Mike Piazza happy to be among inductees to Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame

"This is something I'm really proud of," Mike Piazza said of his Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction.
"This is something I'm really proud of," Mike Piazza said of his Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction. (         YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: November 10, 2012

Mike Piazza, a former 62d-round draft pick who turned into the greatest hitting catcher in major-league history, never played for the Phillies, but he said he came home Thursday night as one of the inductees into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

"Obviously, being from the area, this is something I'm really proud of," said Piazza, 44, a graduate of Phoenixville High. "A huge part of forming my appreciation for sports - and watching the great teams of Philadelphia as a kid - allowed me to get the attitude of the city and helped me with my career as well."

Piazza, who had Phillies season tickets in the 1970s, said he "learned a lot growing up here and watching. It's a tough town to play in . . . and when I got to New York, that helped me acclimate myself there. . . . Philly was a big part of me and helped inspire me and help me achieve what I did in my career."

In 16 seasons, nearly all with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, Piazza batted .308 with 427 homers. Only eight other players have ever hit above .300 with more than 400 homers - a group that includes Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, and Stan Musial.

In other words, Piazza, a 12-time all-star and the all-time leader in homers by a catcher, seems a 2013 National Baseball Hall of Fame shoo-in.

Piazza said he was "cautiously optimistic."

"It would be a tremendous honor, but we'll see what happens," he said. "It's like being a kid at Christmas - you don't want to go around early and see the presents."

Married and the father of girls 3 and 5 years old, Piazza travels to Italy frequently and is the hitting coach for the Italian national team.

"I love international baseball, and to be connected with Italy and my family's ancestor roots is great," he said before the ceremony at the Society Hill Sheraton. "I'm just trying to help them grow the game in Europe. It's fun for me because it's not full-time, but I still get to be connected to the game."

Piazza and his family live in Miami Beach, Fla. He spends his time playing golf, doing charity work, and enjoying his family. "I try to stay out of my wife's way," he said, smiling.

Other inductees into the ninth class: former 76ers Wali Jones and Doug Collins (now the team's coach); Debbie Black, a St. Joseph's basketball star in the 1980s; two ex-Eagles, linebacker Maxie Baughan and quarterback Tommy Thompson; Eddie Plank, a Philadelphia A's lefthander who won 326 games; former Phillies all-star slugger Johnny Callison; and Dan Baker, the long-time Phillies and Eagles public-address announcer.

Also, Chester's Joe Klecko, a Temple graduate who became an NFL Pro Bowl defensive tackle; Gertrude Dunn, a star shortstop in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from Sharon Hill; boxer Harold Johnson, the 1960s light-heavyweight champion from Manayunk; Phoenixville native Horace Ashenfelter, the steeplechase gold-medal winner in the 1952 Olympics; golfer Johnny McDermott, a Philadelphia native who was the youngest ever and first American-born U.S. Open champion in 1911 and 1912; and Legacy (Arthur Ashe) Youth Tennis and Education, which was recognized for 60 years of service to the area.

Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow @BroadStBull on Twitter.

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