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LADELPHIA -- Mike Lieberthal was thinking about the speech he was to give in front of thousands of Phillies fans, but the circumstances made it even more nerve-wracking. A video tribute of his time with the team and the presentation of a miniature plaque by former teammates Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell got him a little emotional.
"I was kind of getting a little choked up," Lieberthal said. "So the speech was harder, and I started sweating. But I made it through."
Lieberthal, the former Philadelphia catcher, became the 34th member of the Phillies Wall of Fame on Friday night. A plaque with the name and picture of the two-time All-Star and 1999 Gold Glove Award winner will hang in the Memory Lane section of Ashburn Alley beyond the center field wall at Citizens Bank Park.
"Just amazing," said Lieberthal, whose induction was part of the Phillies Alumni Weekend. "I'm not a Hall of Famer, but having an organization that does this, just to go along with the great players that played here. I was a good player but very lucky to be on one team for that long. There's a lot of good players that come through Philadelphia that, in the business of the game, they only stay for two or three years."
A first-round (third overall) selection of the Phillies in 1990, Lieberthal spent 13 seasons (1994-2006) with the Phillies and is regarded as one of the franchise's best at his position. Among Phillies' catchers all-time, Lieberthal is the leader in hits (1,128), home runs (149) and games caught (1,139). In 1999, he became just the sixth catcher in Major League history to hit .300 with more than 30 home runs in a single season.
Standing in front of 12 other Phillies Wall of Famers, including Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa, Lieberthal watched the video tribute and unveiling of the plaque by former teammate Kevin Stocker. In his ensuing speech, he spoke of his time in Philadelphia and thanked Phillies ownership, his former coaches and teammates, the late Phillies legends Harry Kalas and John Vukovich, and the fans.
Later, he spoke of his favorite moments, including his first career hit -- a single on June 30, 1994, in front of his friends and family at Dodger Stadium. Then there was the pinch-hit home run against the Pirates on June 16, 1998, when, as the last man off the bench, Lieberthal capped off an 8-7 Phillies comeback win in which they trailed, 7-0.
Lieberthal, a California native, spent 2007 with the Dodgers before retiring as a Phillie in '08. Living in the Los Angeles area, he now keeps competitive by playing golf -- he says he's a 0 handicap trending toward plus-2 -- and fantasy baseball.
"Thank God I had golf," he said. "I literally practice golf and play golf every day, and I'm trying to enter amateur tournaments and trying to get into the U.S. Amateur. That's my goal right now."
Rollins, who played with Lieberthal from 2000-2006, praised the former catcher for his play and being a good teammate.
"He basically, start to finish, was a Phillie," said Rollins, one of four members of the current club to play with Lieberthal. "He was here through a lot of tough years in the late '90s. He made his mark. He was a good catcher, and he could also hit."
"He was a good catcher," said manager Charlie Manuel, who managed Lieberthal for the catcher's final two seasons in Philadelphia. "He was a good Phillie."