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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Philly fan's lament
Why doesn't Schmidty love back the city that loves him?

Seeing the picture of Mike Schmidt once again in a Phillies uniform last week triggered it.

Memories of the '80 World Series team surged forward. (I can still rattle their names off from the top of my head.)

Then came that unquenched longing for more.

Finally, the wonder why such an adored athlete avoids the area where he became a star.

Michael Jack Schmidt played great here. Hit his 500th homerun here. Was a World Champion here. Was a childhood hero here.

He also hated this town. And he's not alone.

Pitcher Curt Schilling, slugger Scott Rolen, dunker Charles Barkley and hockey sniper Eric Lindros all share a very public distaste for the Philly area or at least the organization they played for.

Flyers captain Keith Primeau and Sixers star Allen Iverson aren't exactly thrilled here either. They blame their ill at ease on a prying media and very public pressure to perform. They don't plan to amscray as Rolen, Lindros and Schilling did, at least not now. But don't expect to see them strolling down Broad Street either.

If only for each of them, we had a Garry Maddox, an Ulf Samuelsson or even newcomer Jim Thome.

While still in college, I shared a breakfast with Maddox after the golden glover retired in 1986. He happened to walk into one of my favorite eateries and I asked him to join me. I remember the "Secretary of Defense" being personable, unassuming and above all, grateful. He loved the area. I can only guess his namesake son, fomerly an outfielder with the Atlantic City Surf and now a minor league Phillie, does too.

I also remember watching the hard-hitting Samuelsson on TV. The former Flyers defenseman opened a restaurant in Jenkintown yesterday and Flyers Mark Recchi, Simon Gagne and Jeremy Roenick were to be on hand to celebrate.

(While Roenick is the voice of the Flyers' players and is clearly a throwback to the spirit of the old team, off the ice he continues to live in Phoenix. He reportedly prefers the golfing weather there and the ability to drive his sports car well above Pennsylvania's legal limit.)

As I write this, the Flyers Wives' Fight for Lives Carnival is on. Bill Barber's late wife, Jenny, helped found the charity effort. But her passing last year and the coach's steadfast refusal to take any time off, counted for little when the Flyers self-destructed in the playoffs.

In an age when high-priced athletic talent is as interchangeable as cogs in a wheel, Barber demonstrated something almost unheard of - team loyalty. Nearly a year later, it's still a shame the team didn't reciprocate.

It's a lesson we all should learn, according to Karl Smith, with whom I pondered the Schmidt problem on Friday. He inisists that as one of the greatest players ever, Schmidty deserved a send-off the size of Cal Ripken's in Baltimore.

I can't say either way. But it did my heart good to see Schmidt talking baseball with Thome, the latest phillies slugger. As for Thome, Randy Miller reported Sunday that the $85 million man made sure to take time to talk to the media Friday after smacking a homer during his first at-bat of the Spring Season.

Let's hope he's still talking to reporters and fans on days when he strikes out too.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at . To read his previous columns, click here.

March 3, 2003