Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, 1948-1959; Chicago Cubs, 1960-1961; New York Mets, 1962
Richie Ashburn provided just what the
1950 Phillies needed to earn their first
World Series appearance in 35 years.
No wonder Ashburn tended to be overlooked. But his feats still stand in the record book, and they finally impressed the Veterans Committee, which noted his bat, glove, and long service to the game when voting Ashburn into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
A classic leadoff hitter, Ashburn averaged 172 hits, 80 walks, and 88 runs over a 15-year career. He finished with a .397 on-base percentage. A “Whiz Kid” in 1950 and an original Met in 1962, Ashburn hit over .300 nine times, including his first and last years in the majors. In between, he won a pair of batting titles.
Furthermore, Ashburn may have been even better in the field than he was at the plate. He was a brilliant center fielder who recorded more than 6,000 putouts -- about 400 per year. Ashburn made at least 500 putouts in four seasons and topped 490 in two others. Willie Mays never made more than 450 putouts. Though not blessed with an exceptional arm, Ashburn compensated by playing shallow. One of his throws cut down Brooklyn’s Cal Abrams at the plate to help the Phils win a pennant in 1950.
Richard Ashburn (1927-1997) hailed from Nebraska and was 21 when he arrived in the majors in 1948. He hit .333 with a league-leading 32 stolen bases, earned the first of his five All-Star berths, and was named Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News. Two years later, Ashburn led the Phillies to their first World Series appearance in 35 years. He hit .303 with a league-leading 14 triples as the Phils beat out the Dodgers by two games. It was at the conclusion of this race that he made his historic throw to cut down Abrams.
That was the closest Ashburn came to the brass ring during his playing days. The Phillies fell into the middle of the league, even as Richie kept playing like a champion. He led the league with a .338 batting average in 1955, and again in 1958 with a .350 mark.
In the off-season before 1960, the Phils dealt Ashburn to the Cubs, with whom he spent two years. Finally, the Cubs sold him to the Mets, where he finished his career on a team that lost 120 games. After hitting .306 that year, Ashburn retired to the broadcast booth where, like Phil Rizzuto, he kept his name in the public eye, a fact that did nothing to hurt his Hall of Fame chances. It was from the booth that Ashburn was able, in 1980, to see the Phillies finally win the World Series title that had eluded Philadelphia for so long.
Here are Richie Ashburn's major league totals:
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