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Must C Classic: Rollins becomes franchise hit leader

PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins rounded first base, clapped his hands, kicked out his right leg and smiled brightly.

His history-making moment happened almost exactly the way he pictured it.

He ripped a fastball to right field for a single in the fifth inning Saturday afternoon in a 7-4 victory over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. The 2,235th hit of his storied career set the franchise hits record, breaking Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt's mark of 2,234.

"Since I was four, you go to school and teachers ask you, 'What do you want to do?' And I would tell them, 'I'm going to play baseball. I'm going to be a baseball player,'" Rollins said. "They would tell me the percentages, and I would say, 'Well, that's fine. I'm one of those people in that small percent.' It's awesome being able to accomplish what I have accomplished, but I'm not done. Hopefully we can bring another championship to the city, if I'm here long enough, and the rest will be the rest."

Rollins wanted to set the record in front of the hometown crowd in a victory. He got both of those wishes and more.

Rollins turned at first base to greet Phillies first-base coach Juan Samuel. He was surprised to see Schmidt, who had been at the ballpark since Wednesday, waiting for his record to fall, walking onto the field to retrieve Rollins' two-toned bat at home plate. He carried it to Rollins with a smile nearly as wide as the man that broke his record.

The greatest third baseman and shortstop in Phillies history embraced.

"Congratulations," Schmidt said. "I appreciate your friendship."

They turned around to see Rollins' teammates streaming out of the dugout. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, two of his teammates from the 2008 World Series championship team, were the first to hug the Phillies' new hit king. Chase Utley was one of the last. Utley and Rollins have played 1,127 games together as a double-play combination, the most among active combos in baseball. Utley congratulated his teammate before he said, "Now score a run."

"I'm excited," Howard said with a smile. "I'm really happy for him and for his family, and you have to leave it to Jimmy to do it in dramatic fashion. That's always been his forte."

Fireworks exploded overhead as play stopped for a couple of minutes. Schmidt raised Rollins' arm in the air as Phillies fans stood and applauded.

Rollins raised his helmet in the air to acknowledge the crowd.

"I know who Mike Schmidt is and his Hall of Fame credentials," said Rollins, who enjoyed a champagne toast in the clubhouse afterward with teammates, coaches, staff and ownership. "And being the great Hall of Famer that he is, amongst Hall of Famers, it was just really more so going out there and doing my job and accomplishing something. I didn't set out to become the all-time hits leader. I've just been here long enough that it had come up. Mike Schmidt is a good friend of mine. We've talked about a lot of things, so I haven't really looked at it like taking him down or jumping over him in that sense."

It made for a memorable afternoon in a season that has had precious few of them. The Phillies improved to just 29-37 with the victory, but fans left the ballpark able to say they witnessed a piece of Phillies history.

Utley hit a solo home run to right field in the first inning to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. They took a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the second, and Phillies right-hander David Buchanan allowed three runs in five innings to pick up the win.

Rollins stood on second base and Marlon Byrd stood on first with two outs in the fifth when Domonic Brown crushed a three-run home run to right field to make it 7-3. Brown had just asked Schmidt for a batting tip after Schmidt returned to the Phillies' dugout.

"I said, 'Domonic, use your strong hand [left hand] and let your top hand get active through the ball,'" Schmidt said. "I don't know if it actually looked that way when he hit the home run, but it worked. So we were going crazy. I was in the dugout when he came in after the home run. We had a big hug."

Hugs were everywhere Saturday, but most were reserved for Rollins. He is already considered the greatest shortstop in Phillies history. He is already in the top 10 of nearly every offensive category, including first in hits and doubles (466). If he keeps playing like this, he could end up in the Hall of Fame alongside Schmidt.

"Right now, Jimmy's stock is very high," Schmidt said. "I think if Jimmy retired at the end of the year, I think he'd get some serious Hall of Fame consideration right now. He's got two or three years, four years, he's got some work to do. If he does that work ... I think he's almost first-ballot consideration for the Hall of Fame."

Rollins can't control that. He can only control how he plays the rest of this season and the rest of his career.

He has work to do.

"I plan on playing until I can't play anymore. After that, who knows?" Rollins said. "Even Hall of Famers wonder if they could have done more. You're never certain. You have goals that you want to do and become, and at the end of your career, you hopefully get that nod. But as a player, while you're playing, you are figuring what more you can do. That will be left to the voters at the end of your career."

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