Category Archives: Philography

Philography: Richie Ashburn

Ashburn was a part of the Phillies organization
for 47 years as a player and broadcaster
Four years ago, I began writing a series of Philadelphia Phillies mini-biographies. The series was inspired by my twin interests in the Phillies ball club and the subject of history in general.
What I decided to call my “Philography” series was never meant to present a comprehensive life story on each player. I just wanted to learn for myself a bit more about each player’s background and accomplishments, how they fared either before coming to or after leaving the Phillies, and share that with other fans.
In the beginning this off-season series was scattershot, covering a wide range of players across the team’s now 136-season history. In the winter of 2015-16, I keyed on shortstops. Last year it was the catching position.
What has now grown to an 18-chapter series will extend by five more over the next couple of months. This year, I have chosen to cover some of the most important players in Phillies history. The five players who have both played with the team and who also have actually had a uniform number retired by the club.
Those five ball players will be presented in numerical order, beginning with this piece on Richie Ashburn. During December and January, Philography stories will cover the careers of Jim BunningMike SchmidtSteve Carlton, and Robin Roberts.
Donald Richard “Richie” Ashburn was born on March 19, 1927 in the small town of Tilden, Nebraska. Tilden lies exactly in the middle of nowhere, about 150 miles northwest of Omaha. He had a twin sister named Donna, and so their dad Neil and mom “Tootie” began calling him by that takeoff on his middle name.
Ashburn’s father was a huge influence on his early life, particularly on his gravitation towards sports in general and baseball in particular. In a fine piece for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Seamus Kearney describesthe relationship as follows:
Ashburn’s father…played semipro baseball on the weekends…Neil Ashburn had a very close relationship with his athletically-inclined son – he encouraged Richie in his boyhood activities and steered the boy throughout his developmental years. Ashburn tried to play all the sports – except football; his father ruled that out because of the threat of injury, but baseball and basketball were his favorites. He began playing baseball in 1935 as an 8-year-old in the Tilden Midget Baseball League under the tutelage of Hursel O’Banion. He played catcher because his father thought it would be the quickest way to get him to the major leagues, and he batted left-handed because his father said his speed would give him a better jump to first base…
Richie played both baseball and basketball for his high school team and also played American Legion ball. Even out in the sticks of Tilden, talent like Ashburn’s didn’t escape the eyes of baseball scouts. He was signed three different times by big-league organizations.
The Phillies were fortunate that those first two signings didn’t work out. The Cleveland Indians first inked Ashburn at age 16, but that deal was nixed by the Commissioner as teams were prohibited then from signing high schoolers. He then was signed by the Chicago Cubs, but that deal was also shot down due to an illegal contract clause.
In 1945 at age 18, Ashburn had a contract approved with the Phillies. Kearney’s SABR bio quotes the Phillies scout who finally signed him, Ed Krajnick: “Something tells me this is about the most important deal I ever made.”

