Kenwood Pools

Best All-Time Phillies: Center Field

April 7, 2017 12:22 am0 commentsViews: 28
Share Button


Perhaps the most beloved Phillie, Richie Ashburn was a Hall of Fame centerfielder, broadcaster, and sportswriter.  As a 21-year-old rookie 1n 1948 he hit .333 and stole 32 bases, finishing 2nd to Alvin Dark for Rookie of the Year honors.  Richie went on to win 2 batting titles while hitting over .300 ten times and leading the league in on base percentage 4 times. He was a key member of the 1950 Whiz Kids that won the National League championship with an average age of 26.4.  Ashburn (or “put-put,” as Ted Williams nicknamed him because he ran “like he had a twin motor in his pants”) had a fielding range that outreached the great Willy Mays, and he annually led the league in fielding percentage. (Can you name Richie’s Whiz Kid outfield mates? See page 27 for the answers.)

On August 17th, 1957 he earned the dubious distinction of striking a spectator twice in the same at bat with batted balls. Alice Roth, wife of Earl Roth, editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin (which Richie would eventually write for) was struck in the face by an Ashburn foul ball, which broke her nose. The game paused as medics arrived to tend to the patient. When the game resumed, Richie fouled off another ball which struck the victim as she was carried off on a stretcher. (Can you name the two other National League teams Richie played for? See page 27.)

Ashburn’s 2nd career only endeared him more to the Phillie faithful. Starting in 1963 he did the color commentary for the Phillies on TV and radio, eventually joining with the legendary Harry Kalas in 1971. The two became best friends while working together for the next 2 decades.

Ashburn (shown here in his 1959 Topps vintage playing card) was known for his dry sense of humor. Occasionally he would ask on air if Celebre’s Pizza was listening, prompting a pizza to be delivered within 15 minutes. The Phillies asked him to stop with the free advertisement for Celebre’s — and he did, sort of. He was allowed to send out birthday wishes to fans on air and circumvented the Celebre gag order by wishing a happy birthday to the Celebre twins, plain and pepperoni.

Richie died suddenly of a heart attack in New York after broadcasting a Phillies-Mets game at the age of 70. He was buried at Gladwyne Methodist Church cemetery in Montgomery after his wake at Fairmount Park, which drew over 40,000 mourners. ■

—George Porgeman / Yardley

This article is part of a series of All-Time Best Phillies at every position.