|Ashburn was a part of the Phillies organization
for 47 years as a player and broadcaster
|Red Dooin was Phillies catcher for entirety of the 1900’s|
My off-season series of Philadelphia Phillies mini bios has featured some of the most popular players and other individuals in team history.
DOOIN BREAKS INTO THE BIGS
DOOIN’S PLAYING CAREER PROFILE
DOOIN BECOMES PLAYER-MANAGER
END OF THE LINE
LIEBY’S PRO CAREER BEGINNINGS
Lieberthal was chosen by the Phils with the 3rd overall pick in the first round of the 1990 MLB Amateur Draft. He was selected out of Westlake High School in California, where he had been an all-american.
His maturity and all-around athletic ability allowed Lieberthal to rise rapidly through the Phillies farm system. By the 1992 season, Lieby was catching at AA Reading as a 20-year-old. He would even get a taste of the AAA level later that same summer.
The ‘Macho Row’ Phillies stormed to a stunning NL pennant in the 1993 season. That mulleted crew very nearly captured a World Series title, falling short in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays.
While all of that excitement was happening at the big league level, Lieby was gaining valuable experience as a 21-year old with AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre. In that 1993 season, Lieberthal hit .262 with 17 doubles and 40 RBI over 417 plate appearances.
Lieberthal began the 1994 season back at AAA, but was called up to make his big league debut that summer. The promotion came when Phillies starting catcher Darren Daulton suffered one of many career knee injuries. This one would knock ‘Dutch’ out for the year, and Lieberthal would become the starter.
LIEBERTHAL REACHES THE BIG LEAGUES
On June 30, in what was a sort of homecoming, Lieby got his first start in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. In the top of the fourth inning, Lieberthal lined a clean base hit to left field off Dodgers starter Pedro Astacio. It was his first of what would be 1,155 big league hits.
Just over two weeks later, the Dodgers were in Philadelphia at Veteran’s Stadium. With starter Ramon Martinez on the mound, Lieberthal cranked his first of 150 career home runs.
That first taste of Major League Baseball would end abruptly, not just for Lieberthal, but for everyone involved with the game. The player’s strike began on August 12. It would result in the cancellation of the remainder of that season.
Daulton returned to take over his starting spot when play resumed for the 1995 season. Then in 1996 the Phils signed free agent catcher Benito Santiago, who supplied the club with 30 home runs.
Lieberthal spent much of 1995 back at AAA, and then became Santiago’s primary backup in 1996. However, his season ended in mid-August after he suffered torn cartilage in his left knee.
Santiago only lasted one year in Philly. Daulton’s knees had led to his permanently giving up the catcher position after 1995. So at age 25 in the 1997 season, Lieberthal became the Phillies starting backstop. He would hold that distinction for the better part of a decade.
LIEBY AS THE PHILLIES STARTING CATCHER
In 1999, Lieberthal hit for a .300/.363/.551 slash line with 31 homers and 96 RBI. He became just the eight catcher in big league history to hit for a .300+ average and bang 30+ homers in a season.
He became just the second Phillies catcher in history, after Boone, to be named as a National League all-star in that 1999 season. Lieberthal also set a new Phillies record for fielding percentage at the catcher position (.997). For that he was honored with an NL Gold Glove Award.
Lieberthal was off to another great year in 2000, and was named an NL all-star for a second straight season. On July 17, a collision at the plate with New York Yankees star Bernie Williams resulted in an ankle injury. It would knock Lieberthal out for two weeks, and affect him for the next month and a half. His season would finally end in early September.
The following year was again marred by injury. On May 12 at Arizona he was picked off first base, suffering major knee damage on the play. That injury that would require surgery and finish his 2001 season.
Lieberthal recovered and again took over the starting Phillies catching duties as the club would down the final years at Veteran’s Stadium, and then opened up Citizens Bank Park.
For his return in 2002, Lieby was named by The Sporting News as the NL Comeback Player of the Year. In 2003, Lieberthal caught a no-hitter thrown at The Vet by Kevin Millwood.