Ashburn would spend the 1945 and 1947 seasons playing with the Phillies farm club in Utica, New York. During those seasons his teammates first hung the nickname “Whitey” on him, owing to his extremely light hair. The nickname would stick for the rest of his life.
He missed the 1946 campaign entirely after being drafted into the U.S. Army and being sent to serve in, of all places, Alaska. On his 1947 return the fleet-footed Ashburn hit .346 in the Eastern League at nearly five years the junior of most players.
Ashburn would never play another day in the minors. He impressed enough to open the 1948 season as the Phillies starting center fielder, a position that he would hold down for a dozen years.
During that rookie campaign, Ashburn hit .333 with a .410 on-base percentage, stole 32 bases, and finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Al Dark and Gene Bearden. He was also a National League All-Star for the first of what would be five times in his career and received MVP votes for the first of eight years.
In 1950, the 23-year-old Ashburn led all of baseball with 13 triples as the Phillies youthful ‘Whiz Kids’ won the National League pennant, moving the franchise into the World Series for the first time in 35 years.
On the final day of that 1950 season, Ashburn produced one of the two greatest defensive plays in franchise history (Utley’s Deke in the 2008 World Series being the other.)
The Phillies took on the Dodgers in Brooklyn in that season finale, with the ‘Whiz Kids’ holding a one-game lead. A win for the host Dodgers would force a one-game playoff between the two clubs for the pennant.
The two teams exchanged single runs in the 6th inning and then rode ace pitchers Robin Roberts and Don Newcombe into the 9th inning. Newcombe set the Phillies down in the top of the 9th, and the so the Dodgers came to the plate with a chance to win it.
Cal Abrams led off with a walk, moving to second base when Pee Wee Reese followed with a single to left. That brought Duke Snider to the plate. The Dodgers three-hole hitter delivered what seemed a sure game-winning, standings-tying base hit to center.
But Ashburn had other ideas. He charged, fielded the base hit cleanly, and fired home. Backup catcher Stan Lopata took the throw and tagged Abrams, who tried to dance around him, for the first out. The Phillies were still alive.
Following an intentional walk to Jackie Robinson to load the bases, Roberts coaxed Carl Furillo to pop out and then retired Gil Hodges on an easy fly to right field to get out of that 9th inning jam.
The two teams now moved on to extra-innings. Roberts helped himself by leading off the top of the 10th frame with a base hit. When Eddie Waitkus followed with a single the Phillies had a threat of their own going.
That brought Ashburn to the plate. He tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt, a play that he would later admit to despising. It failed, as Newcombe pounced on the ball and threw to force Roberts out at third base.
Up to the plate stepped the Phillies own three-hole hitter now and Dick Sisler wouldn’t let his club down. Sisler delivered what would prove to be the most dramatic and important hit in the first 97 years of Phillies franchise history, blasting a three-run homer over the left field wall at Ebbetts Field.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, Roberts retired Roy CampanellaJim Russell, and Tommy Brown in order. The Phillies exploded out of their dugout as Ashburn and his mates on the field rushed in for the celebration, mobbing their ace on the mound.
The Phillies would advance on to the 1950 World Series where they would face Joe DiMaggioYogi BerraWhitey Ford, and the powerful New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers would sweep the Whiz Kids in four straight. But it was a hard-fought series, with the Yankees taking each of the first three by a single run.
Ashburn went just 3-17 (.176) and wasn’t much of a factor in that 1950 Fall Classic. His lone strong performance came in Game 2 at Shibe Park. That day he went 2-5, including a first inning double after which he was left stranded. His sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 5th inning tied the game at 1-1.
In the bottom of the 8th with the game still tied, Ashburn led off with a successful bunt single down the third base line. Sisler tried to bunt him over, but Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds jumped on the ball quickly, turned, and fired to shortstop Phil Rizzuto, forcing Ashburn out at second base. The next batter would roll into a double play and the Phillies would lose 2-1 when DiMaggio led off the top of the 10th with a home run.
Though they lost that World Series, the Phillies appeared to be a team on the rise. It was not to be, as the club fell to just 73 wins and fifth place in the eight-team National League the following season.
After the team won just 66 games in his rookie season of 1948, the Phillies would finish with a winning record in four of the next five years. But over Ashburn’s final six seasons in Philadelphia there would be just two .500 finishes and no more winning teams.
There was an interesting incident that took place in 1957 involving Ashburn. On August 17 at Connie Mack Stadium, Ashburn ripped a foul ball into the stands, breaking the nose of Alice Roth, who was the wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth.
Then incredibly as Roth was being carried from the stands on a stretcher, the game resumed, and Ashburn sent second foul rocket into the stands, striking her yet again. The two would ultimately strike up a friendship, and the Roth’s son would become the Phillies bat boy.
In a dozen Phillies seasons, Ashburn produced 2,217 hits which is still the third-highest total in franchise history behind only Jimmy Rollins and Schmidt. His 946 walks are tied for third, his 1,114 runs scored are fourth, and his 97 triples are fifth in club history.
Ashburn would accumulate a .311 career batting average and .394 on-base percentage during his Phillies years, eighth in both categories. Among players of recent vintage, only Bobby Abreu and John Kruk can boast of better OBP marks, and none has a higher batting average.
