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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #6 Richie Ashburn

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, February 24, 2014 08:00 AM | Comments: 13
Features, History, Phillies Nation Top 100 - 2014

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #6. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back this afternoon for #5.

#6 – Richie Ashburn

Years: 1948-1959

.311/.394/.388, 22 HR, 199 SB in 8223 PA

Previous Rank: 6 (No Change)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 4th among position players, 6th among Phillies

Veteran’s Committee Selection to Hall of Fame (1995)

Made Four NL All-Star Teams as a Phillie (1948, 1951, 1953, 1958)

Won two batting titles and led the NL in OBP four times, led MLB in hits during the 1950s

For many folks that grew up in the Delaware Valley and its surrounding suburbs, it is not uncommon for them to say they knew the voices of Whitey Ashburn and Harry Kalas before they could recognize their own father’s or mother’s voice. So that is certainly hyperbolic, but it isn’t entirely too far off from the truth. And before Whitey excelled at broadcasting, generations before ours remember that Whitey was one of the finest center fielders in Major League Baseball and left the game as one of the finest Phillies of all-time.

Ashburn signed with the Phillies shortly before the start of the 1945 season out of Tilden HS in Tilden, NE. Ashburn would spend a year with the Class-A Utica Blue Sox before serving a year in the military. In 1948, after hitting .362 the previous season as a 20-year old in Utica, Ashburn cracked the Phillies roster. Ashburn would hit .333/.410/.400 with an NL-leading 32 SB in his rookie season to snag an All-Star selection while finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting and 11th in MVP voting. Ashburn was just 23 years old when the famed Whiz Kids won the pennant in 1950; Whitey would have a pivotal play in the pennant-clinching game, throwing out the Dodgers’ Cal Abrams at home plate to maintain the 1-1 tie. Like many of the other Whiz Kids hitters, Ashburn struggled in the World Series, going just 3 for 17 off the potent Yankees’ pitching.

Ashburn would prove to be anything but a flash in the pan during the 1950s, leading the Majors in hits with 1875. Ashburn’s lofty hit total was in large part due to his ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field but also due to his ability to stay on the field. From June 7, 1950 through September 26, 1954, Ashburn did not miss a game, appearing in 730 straight games which ranked fifth-best in baseball history at the time. Ashburn’s mark still stands as the Phillies’ franchise record and currently ranks 14th in Major League history.

Whitey retired as the all-time Phillies leader in games played, PA, hits, and walks. Ashburn now resides at third, third, second, and third respectively in those categories. Ashburn ranks 11th in team history in SB, fourth in runs scored, and ninth in team history in OBP. During his active years with the Phillies, Ashburn led the Majors in games, PA, hits, triples, and SB while ranking second in runs, and 11th in batting average. While Whitey was able to hit the gaps and use his speed to earn triples, Ashburn had just 22 HR in 12 seasons with the Phillies.

On January 11, 1960, the Phillies traded White to the Chicago Cubs for John Buzhardt, Al Dark, and Jim Woods.  Ashburn would lead baseball with a .415 OBP in his first season with the Cubs but then see a limited role with them in 1961. The Cubs certainly won the trade as Buzhardt would post a 11-34 record as a starter from 1960-1961, the 38-year old Dark would hit .242 before being traded for the other Joe Morgan, and Woods hit .207 in 92 PA from 1960-1961. In 1962, Ashburn was the Mets first-ever All-Star after joining the team as a free agent. In 1963, Whitey retired and joined the Phillies broadcast team. From 1971 through his death on September 9, 1997, Whitey broadcast games with the incomparable Kalas as his colleague.

Ashburn’s #1 was retired in 1979 and was the second Phillie inducted on to the Phillies Wall of Fame the same year. Whitey was a Veteran’s Committee selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1995 after exhausting his 15 years of ballot eligibility in 1982. Whitey passed away on September 9, 1997 after calling a game with Kalas at Shea Stadium, ending 47 years of service in one capacity or another with the Phillies organization. In 2004, the Phillies named the center field corridor (Ashburn Alley) and the radio broadcast booth (The Richie “Whitey” Ashburn Broadcast Booth) of Citizens Bank Park after Whitey.

Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 673 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 jeff orbach

    I think I read in Bill James’s book that there were only 4 seasons that any outfielder had more than 500 putouts and Whitey had 3 of them (Willie Mays had the other).

     
  • Posts: 0 Vinnie

    I’m not sure if this is a true story, or some kind of urban legend. But, I heard after the 1962 the Mets didn’t change their coach’s signs on the field. So, when he was broadcasting in 1963 for Phillies, he was saying what the Mets were going to do before it actually happened.

    If it’s not true, still a funny story.

    I’m too young to know him as a player, and never met him personally. But I feel like I knew him because he was always there to watch or listen to Phillies game with me. He was a class act, that could never be replaced. I still miss him (and Harry) to this day.

     
  • Posts: 0 Richie Ashburn

    Well, what do you know, Harry….my place in the ranking didn’t change.

     
  • Posts: 17 whizkidfanatic

    Avatar of whizkidfanatic

    It is ironic that many Phillie fans only know of Richie as a broadcaster. Those of us who saw him play will never forget his talent.