The Phillies were contenders for the MLB postseason in each of his final four years as the catcher from 2003-2006. But the club would ultimately finish just short of their collective goals.
THE END OF THE LINE
At age 34 in the 2006 season, Lieberthal saw time, his injuries, and other organizational options finally catch up with him. He split the catching duties almost evenly that year with a feel-good “33-Year Old Rookie” story in Chris Coste. And getting his first taste of the big leagues was a 26-year old catcher named Carlos Ruiz.
Following the 2006 season, Lieberthal became a free agent for the first time. He signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2007 season. He then served as backup to Russell Martin in what would prove to be Lieby’s big league swan song.
Perhaps ironically, the Phillies would finally break through and win that elusive NL East title in 2007. It was the first of five straight division crowns for the club. So it turns out that the Phillies won the division the year before his debut, and the year after he left, but never while he was with the team.
On June 1, 2008, Lieberthal signed a one-day contract in order to retire with the Phillies. He was applauded by fans as he threw out the first pitch at that night’s game.
THE WALL OF FAME
Lieberthal left as the Phillies franchise all-time leader in Games, Home Runs, and RBI at the catching position. He is also ranked 5th in homers, and seventh in both hits and RBI on the all-time MLB rankings for Jewish ball players.
In 2012, Lieberthal was elected to the Phillies Wall of Fame. Again, this is the ultimate organizational honor for any individual associated with the team.
“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.”
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins was a little younger and would become a leader on the perennial Phillies winners of the late 2000’s. ‘JRoll’ was Lieberthal’s teammate from 2000-06.
“He basically, start to finish, was a Phillie,” said Rollins per MLB.com’s Jake Kaplan. “He was here through a lot of tough years in the late ’90s…made his mark…a good catcher, and he could also hit.”
Mike Lieberthal did indeed make his mark in Philly. It’s a shame that those early 2000’s Phillies teams couldn’t win just a few more games each year, thus getting him to the postseason. But Phillies fans who got to see him play know his value to the club for a long time at the most difficult position on the diamond.
Now a Phillies Wall of Famer, Boone caught for 19 big-league seasons, winning seven Gold Gloves
The Philadelphia Phillies franchise was founded in 1883. Since 1978, the club has honored the greatest individual contributors to its success with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
There are club executives and beloved broadcasters on the Wall. And of course, there are dozens of players.
The players on the Wall range from 19th century trailblazers to 20th century Hall of Famers to 21st century superstars.
But of those players, only two played the position of catcher. One of those was Bob Boone, selected to the Wall in 2005.
Boone was the seventh player from the 1980 World Series champions to be so honored. He thus joined Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Tug McGraw, Greg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox on the Wall of Fame.
A native of San Diego, Boone played there at Crawford High School. He would then become the Phillies sixth round selection in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft as a third baseman out of Stanford University.
BOONE DEVELOPS WITH THE PHILLIES
As an advanced 21-year old, Boone made his pro debut that summer with the Phillies rookie level team in the Florida State League North. He was promoted quickly to A-level Raleigh-Durham in the Carolina League where he hit .300 over 325 plate appearances that summer.
In 1970, as the Phillies were closing out Connie Mack Stadium, Boone reached AA Reading. With 23-year old Don Money emerging as a strong player at the hot corner for the big league club, the Phils decided to convert Boone to the catcher position that summer.
Boone would repeat the 1971 season at Reading, still learning the ropes behind the plate as the Phillies opened up their shining new home at Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly.
The 1972 season would prove to be his big breakout campaign. Boone hit .308 with a .363 on-base percentage at AAA Eugene, banging 17 home runs with 32 doubles, 67 RBI, and 77 runs scored.
For that strong performance, Boone received his first promotion to the big leagues that September.
