan and content with what I did. He's a fantastic hitter, a fantastic young man. He's very deserving of the accolades that are coming his way. He's a much better hitter than I ever was at his age. He's much further along."
Howard has been a one-man demolition crew from the day he became an everyday player. A year ago he had 11 homers after August 31. If Howard can parallel that performance this year, the season's final days could find him on a quest to become the youngest player in major league history to hit 60 homers in a season, all the while trying to will the Phils into the post-season. When Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961, he had turned 27 in the final days of his quest to catch Babe Ruth. Howard won't turn 27 until November.
In the Phillies' last 162 games - this year's 131 and the final 31 of 2005 - Howard has 60 homers and 153 RBIs.
"It's nice. It's cool," said Howard, who has homered in each of the last four games and five of the last six. "It means a lot. It's a lot of work to ever hit on that type of level."
"That's the name of the game - do as much damage as possible."