    As exciting as anything I ever saw in baseball was sitting in the upper deck behind third base at Connie Mack (then Shibe Park) watching Richie come into third with a triple. He literally flew around second base and exploded into third. He played in the 50′s, an era when they didn’t steal as much as later decades If Richie had come along in the 60′s he would have been right there with Lou Brock and the other famed base stealers.

    He was as good in center as Mays and better than Mantle or Snider. The knock on his arm was negated by his accuracy and ability to hit the cutoff man, Hamner, every time. Hamner had the best arm in baseball and no one ran on him once he received the cutoff.

    Richie genuinely did dislike pitchers, it was no joke. And they didn’t like him. He drove them crazy. It was only when a very famous HOF pitcher on the old time committee came around that Richie finanlly got into the HOF.

    A great broadcaster and what a player he was.

     
  • Posts: 85 photoFred

    Avatar of photoFred

    He was my favorite player. When they traded him I was in a funk for weeks.

    Signature moment for me: getting 3 hits in the last game of 1958 to beat out Mays for the batting title. I watched that game in the basement on an old GE black and white.

    Younger readers should google “Frank Thomas” plus “yellow tango” for a funny story Whitey used to tell.

     
  • Posts: 0 mudmin

    Obviously there are many epic Ashburn stories during and post playing career, but the single greatest has to be Richie fouling off 19 balls in a row….somewhere in that streak he broke a woman’s nose and then hit her again as they were taking her out of the stands. Apparently she was still pissed when he visited her in the hospital. haha. RIP Whitey. All time great.

     
  • Posts: 0 Laura

    My dad would tell me stories of how great he was as a player, I loved him as a broadcaster. I had to see him inducted into the HOF because Dad had already passed away. He and Harry were the best broadcaster ever. Loved and miss them both.

     
  • Posts: 57 loupossehl

    Avatar of loupossehl

    In 1947, Ashburn and others – like Hamner and Lopata as well as Mgr. Eddie Sawyer – who were so essential to the 1950 Whiz Kids played in my home town of Utica NY – and made me a Phillies fan for life. The ’47 Blue Sox (as they were called) also had a pitcher who had a real good shot at the Big Leagues, until he was felled by arm problems. His name was Lou Possehl. Woulda-coulda.

    Also in the area of woulda-coulda: I excerpt loosely from “The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant” (Robin Roberts and Paul Roberts III), pages24-25:

    “The winter of the 1942 season was a tumultuous one for the (Phillies) franchise. Bill Veeck, later owner of the St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox was then owner of the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Assn. He launched a plan to buy the Phillies from (then owner) Gerald Nugent and immediately turn the team around by stocking it with the best players from the Negro Leagues. He had in mind Roy Campanella, Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Satchel Paige and Luke Easter, among others. Phillies Cigars had agreed to become one of the investors and Abe Saperstein, who ran the Harlem Globetrotters, was to help sign the top black players.

    Nugent had apparently agreed in principal to the sale when Veeck, out of respect to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, advised the commissioner of his plan … Accordingly to Veeck’s autobiography, the next thing he knew the National League had taken control of the Phillies. Upon approaching NL President Ford Frick, Veeck was informed that the club had already been sold to lumber executive William D. Cox for (according to Veeck) about half of the amount he had offered Nugent.”

    So go the twists and turns of fate, and the intercessions of racist bastards into the strategies of visionary, far-sighted owners. Because of this and as a Phillies fan, I do not take my occasional league championships and World Series appearances lightly … for me, it’s like sipping fine wine. Had Ashburn, Hamner, Lopata, Jones, Ennis, Roberts and Simmons been joined by the Negro League stars envisioned by Veeck, I’m sure my fine-wine sipping would have been replaced by gluttenous immersions in barrels of Gatorade, so to speak.

    Let us hope that Comcast is the new Bill Veeck.

     
  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    In the early ’80s I had the distinct honor and pleasure of joining to baseball fanatics for lunch. Their name were Mssrs Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. As if it wasn’t enough of a thrill to tag along with two future Hall of Famers, they took me to Bookbinders for lobster and insisted on picking up my tab.

    We barely talked any baseball beyond a few very catty and riotous reflections the two shared concerning a few characters in the business (who will remain forever nameless). Instead, most of the lunch conversation consisted of Whitey holding court and reciting his favorite spoonerisms. They flowed endlessly and each new utterance funnier than the last as if he was fouling them off and getting closer to hitting one fair down the line for dramatic walk-off. His droll-like midwestern delivery belied the devilish sparkle in his eyes. It was the same subtle, sneak-up-on-you humor he exhibited in the broadcast booth with the timing and control he used to show at the plate. Harry and I were in stitches.

    I also had the distinct honor and pleasure to watch Whitey play ball during his greatest years. As a 10-year-old kid I’d fantasize about someday playing center in Connie Mack just like my hero, #1. Had Whitey actually seen me play as a young man he would have unabashedly suggested I not to quit my day job. He could be brutally honest and funny at the same time.

    So those are my two seemingly disparate memories of Don Richard Ashburn, ballplayer and person. But they shared a common thread – that being his ability to excel at what he enjoyed while allowing everyone else to enjoy what he excelled at.

    Putt-Putt, The Tilden Flash, Whitey, Richie…
    However we remember him they all mean the same thing.
    The great heart and soul of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.
    #1.

     
  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    First sentence should have read “two baseball fanatics.”
    (typing in the dark at 1:44 AM)

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      I’m jealous, wb. Someday you’ll have to share how you got so lucky.

       
 
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