By Matt Breen
The greatest Phillies player had a chance encounter more than 40 years ago to meet The Greatest.
Mike Schmidt sat next to Muhammad Ali in January 1975 at the Philadelphia Sports Writers dinner. Schmidt remembered how big the late boxer’s hands were and how friendly Ali was. Schmidt was impressed that Ali, who died Friday at 74, knew who he was. The heavyweight champion was a sports fan, Schmidt said.
Ali had been living around that time in Cherry Hill. Later that year he fought Philadelphia’s Joe Frazier for the third and final time.
“I was sitting in the most-envied seat in the house,” Schmidt said Saturday. “Right next to Muhammad Ali. I think if everybody in the house would trade seats with somebody than it would have been me. Sitting right there. He was in the most important seat. I was in No. 2, I guess. That was pretty neat.”
Schmidt did not recall any particular conversations the two had. It has been more than four decades. Memories fade. But Schmidt still fondly recalls the memory of sitting next to Ali that night.
“He’s right there with a president,” Schmidt said. “If you could name the top five people you’ve met in your life, he’d be one of them for me. I’ve been lucky.”