He would scatter three more NL All-Star appearances throughout the decade: 1951, 1953, and 1958. He led all of baseball in hits in both ’51 and ’58 and the NL in 1953.
Ashburn led baseball in triples in both 1950 and 1958. Twice he led the senior circuit in batting average, his .350 mark in 1958 leading all of baseball. Four times he led in on-base percentage.
Hall of Famer James Cool Papa Bell was a famed Negro Leagues player who is widely considered to be the fastest man to ever play the game of baseball. It was once said of him that he was so fast that he could turn out the lights and be in bed before it got dark. Bell is rumored to have once called Ashburn the “fastest white man” that he ever saw.
On January 11, 1960 in the dead of winter, Ashburn was traded by the Phillies to the Chicago Cubs, ending his time as a Phillies player for good. In exchange the Phillies received a three-player package. It included the man who beat him out for that 1948 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Alvin Dark, as well as pitcher John Buzhardt and infield prospect Jim Woods.
The deal would prove to have not much impact for either club. Buzhardt had a couple of 200-innings seasons as a Phillies starting pitcher, but they were losing campaigns for him and the club.
Ashburn played well for much of his two seasons in the Windy City, especially that first 1960 season when he hit .291 with 99 runs scored, 16 steals, and led the NL with 116 walks. But the Cubs finished in seventh place both years.
On December 8, 1961 the expansion New York Mets would purchase Ashburn’s contract from Chicago. In what proved to be his final big-league season, Ashburn hit .306 with a .425 on-base percentage and a dozen stolen bases, making his final NL All-Star team at age 35.
But that Mets team was one of the worst in Major League Baseball history. They went just 40-120, and their .250 winning percentage remains the lowest in MLB over the last 83 years. After that debacle and facing the prospect of aging as a bench player for them, Ashburn hung up his spikes.
Though Ashburn was done playing, he wasn’t away from the game for long. The Phillies were looking for a new color man for their radio and television broadcasts for the 1963 season. The job was first offered to Roberts, but the pitcher was still active and wanted to continue playing. He recommended Ashburn, and the rest is Philly broadcasting history.
Ashburn joined Bill Campbell and By Saam in the booth for his first nine years, including the ill-fated 1964 Phillies collapse season. Then in 1971 the Phillies opened a brand new ballpark, Veteran’s Stadium, and also hired a replacement for Campbell by the name of Harry Kalas.
Kalas was 35-years-old and had been on the Houston Astros broadcasting team ever since the Astrodome opened in 1965. He was lured to Philly by a greater contract, and joined Ashburn and Saam for that first year of The Vet. Saam would remain into the 1976 season before retiring, but the Ashburn-Kalas relationship would endure for decades.
The pair became legendary as “Harry and Whitey” for two generations of Phillies fans. Kalas was the quick-tongued play-by-play guy, Ashburn the homespun-humor color man with a players perspective. They were a tremendous team and perhaps even greater friends.
One of the famous regular routines when broadcasting home games involved Celebre’s, a pizza shop located not far from the ballpark area. During a few late-running games, Ashburn asked on-air whether his friends at the shop were listening. Within a short time a couple of pies would show up at the broadcast booth.
When the team asked him to stop since Celebre’s was not an official sponsor, Ashburn got around it as only he could. If he desired a delivery, during acknowledgements of fan birthdays Ashburn began to wish a happy birthday to “the Celebre twins, Plain and Pepperoni.
They called games together as the Phillies grew into a consistent contender in the late-1970’s, finally winning the franchise first-ever World Series crown in 1980. Ashburn and Kalas would then cover Phillies pennant winners together in 1983 and again in 1993.
In his personal life, Ashburn was married to the former Herberta Cox. Known as ‘Herbie’, the couple would have six children and remain married their entire lives. According to Kearney, the two separated in 1977, but would remain married. They shared the grief when in 1987 their daughter was killed in a car crash.
As all retired players at that time, Ashburn had spent 15 years on the ballot for possible induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was not selected by the voters in any year, fell off the ballot, and was then considered only by the Veteran’s Committee.
Per Kearney, it was two men in particular, Steve Krevisky and Jim Donahue, who took up the banner for Ashburn’s worthiness:
Krevisky would appear at every New England SABR gathering and expound on Ashburn’s qualities, especially educating attendees on his defensive statistics but also pointing out that Richie had the most hits of any major leaguer during the 1950s. Donahue organized his campaign around overturning the 60 percent rule, one time forwarding 55,000 postcards to the Hall of Fame. Both men’s efforts paid off and the rule was overturned in 1993.
Ashburn had other supporters as well, and the drum began to beat louder for his worthiness into the mid-1990’s. Finally in 1995 he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
By an incredible stroke of timing, Ashburn would be enshrined at the same ceremony as Schmidt, the greatest player in Phillies history. Ashburn had the honor of broadcasting the entirety of Schmidt’s 1972-89 playing career.
Ashburn’s mother would later state that he planned on retiring following the 1997 season. He would not make it. On September 9, 1997 the Phillies were winding down the season, playing a series in New York against the Mets.
The previous night, Ashburn and Kalas had called a big Phillies 13-4 win at Shea Stadium highlighted by soon-to-be-named NL Rookie of the Year Scott Rolen‘s 18th home run. Ashburn went back to his hotel room following the game. Kearney described what happened next as follows:
Later that night he reached out to a Phillies official, complaining that he didn’t feel well. At 5:30 A.M. on September 9, 1997, Ashburn was found dead in his hotel room.”
 