BOONE BEGINS HIS BIG LEAGUE CAREER
His first game came on a Sunday afternoon at The Vet. The date was September 10, 1972, and Boone entered in the bottom of the 7th as a pinch-hitter for starting catcher Mike Ryan. There he began his career by unceremoniously striking out against Chicago Cubs reliever Joe Decker.
In that 1972 season, the Phillies had juggled their catching position between a trio of veterans, Ryan, Tim McCarver, and John Bateman, all of whom were aging into their 30’s. By the following year, Boone was the starter, and only Ryan remained to back him up.
Boone played in 145 games for the Phillies in his first full big league season of 1973. Over 575 plate appearances as a 25-year old he batted .261 with 10 homers, 20 doubles, and 61 RBI. For that performance he finished third in the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Gary Matthews and Steve Rogers.
This was the official beginning of what would become one of the longest, most successful careers of any catcher in Major League Baseball history. Boone would be a starting catcher every season from that 1973 right through the 1989 campaign.
With the Phillies emerging as a contender in the mid-1970’s, the club decided to bring in veteran left-handed hitting catcher Johnny Oates to platoon with Boone in the 1975 season. It very nearly caused Boone to quit the game for medical school.
BOONE STARTS AS PHILLIES EMERGE
The Phils would finish a strong 86-76 in 1975, just 6.5 games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East race. With a strong, young team entering the Bicentennial year of 1976, the Phillies became divisional favorites. Boone was reinstated as the unquestioned full-timer behind the dish.
The Phillies would capture each of the next three NL East crowns. The club won what was then a franchise record 101 games in both 1976 and 1977. Boone would become an NL All-Star for the first time in ’76, an honor that he would repeat with the Phillies in both 1978 and 1979.
Having taken well to the catching position, Boone developed during those years into one of the best defensive backstops in the game. In both 1978 and 1979 he would win the NL Gold Glove Award for the position.
PHILLIES AND BOONE FINALLY WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP
Despite being a consistent contender, Boone and the Phillies were unable to win a championship. In 1979 the team faded to a fourth place finish, and there was much talk that perhaps their window had closed.
But in 1980 under firebrand manager Dallas Green, the Phillies would fight their way back to the top of the NL East. Boone would, in fact, provide a pivotal hit as the club clinched the NL East crown. And this time would prove different in the postseason.
|Edith Houghton, baseball’s first female scout|
The Phillies have a rich historical tradition that includes being the North American pro sports franchise with the longest-running, continuous use full name (Philadelphia Phillies), the losingest franchise in Major League Baseball history, and the first team to wear pinstripe uniforms.
On February 15th, 1946 the Phillies added to that historical legacy by hiring the first solo female scout, in fact one of the very first female game-related employees, in the history of baseball.
Edith Houghton was a native of the city, born and raised in North Philly into a typically large family at the time, the youngest of ten children. Her father had been a semi-pro ballplayer, and began to teach young Edith the game as a child.
As Shawn Selby wrote in his piece that appeared with SABR, “She would play games with neighborhood kids whenever she had the chance and from her parents’ bedroom window on the second floor she would watch night games on the field outside her house.”
“So enamored with baseball was she that by the time she was 8 she was the on-field mascot for the local police league teams,” wrote Selby. “The job even allowed her to sit next to the mayor at games from time to time. At 9, young Edith was already doing hitting and fielding displays on the field before games.”
As she came to adolescence in the 1920’s, young Houghton wasn’t much into dolls and dresses like most girls her age. No, that pre-pubescent Houghton was a tomboy, and her first love was that game taught to her by her father – baseball.
She didn’t just love the game, she was very good at it, so good that she was able to make the Philadelphia Bobbies women’s barnstorming factory team in 1922 when she was just 10 years old. The team was composed of girls in their teens and early-20’s, and Houghton became their starting shortstop.
Paul Vitello of the New York Times reported in 2013 that a Lancaster, PA newspaper wrote about Houghton during her first season as a player.
That piece had stated “Little Miss Houghton, 10-year-old phenom, covered the ground at shortstop for the team and made herself a favorite with fans for her splendid field work and at the bat.”