Kruk inducted into Phillies Wall of Fame
Schmidt, Carlton among Philly greats to honor fan favorite
PHILADELPHIA -- John Kruk has not had the best instinct for knowing when he's achieved something remarkable.
In the 1994 home opener at Veterans Stadium, Kruk hit a double in his first at-bat after beating testicular cancer. He pulled into second base oblivious to the loud ovation.
"'Hey idiot, tip your hat,'" then-Rockies shortstop Walt Weiss told Kruk, who underwent radiation treatment that morning.
Friday was another milestone moment for Kruk, becoming the 33rd player inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame. Former Phillie Jim Eisenreich unveiled the 14"x20" cast bronze plaque, located in the Memory Lane section of Ashburn Alley. Kruk also received a picture frame of the plaque from his children.
Kruk had known he was going to be inducted since mid-June. It still didn't hit him until he was standing around in the media room before the on-field ceremony with fellow Phillies greats such as Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning and Dick Allen.
"When I see the National Baseball Hall of Famers, and they accept you, now you're on the wall with them," Kruk said. "One, it's intimidating. Two, I guess now it'll be up there forever, unless I do something really stupid."
Last year's inductee, Darren Daulton, introduced his former teammate on a stage set up in front of the pitcher's mound. Kruk's speech was vintage Kruk, which meant classic Philly.
"We killed a lot of brain cells," Kruk told the crowd. "But you were right there with us and you all killed a bunch too."
The kicker? How about a message to anyone who gives the city a hard time for its tough fans and their antics.
"To those people I say, 'You didn't have the guts to succeed here,'" said Kruk, a .309 hitter with 790 hits in 744 games with the Phillies.
Kruk's ceremony is the highlight of a four-day celebration of Phillies history. It started Thursday when the Phillies moved their second annual alumni luncheon from June to include it in Alumni Weekend. Fans 55 years and older sold out the event in the Diamond Club at Citizens Bank Park, dining and rubbing elbows with Phillies greats such as Rick Wise, who no-hit the Reds in Cincinnati 40 years ago and is also the only pitcher in baseball history to hit two home runs while pitching a no-hitter.
Other events scheduled for the weekend include:
Saturday is Alumni Night, when more than 45 former players -- spanning eight decades -- will be introduced on the field, including Carlton, Schmidt and Bunning, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. Lakewood BlueClaws coach Greg Legg will receive the John Vukovich Award. Vince Vukovich, son of the late Phillies player and coach, will present the award.
A Harry Kalas statue will be unveiled outside the third-base gate before Sunday afternoon's game against the Nationals.
It all makes for the busiest weekend of Larry Shenk's year. He received a scare earlier this week when he found out Kruk's plaque wouldn't be delivered until Friday. When it arrived at the ballpark at 1 p.m. ET, stadium workers quickly mounted it on the wall and covered it with a black sheet.
Shenk, the Phillies' vice president of alumni relations since 1978 -- the inaugural year of the Wall of Fame -- said preparations for Alumni Weekend start the following week, when he contacts Schmidt, Carlton and Bunning to feed them the dates for the next year's event. Reminders go out to the Wall of Famers during Spring Training, and another reminder goes to the local alumni closer to the date.
"Now it's my baby," Shenk said. A ballot of 12-15 names hits Phillies.com for four weeks during Spring Training, where fans can vote on who they think should have a plaque along Ashburn Alley. The top-five vote-getters then advance to a committee of front-office personnel and media, where it decides who that year's inductee will be.
Kruk beat out names such as Curt Schilling and Mike Lieberthal this year. Shenk said there's not much teeth-gnashing that goes on in the war room when deciding which former player gets the nod for the Wall.
There will only be one inductee each year as long as Shenk is in charge, he said, because you don't want to overdo it.
In that case, the Phillies will have no shortage of candidates in the future, with the current crop of talent assembled to go along with other notable players from the last decade.
"There's some people who think [Juan Samuel] didn't belong and Darren didn't belong," Shenk said. "I think they do. They're certainly not Hall of Famers, but look at the future. Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell. How many guys here?"
Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.