The Phillies and the city of Philadelphia came together to plan a public memorial service for the beloved broadcaster. Thousands of family, fans, players, celebrities, and others in the game attended the wake held at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park.
Kalas soldiered on in the booth after the passing of the friend he called “His Whiteness” for more than 11 years, joined in the booth by a number of on-and-off partners that would include Chris Wheeler and Larry Anderson. He and Wheeler were in the booth together as the Phillies finally won their second World Series crown in 2008.
In 1979, Ashburn’s uniform number “1” during his Phillies playing days became the first ever retired by the club. That same summer, Ashburn became just the second man honored with a plaque on the Phillies Wall of Fame after his former teammate Roberts had been the inaugural enshrinee the prior year.
When the Phillies opened Citizens Bank Park for the 2004 season, Ashburn was not only remembered, he was featured prominently. His statue can be found as the centerpiece of the walkway food and gathering area beyond the outfield stands known as Ashburn Alley.
For those of us who got to enjoy him over the airwaves for many years, Whitey Ashburn will never be forgotten. Especially in his partnership with Harry Kalas. I have often said myself that in my heaven, Harry and Whitey will be calling Phillies games for as long as the team and the game exists.
NOTEfor an even more detailed read on Whitey’s life and career, please take an opportunity to enjoy the SABR bio from Seamus Kearney at that link

