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
.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.