Richie Ashburn

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Don Richard "Richie" Ashburn (March 19, 1927 – September 9, 1997), also known by the nicknames, "Putt-Putt", "The Tilden Flash", and "Whitey" due to his light-blond hair, was an American center fielder in Major League Baseball. He was born in Tilden, Nebraska (some sources give his full middle name as "Richie"). From his youth on a farm, he grew up to become a professional outfielder and veteran broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies and one of the most beloved sports figures in Philadelphia history. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.

Contents

Playing career

One of the famous "Whiz Kids" of the National League champion 1950 Phillies, Ashburn spent 12 of his 15 major-league seasons as the Phillies' center fielder (from 1948 through 1959). He sported a .308 lifetime batting average, leading the National League twice, and routinely led the league in fielding percentage. In 1950, in the last game of the regular season, he threw Dodgers' runner Cal Abrams out at home plate to preserve a 1–1 tie and set the stage for Dick Sisler's pennant-clinching home run.

The following year, Ashburn displayed his fielding skill on the national stage in the All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The Associated Press reported, "Richie Ashburn, fleet footed Philadelphia Phillies outfielder, brought the huge Briggs Stadium crowd of 52,075 to its feet with a brilliant leaping catch in the sixth inning to rob Wertz of a near homer. Ashburn caught the ball in front of the right centerfield screen 400 feet distant after a long run."[1]

Ashburn was a singles hitter rather than a slugger, accumulating over 2,500 hits in 15 years against only 29 home runs. In his day he was regarded as the archetypal "spray hitter," stroking the ball equally well to all fields, thus making him harder to defend against. Ashburn accumulated the most hits (1,875) of any batter during the 1950s.[2]

During an August 17, 1957 game, Ashburn hit a foul ball into the stands that struck spectator Alice Roth, wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth, breaking her nose. When play resumed, Ashburn fouled off another ball that struck Roth while she was being carried off in a stretcher.[3] Ashburn and Roth would maintain a friendship for many years and her son later served as a Phillies batboy.

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