Philography: Red Dooin

By The Library of Congress - https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2162724321/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53636219
Red Dooin was Phillies catcher for entirety of the 1900’s

My off-season series of Philadelphia Phillies mini bios has featured some of the most popular players and other individuals in team history.

At the catcher position, “Philography” has already covered the relatively recent careers of Bob BooneDarren Daulton, and Mike Lieberthal.
Daulton was the first catcher covered in the series, featured back in December 2014 while I was still with the “That Ball’s Outta Here” site here at FanSided.
Wanting to feature the catcher position more during this current off-season, the careers of Boone and Lieberthal were added to the series in December 2016 and January 2017 respectively.
Now the series continues with a look back at the career of Red Dooin. Over 134 seasons of play, Dooin is second only to Lieberthal in the number of games behind the plate for the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.

DOOIN BREAKS INTO THE BIGS

Charles Sebastian ‘Red’ Dooin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 12, 1879. He worked in the clothing business as a young man, while also enjoying the game of baseball in his spare time.
Dooin excelled at the game, and particularly loved the difficult position of catcher. In 1898, Dooin was signed by the nearby Indianapolis club in the Western League.
Unfortunately for Dooin, as told in a more detailed bio by Norman Macht for SABR, his pro debut was cut short when he “wound up with a broken hand in his first game.
Dooin was diminutive, standing just 5’6″ and weighing just 160 pounds when he began that pro career at age 18 years. He would never carry much more than 190 pounds. According to Macht, this led one of his minor league managers to comment “I wanted a catcher, not a jockey.
He kept plugging away at his baseball career while continuing to work as a tailor over the next couple of years. Finally in 1902, Dooin got his big break when the formation of the new American League led to many more job openings across the big leagues.
The Phillies signed him, and the now 23-year old stepped right into the lineup as their regular catcher for the 1902 season. He hit for just a .231/.262/.270 slash line with no homers and just 10 extra-base hits. That rookie season saw him play in 84 games behind the plate and another half-dozen in the outfield.

DOOIN’S PLAYING CAREER PROFILE

It would be a career preview of what the Phillies were to expect from him offensively over the next dozen years. Dooin would finish with just 10 career homers during the ‘Dead Ball Era’, six of those coming in one outburst during the 1904 campaign.
For his career at the plate, Dooin hit for just a .240/.272/.298 slash line with a .570 OPS mark. One area of Dooin’s game that was a bit unusual for a catcher was that he had speed. Dooin registered double-digit stolen base totals for seven straight years from 1904-10, finishing his career having swiped 133 bags.
In addition to that speed, the other facet of Dooin’s game that was never questioned was the one that kept him as the Phillies starting catcher. Despite being small in stature, Dooin was tough, both physically and mentally.

DOOIN BECOMES PLAYER-MANAGER

The redhead was so tough and colorful that new Phillies ownership gave him the role of player-manager at age 31 in 1910.
In 1911, Dooin had his best season as a player, though his 74 games were the least that he had played since his second season back in 1903. In that 1911 season, Dooin hit for a .328/.366/.409 slash with 15 doubles and a 117 OPS+ mark.
Dooin’s teams finished with winning records in three of his first four seasons as skipper. In 1913 he guided the team to 88 victories, the most by the team in a decade and a half.
The success wouldn’t last, and after the club faded to a 74-80 record and sixth place in 1914, Dooin was fired.

END OF THE LINE

The following year, the Phillies would capture the franchise’ first-ever National League pennant under new manager Pat Moran. But Dooin, who had played the previous 13 seasons in a Phillies uniform, would miss out on the team finally reaching the top.
Dooin would split that 1915 season between Cincinnati and the New York Giants. He would return to New York in 1916, and there would play the final 15 games of a 15-year career in Major League Baseball.
As Macht reports it, Dooin would retire to Atlantic City. He did quite well in real estate and other ventures throughout the ‘Roaring Twenties’, but then fell victim to the Great Depression by 1932. A strong singer, Dooin also peformed for a time in Vaudeville.
Dooin passed away on May 14, 1952 in Rochester, New York, a month shy of his 73rd birthday. His ranking today on the Phillies all-time leader boards among players who were primarily catchers are: Steals (1st), Triples (2nd), Hits (4th), Doubles (6th), RBI (9th) and Runs (9th).

Philography: Mike Lieberthal

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Lieberthal may be the greatest all-around catcher in Phillies history

Since 1978, the Philadelphia Phillies have honored the greatest individual contributors to the success of the franchise with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
The Wall includes plaques dedicated to remembering and honoring the Phillies all-time greats. This includes the contributions of club executives, broadcasters, and of course, dozens of players.
Of those players, only two performed at the position of catcher. One of those was Bob Boone, who was selected to a place on the Wall during the 2005 season.
The only other catcher in a history that stretches back to the 1883 season to be honored with a place on the Wall is Mike Lieberthal.
‘Lieby’ played for the Phillies from 1994-2006. His career is overlooked by some younger fans, often lost due to the period in which he performed.
Lieberthal broke into the big leagues during the strike-killed 1994 season, a year after the Phillies unexpected romp to a National League pennant. His career ended just before the glory of five straight National League East pennants began in 2007.
Lieberthal’s career largely spanned a frustrating period in club history. But there is no denying the numbers or his reputation. Lieberthal may have been the greatest all-around catcher to ever pull on a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

LIEBY’S PRO CAREER BEGINNINGS

Lieberthal was chosen by the Phils with the 3rd overall pick in the first round of the 1990 MLB Amateur Draft. He was selected out of Westlake High School in California, where he had been an all-american.

