Lieberthal thanks many in Phillies Wall of Fame induction

Mike Lieberthal , shown here in 2006, finished his career with 150 homers and 1,155 hits. YONG KIM / Staff File Photo
Mike Lieberthal , shown here in 2006, finished his career with 150 homers and 1,155 hits. YONG KIM / Staff File Photo
Posted: August 11, 2012

Mike Lieberthal just wanted to be done with his speech. He was sweating through his purple button-down shirt into his suit jacket, and he still had a few minutes to wait before addressing the crowd at Citizens Bank Park Friday night on a makeshift podium.

The Phillies introduced Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Pat Burrell, who came out with Lieberthal's two children. Then they played a three-minute video tribute to Lieberthal with footage of him as a Little Leaguer.

Lieberthal's nerves momentarily left and he got choked up as the video ended and a cloth cover-up was removed to unveil his face on a bronze plaque on the Phillies' Wall of Fame in center field.

As quickly as it started, the sentimental moment ended. It was speech time.

"I started sweating even more at that point," Lieberthal said.

Just a few feet in front of home plate, where he made a living for 13 seasons as a backstop for the Phillies, Lieberthal thanked seemingly every person affiliated with his development in a five-minute speech that completed his induction.

Lieberthal may have been comfortable behind the plate. He was anything but comfortable at the podium.

Once he finished his speech - the part of his induction that he had been both dreading and preparing for for a month - the Southern California native let his true, relaxed nature come out.

He took a drive with his son around the inside of the ballpark, serenaded by the applause of fans.

Then he spent 10 relaxed minutes with reporters. The 40-year-old recounted his entire fantasy baseball roster - Carlos Gonzalez was his No. 1 pick - and talked about his love of golf - he's playing with John Kruk on Saturday.

After being drafted by the Phillies third overall in 1990, Lieberthal went on to backstop more games than any other Phillies catcher and finished his career with 150 homers and 1,155 hits.

"I wasn't a great player or a Hall of Fame player," the two-time all-star said. "But I was lucky to play so many years here in Philadelphia and lucky that they do something like this."

Lieberthal still pays attention to the majors. He checks the pitching matchups meticulously every morning and decides which games he wants to watch that evening. Usually he sets all four of his family room TVs to different games.

This season, he, as well as a long line of others, has been impressed by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Specifically, he's impressed with the way Ruiz overcame the perception that he wasn't going to amount to much more than a .280 hitting catcher.

"I know he's getting older," Lieberthal said, "but if he can play another six or seven years he could be here in my position."

As Lieberthal stood on the podium before the game, Phillies Wall of Famers from previous years stood behind him - there was Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, and Larry Bowa. Dick Allen, Greg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox. Tony Taylor, Bob Boone, and Dallas Greene. Juan Samuel, Darren Daulton, and Kruk.

And as he stood in front of some of the greatest to ever don the red pinstripes, he couldn't help but break out into a nervous sweat as he gave his speech.

After giving many thanks to many people, Lieberthal ended saying: "It has been one incredible ride."

He took a step away from the podium and took a deep breath. The sweat on his back started to cool. Finally, after all the celebration had come to an end, he looked comfortable - even happy - on the baseball diamond again.

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