Richie Ashburn

Don Richard Ashburn
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1995
Primary team: Philadelphia Phillies
Primary position: Center Fielder

A fleet-footed baseball player that used his athletic gifts to get on base and chase down fly balls on the field, then a broadcaster that used his oratory skills to become a much beloved voice off the field, Richie Ashburn would become a fixture on the Philadelphia sports scene for a half century.

Because he played in an era that featured such stalwart center fielders as Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider, Ashburn was sometimes overlooked by fans of the game. But during a 15-year big league career, the lefty swinging Ashburn twice won the National League batting title, finished second three times, and nine times batted over .300. A lifetime .308 hitter, his 1,198 walks and 2,574 hits helped him finish with a .397 on-base percentage.

“Ashburn is the fastest man I’ve ever seen getting down to first base,” said Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher in 1948. “He’s even faster than Pete Reiser in his prime. Anybody who’s faster than Ashburn isn’t running. He’s flying.”

Short and slight, the 5-foot-10, 170 pound Ashburn excelled from 1948 to 1959 as the prototypical leadoff hitter and center fielder with the Phillies. In possession of an excellent eye at the plate, he led the league in walks on four separate occasions and his 1958 season marked the first time a leadoff hitter paced the league in both batting average and bases on balls. Defensively, Ashburn set outfield marks with nine years of 400 or more putouts and four years with 500 or more.

“Richie was very serious when it came to playing the game,” said longtime Phillies teammate and Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts. “He would play cards and was a fun guy off the field, but on the field he really teed it up.

“The only complaint I have about him is he wasn’t tall enough to catch the balls that went into the seats,” he joked. “He caught everything else.”

After spending two seasons (1960-61) with the Chicago Cubs, Ashburn ended his playing career as a member of the expansion New York Mets for their inaugural 1962 season. Despite hitting .306 and being the lone All-Star representative for a team that lost a record 120 games, he become one of the few regulars to ever retire following a season in which they batted at least .300.

Though he left the field of play, Ashburn soon began a second career when he returned to Philadelphia as a member of the media. He joined the Phillies’ television-radio broadcasting team in 1963, where he would combine perceptive commentary with a wry sense of humor for 35 years.

"He has such a powerful connection with the city of Philadelphia because he not only played there but broadcast there for so long. But I think the reason for the warmth fans felt for him was that everyone had a chance to experience his wonderful sense of humor. "
Tim McCarver

Career stats

Year Inducted: 1995
Primary Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Position Played: Center Fielder
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Birth place: Tilden, Nebraska
Birth year: 1927
Died: 1997, New York, New York
Played for:
Philadelphia Phillies (1948-1959)
Chicago Cubs (1960-1961)
New York Mets (1962)
At BatsAB
Home RunsHR
Stolen BasesSB
Batting AverageBA
On Base %OBP
Slugging %SLG