His maturity and all-around athletic ability allowed Lieberthal to rise rapidly through the Phillies farm system. By the 1992 season, Lieby was catching at AA Reading as a 20-year-old. He would even get a taste of the AAA level later that same summer.

The ‘Macho Row’ Phillies stormed to a stunning NL pennant in the 1993 season. That mulleted crew very nearly captured a World Series title, falling short in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays.

While all of that excitement was happening at the big league level, Lieby was gaining valuable experience as a 21-year old with AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre. In that 1993 season, Lieberthal hit .262 with 17 doubles and 40 RBI over 417 plate appearances.

Lieberthal began the 1994 season back at AAA, but was called up to make his big league debut that summer. The promotion came when Phillies starting catcher Darren Daulton suffered one of many career knee injuries. This one would knock ‘Dutch’ out for the year, and Lieberthal would become the starter.

LIEBERTHAL REACHES THE BIG LEAGUES

On June 30, in what was a sort of homecoming, Lieby got his first start in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. In the top of the fourth inning, Lieberthal lined a clean base hit to left field off Dodgers starter Pedro Astacio. It was his first of what would be 1,155 big league hits.

Just over two weeks later, the Dodgers were in Philadelphia at Veteran’s Stadium. With starter Ramon Martinez on the mound, Lieberthal cranked his first of 150 career home runs.

That first taste of Major League Baseball would end abruptly, not just for Lieberthal, but for everyone involved with the game. The player’s strike began on August 12. It would result in the cancellation of the remainder of that season.

Daulton returned to take over his starting spot when play resumed for the 1995 season. Then in 1996 the Phils signed free agent catcher Benito Santiago, who supplied the club with 30 home runs.

Lieberthal spent much of 1995 back at AAA, and then became Santiago’s primary backup in 1996. However, his season ended in mid-August after he suffered torn cartilage in his left knee.

Santiago only lasted one year in Philly. Daulton’s knees had led to his permanently giving up the catcher position after 1995. So at age 25 in the 1997 season, Lieberthal became the Phillies starting backstop. He would hold that distinction for the better part of a decade.

LIEBY AS THE PHILLIES STARTING CATCHER

In 1999, Lieberthal hit for a .300/.363/.551 slash line with 31 homers and 96 RBI. He became just the eight catcher in big league history to hit for a .300+ average and bang 30+ homers in a season.

He became just the second Phillies catcher in history, after Boone, to be named as a National League all-star in that 1999 season. Lieberthal also set a new Phillies record for fielding percentage at the catcher position (.997). For that he was honored with an NL Gold Glove Award.

Phillies
Lieberthal caught Millwood’s 2003 Phillies no-hitter at The Vet

Lieberthal was off to another great year in 2000, and was named an NL all-star for a second straight season. On July 17, a collision at the plate with New York Yankees star Bernie Williams resulted in an ankle injury. It would knock Lieberthal out for two weeks, and affect him for the next month and a half. His season would finally end in early September.

The following year was again marred by injury. On May 12 at Arizona he was picked off first base, suffering major knee damage on the play. That injury that would require surgery and finish his 2001 season.

Lieberthal recovered and again took over the starting Phillies catching duties as the club would down the final years at Veteran’s Stadium, and then opened up Citizens Bank Park.

For his return in 2002, Lieby was named by The Sporting News as the NL Comeback Player of the Year. In 2003, Lieberthal caught a no-hitter thrown at The Vet by Kevin Millwood.

The Phillies were contenders for the MLB postseason in each of his final four years as the catcher from 2003-2006. But the club would ultimately finish just short of their collective goals.

THE END OF THE LINE

At age 34 in the 2006 season, Lieberthal saw time, his injuries, and other organizational options finally catch up with him. He split the catching duties almost evenly that year with a feel-good “33-Year Old Rookie” story in Chris Coste. And getting his first taste of the big leagues was a 26-year old catcher named Carlos Ruiz.

