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On This Date in Sports April 17, 1976: Mike Schmidt Goes Fourth

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Mike Schmidt becomes the tenth player in MLB history to have four home runs in a game, as the Philadelphia Phillies outslug the Chicago Cubs 18-16 at Wrigley Field. Schmidt goes 5-for-6 with eight RBI, as the Phillies rallied from a 13-12 deficit to beat the cubs in ten innings. The four home runs come in Mike Schmidt's final four at-bats, including the game-winning shot in the tenth inning. 

As the 1976 season began, the Philadelphia Phillies managed by Danny Ozark were a team on the rise. Powering the Phillies' rise was Mike Schmidt, who led the National League in home runs in 1974 and 1976. The Phillies were coming off their first winning season in eight years and had high hopes for the first time in years. Schmidt was born on September 27, 1949, in Dayton, Ohio. After leading Ohio University to the College World Series, Schmidt was drafted in the second round by the Phillies in the 1971 MLB Draft. Making his debut at the end of the 1972 season, Mike Schmidt had a breakout season in 1974, starting the year with a walk-off home run and leading the NL with 36 home runs. He again led the league with 38 dingers in 1975. 

The Phillies were off to a slow start in 1976, holding a 1-3 record with the weather playing a role as they faced the Cubs in a rain-shortened two-game weekend series at Wrigley Field. The Cubs managed by Jim Marshall were 4-2 and had Rick Reuschel on the mound against Phillies' ace Steve Carlton. The Phillies drew first blood on a second-inning home run by Garry Maddox. However, the Cubs lit up Carlton like a Christmas tree in the bottom of the inning, chasing the four-time Cy Young winner with seven runs on six hits. The big blow was a three-run homer by Rick Monday, while Steve Swisher had a home run and an RBI single. The Cubs added five runs in the third as neither Ron Schueler nor Gene Garber could halt the damage. After an RBI single by Dave Cash gave Philadelphia a second run, the Cubs continued to bather Phillies' pitching with Monday again leaving the yard. 

Down 13-2, the Phillies began their comeback in the fifth inning with a two-run shot by Mike Schmidt. The Phillies continued to claw their way back, powered by a Jay Johnstone triple and Schmidt's second homer to make 13-7 in the seventh inning. As Wayne Twitchell provided two scoreless innings for the Phillies out of the bullpen, the Cubs' pen imploded in the eighth, allowing five runs as Mike Gorman was smacked around, allowing a two-run to Dick Allen and a three-run homer to Mike Schmidt to make it a one-run game.

With Darold Knowles on to save the game, the Phillies tied the game on a home run by Bob Boone to lead off the ninth. Philadelphia took the lead on a triple by Larry Bowa, who later scored on a suicide squeeze by Johnstone to make it 15-13 in favor of the Phillies. The Phillies had ace closer Tug McGraw on the mound, but they could not hold the lead either, as Steve Swisher tied the game with a two-out two-run single, as Andre Thornton had a crucial double to start the rally. 

After Knowles issued a lead-off walk to Dick Allen, Paul Reuschel came in to face Mike Schmidt in the tenth, allowing the Phillies star to hit his fourth home run of the game. The Phillies later added another run as Tim McCarver scored on a sac-fly by Dave Cash. Now leading 18-15, the Phillies had Tom Underwood on the mound, but after doubles by Mike Adams and Bill Madlock was removed with two outs. Jim Longborg came on to get Jerry Morales to ground out to Schmidt, ending the wild affair with an 18-16 win for the Phillies. The Phillies would use the win and springboard themselves to their first division title at 101-61 as Mike Schmidt again led the league in home runs.