Story of the Week
When Richie Ashburn reported to spring training in 1948, all he had to do to win the center field job for the Phillies was beat out the man who had won the previous year’s NL batting championship by 46 points, Harry Walker.
But Walker fouled a pitch off his foot one morning, and was out of the lineup through May. By then, Ashburn was hitting .346, and had unseated him as the Phillies’ center fielder. The only rookie voted to the 1948 All-Star team, Ashburn had a pair of singles and a stolen base. Even though he broke a finger in August, no injury could spoil a year in which had had a 23-game hitting streak, had 32 stolen bases, hit .333, and was named Rookie of the Year.
Some skeptics pointed out that he didn’t hit .333; he hit .133 and ran for the other .200. So what! In a 15-year major league career, Ashburn hit .300 or better nine times, won two batting titles, got on base 40 percent of the time, and posted a career batting average of .308, topping some of the greats of the game in that department.
As an outfielder, he set records by recording 500 or more putouts in four different seasons, and 400 or more putouts in nine different seasons. He accepted the most outfield chances nine different years. He ranks fifth in both career putouts and total chances.
Although not a power-hitter, Richie Ashburn was a hitter. He won batting titles in 1955 (.338) and 1958 (.350), but his greatest moment as a Phillie came in the field. On the last day of the 1950 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers, trailing the Phillies, the "Whiz Kids" as they were called, by one game, played them at Ebbets Field. With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Brooklyn’s Cal Abrams tried to score from second base on Duke Snider’s single to center. Ashburn cut him down at the plate by 20 feet, thus setting the stage for Dick Sisler’s dramatic 10-inning home run and clinching the Phils’ first flag in 35 years. (It was, unfortunately for Philadelphia, to no avail as they got swept in the World Series by the Yankees.)
Traded to the Cubs in 1961, Ashburn became one of the original Mets in 1962, and the expansion team’s first All-Star, the fifth time he’d been named to an All-Star squad. Since retiring as a player, Richie Ashburn became the Phillies’ longest-running broadcaster.
Last Week’s Trivia
What former NFL player danced with the Chicago City Ballet? Willie Gault showed his football moves on stage.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only player in baseball history to bat at least .300, hit at least 30 homers, drive in at least 100 runs, and score at least 100 runs in each of his first two seasons? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.