Michael Scott Lieberthal
(born January 18
in Glendale, California
), nicknamed Lieby
, is a former Major League Baseball catcher
. He batted and threw right-handed
. In a 14-year career, Lieberthal played for the Philadelphia Phillies
(-) and the Los Angeles Dodgers
(). He compiled a career batting average
of .274 with 150 home runs
and 610 runs batted in
Lieberthal had a .310 batting average, a .381 on base percentage, and .510 slugging percentage lifetime against lefties.
Lieberthal was an all-American
catcher at Westlake High School
, and graduated in 1990. As a 4-11, 98-pound high school freshman, he played shortstop and second base. His coaches told him he was too small to catch. But as a junior he made the switch to catcher at the suggestion of pro scouts, including his father, Dennis, a scout for the Detroit Tigers
. Lieberthal established 2 single-season records that still stand at the high school: total bases (94) and home runs (14). He still holds career records at Westlake for at-bats (289), runs (79), hits (105), and home runs (30).
Lieberthal was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1st round (3rd overall) of the 1990 Major League Baseball Draft.
Lieberthal played in the minor leagues from 1990-. He played for Martinsville
in 1990 (Rookie League), Spartanburg
("A") and Clearwater
("A+") in , Reading
in ("AA"), and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
from 1992-1995 ("AAA").
Philadelphia Phillies (1994-2006)
He made his major league debut on June 30
, 1994, at the age of 22 as the starting catcher against the Los Angeles Dodgers
. He recorded his first career base hit in the 4th inning against Pedro Astacio
In , he had surgery for torn cartilage in his left knee. In , his season was shortened by a pelvic stress fracture injury. In , he hit .339 in games that were late and close. In , he hit 31 home runs and 96 RBIs for the Phillies, while hitting .300 with a career-best .551 slugging percentage. He hit .377 against left-handers, and was 8th in the league with 8 sacrifice flies and 11 HBP. He was an All Star for the first time. In , Lieberthal was again an All Star, and hit .350 against left-handers. In September 2000, he had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.
In May , Lieberthal was picked off at second base and tore his ACL and MCL and cartilage in his knee while attempting to dive back to the bag. He had surgery in June, and missed the rest of the season. In October , he injured the same knee as he stepped out of a golf cart near his home. He tore the meniscus, and had surgery.
In 2002, he was 5th in the league in HBP (14), and hit .346 against left-handers. He was the Sporting News NL Comeback Player of the Year, and also won the Player's Choice NL Comeback Player award.
In , Lieberthal hit .313, and was 8th in the league in HBP (12). In , he was 6th in the league with 14 intentional walks, and struck out only 35 times, while walking 35 times. In 2006, Lieberthal batted .310 in games that were late and close. He left as the Phillies' all-time catching leader in home runs, RBI, and games caught.
Los Angeles Dodgers (2007)
Lieberthal signed as a free agent
with the Los Angeles Dodgers on December 6
, 2006. He received a $1.15 million contract, with a club option for 2008. He made more money than the Dodgers' starting catcher, All-Star Russell Martin
Lieberthal's playing time with the Dodgers was so limited that it was a running joke, and for his ninth start on July 3, teammates decorated his locker with congratulatory balloons and flowers.
After playing in only 38 games in 2007 and hitting .234, Lieberthal's $1.4 million option was not picked up by the Dodgers, who instead bought out the contract for $100,000, and he became a free agent on October 30, 2007.
In January , Lieberthal announced his retirement. "I'm done," Lieberthal said. "If [the Dodgers] had picked up my option, I probably would have played 1 more year. But I didn't want to go anywhere else. There were a lot of reasons. The money was great as a backup, but I have made [enough] money in baseball. I just didn't want to go through what I have to go through with my body to play 20-25 games a year. It's not worth it."
It was suggested that while it was unlikely that Lieberthal would choose to coach, enjoying golf and married life for the immediate future, he had expressed an interest in being a television analyst, so that might materialize.
On April 28
, 2008, Lieberthal announced that he would sign a one-day contract with the Phillies on June 1
, throw out the ceremonial first pitch and then officially retire. He would be the first Phillies player to retire in the same manner since Doug Glanville
In 1996, he threw out 36% of runners attempting to steal. In 1997 he allowed only .64 steals per 9 innings, 3rd best in the league.
In 1999, Lieberthal led National League receivers with a .997 fielding percentage, and won a Gold Glove at catcher.
Lieberthal caught more games than anyone in Phillies history (1,139).
Lieberthal appeared in the motion picture "Summer Catch"
in 2001 alongside teammates Doug Glanville
and Pat Burrell
, as well as fellow major league baseball stars Hank Aaron
, Ken Griffey, Jr.
, and Dave Collins
, among others.
- Since 1998 has sponsored "Lieby's VIPs," in which he purchases $30,000 worth of tickets for children with cancer, and their families; in addition, treats children to a Halloween party the following season.
- Served as 2000 Chairman of C.A.D.E.'s (Corporate Alliance for Drug Education) fundraising drive.
- Since 2001 has co-hosted a celebrity billiards tournament, with Doug Glanville and Randy Wolf, to raise money for the Philadelphia Futures mentor program (since 2001, the event raised over $325,000 for the Futures program).
- Lieberthal has hit the 5th-most home runs of any Jewish major league baseball player, behind Hank Greenberg, Shawn Green, Sid Gordon, and Al Rosen, and is 7th on the all time list in hits and RBIs. Lieberthal's father is Jewish, and he is therefore considered Jewish under Reform Judaism, and is also listed as such by the American Jewish Historical Society and others.
- His father, Dennis Lieberthal, is a scout for the Detroit Tigers, and a former San Francisco Giants scout.
- Lieberthal had a fan group at Veterans Stadium called "Lieby's Lil Ladies."
- On NBC's "The Office," the character of Dwight Schrute has a bobblehead doll of Lieberthal on his desk.
- Played Little League, PONY League Baseball, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, and American Legion baseball.
- Lieberthal has been compared by many Phillies fans to Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees because both players were dominant at their position for roughly fifteen years, and because the teams they played for made the playoffs the year before they arrived, and the year after they departed.