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Richie Ashburn

Richie Ashburn

Position(s):
OF, CF, RF, LF, 2B
Nicknames:
Whitey, Put Put
Born:
March 19, 1927
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 10"
Weight:
170 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-20-1948 with PHI
Hall of Fame:
1995

Biographical Information

A truly beloved figure in Philadelphia,Richie Ashburnwas aHall of Famecenterfielder, broadcaster, and sportswriter.

Ashburn was fromTilden, Nebraska, where his father owned the largest general store. Richie played baseball in high school and for theAmerican Legion. He represented Nebraska in the Esquire all-star game in New York in1944, attracting the attention of baseball scouts. Signed byPhiladelphia Philliesscout Eddie Krajnik, he was assigned to theUtica Blue Soxin the Class AEastern Leaguefor the1945season. Originally acatcher, he switched to the outfield during this season. In August he left the team to go in to the Army and spent about a year in Alaska in the Quartermaster Department, missing the1946season. While in Alaska he played in about 15 baseball games. He returned to Utica for the1947season, hitting .362 and leading the league in runs and hits.

Ashburn, who played 15 years in the majors, spent the first 12 with Philadelphia. He broke in at age 21 in1948, and immediately showed the abilities that marked his career: he hit .333, had a .410 OBP, and stole 32 bases in 117 games. Although Ashburn was probably a better player,Alvin Darkwon theRookie of the Year Award.

Richie in a TV ad from the 1950's(?).
Richie in a TV ad from the 1950's.

Richie went on to hit over .300 ten times in his career, with highs of .350, .344, and .338. He was excellent at pulling a walk, leading the league 4 times in OBP at a time when few people noticed. His high walk total was 125 walks in1954.

As an older player, he was still a major contributor to theChicago Cubsin1960-1961and to theNew York Mets(as an original Met) in1962. With the Cubs in 1960, he scored 99 runs in front ofErnie Banks' 41 home runs. With the Mets in 1962, although the team was a laughing stock, Ashburn hit .306 with a .424 OBP.

But when his career was over, there was little talk of theHall of Famefor him. In his first year of eligibility, he got just 2% of the vote. After 6 years of eligibility, he was pulling under 10% of the vote. He did get as high as 41% in 1978. What made the difference, eventually, when he was let in by theVeterans Committee, was the growing understanding that his fielding prowess was truly special. His range factors as a center fielder are unreal, and outstrip those ofWillie Mays, who had been considered the top fielder of the time. Add to that the growing affection of fans who loved Richie's broadcasting, and his popularity as a potentialHall of Famergrew and grew.

Although "similarity scores" show only two other Hall of Famers among the 10 players most similar to him (Lloyd WanerandHarry Hooper), there has been no controversy about his selection. He had over 2,500 hits in his career, was a lifetime .308 hitter with a high OBP, and went out on top with a .306 average in his last year. That, combined with the incredible fielding and broadcasting, was enough. He was rewarded withHall of Fameinduction in 1995.

After his playing career, Ashburn was hired by thePhiladelphia Philliesas an analyst in 1963. Originally, Ashburn worked withBill CampbellandFord Frick AwardwinnerByrum Saam.

When Campbell left the Phillies in 1970, he was replaced byHarry Kalas. Kalas and Ashburn would work together on Phillies broadcasts for twenty-seven years.

Ashburn, who was a boyhood friend of comedian Johnny Carson, became known for his homespun stories of his boyhood in Nebraska. He would lament the mistakes of the Phillies with an "Oh brother." Photographs of an aging Ashburn showed him with a jeff cap and a pipe. His rapport with Kalas was both legendary and genuine, Kalas referred to him as "His Whiteness."

On September 9, 1997, at 5 AM, Ashburn was awoken by chest pain in his hotel in New York City. He had called the Phillies-Mets game the night before. By the time he reached the hospital, Ashburn was dead of a heart attack at 70.

At his viewing, the crowd was estimated at 40,000 Phillies fans. Harry Kalas wrote a moving poem for the occasion. Ashburn was replaced byLarry Andersenfor the 1998 season.

  • Elected to the BaseballHall of FameonMarch 7,1995by theCommittee on Baseball Veterans.
  • First Baseball Card appearance 1949 Bowman

Notable Achievements

  • 5-time NL All-Star (1948, 1951, 1953, 1958 & 1962)
  • 2-time NL Batting Average Leader (1955 & 1958)
  • 4-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1954, 1955, 1958 & 1960)
  • NL At Bats Leader (1949)
  • 3-time NL Hits Leader (1951, 1953 & 1958)
  • 4-time NL Singles Leader (1951, 1953, 1957 & 1958)
  • 2-time NL Triples Leader (1950 & 1958)
  • 4-time NL Bases on Balls Leader (1954, 1957, 1958 & 1960)
  • NL Stolen Bases Leader (1948)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1953 & 1954)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 3 (1951, 1953 & 1958)
  • BaseballHall of Fame: Class of 1995

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Tagged:
Baseball History, Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Phillies, Richie Ashburn

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