Phillies
Ruiz made his own big league debut in the 2006 season, and took over as Phillies starter at catcher after Lieberthal left.

Following the 2006 season, Lieberthal became a free agent for the first time. He signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2007 season. He then served as backup to Russell Martin in what would prove to be Lieby’s big league swan song.

Perhaps ironically, the Phillies would finally break through and win that elusive NL East title in 2007. It was the first of five straight division crowns for the club. So it turns out that the Phillies won the division the year before his debut, and the year after he left, but never while he was with the team.

On June 1, 2008, Lieberthal signed a one-day contract in order to retire with the Phillies. He was applauded by fans as he threw out the first pitch at  that night’s game.

THE WALL OF FAME

Lieberthal left as the Phillies franchise all-time leader in Games, Home Runs, and RBI at the catching position. He is also ranked 5th in homers, and seventh in both hits and RBI on the all-time MLB rankings for Jewish ball players.

Phillies
Seen here along with Charlie Manuel over Pat Burrell‘s shoulders, Lieberthal was elected to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2012.

In 2012, Lieberthal was elected to the Phillies Wall of Fame. Again, this is the ultimate organizational honor for any individual associated with the team.

“I’m not a Hall of Famer, but having an organization that does this, just to go along with the great players that played here. I was a good player but very lucky to be on one team for that long. There’s a lot of good players that come through Philadelphia that, in the business of the game, they only stay for two or three years.”

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins was a little younger and would become a leader on the perennial Phillies winners of the late 2000’s. ‘JRoll’ was Lieberthal’s teammate from 2000-06.

“He basically, start to finish, was a Phillie,” said Rollins per MLB.com’s Jake Kaplan. “He was here through a lot of tough years in the late ’90s…made his mark…a good catcher, and he could also hit.”

Mike Lieberthal did indeed make his mark in Philly. It’s a shame that those early 2000’s Phillies teams couldn’t win just a few more games each year, thus getting him to the postseason. But Phillies fans who got to see him play know his value to the club for a long time at the most difficult position on the diamond.

VIDEO: MIKE LIEBERTHAL INDUCTED TO PHILLIES WALL OF FAME

Philography: Bob Boone

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Now a Phillies Wall of Famer, Boone caught for 19 big-league seasons, winning seven Gold Gloves

The Philadelphia Phillies franchise was founded in 1883. Since 1978, the club has honored the greatest individual contributors to its success with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.

There are club executives and beloved broadcasters on the Wall. And of course, there are dozens of players.

The players on the Wall range from 19th century trailblazers to 20th century Hall of Famers to 21st century superstars.

But of those players, only two played the position of catcher. One of those was Bob Boone, selected to the Wall in 2005.

Boone was the seventh player from the 1980 World Series champions to be so honored. He thus joined Steve CarltonMike SchmidtLarry BowaTug McGrawGreg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox on the Wall of Fame.

A native of San Diego, Boone played there at Crawford High School. He would then become the Phillies sixth round selection in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft as a third baseman out of Stanford University.

BOONE DEVELOPS WITH THE PHILLIES

As an advanced 21-year old, Boone made his pro debut that summer with the Phillies rookie level team in the Florida State League North. He was promoted quickly to A-level Raleigh-Durham in the Carolina League where he hit .300 over 325 plate appearances that summer.

In 1970, as the Phillies were closing out Connie Mack Stadium, Boone reached AA Reading. With 23-year old Don Money emerging as a strong player at the hot corner for the big league club, the Phils decided to convert Boone to the catcher position that summer.

Boone would repeat the 1971 season at Reading, still learning the ropes behind the plate as the Phillies opened up their shining new home at Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly.

The 1972 season would prove to be his big breakout campaign. Boone hit .308 with a .363 on-base percentage at AAA Eugene, banging 17 home runs with 32 doubles, 67 RBI, and 77 runs scored.

For that strong performance, Boone received his first promotion to the big leagues that September.

BOONE BEGINS HIS BIG LEAGUE CAREER

His first game came on a Sunday afternoon at The Vet. The date was September 10, 1972, and Boone entered in the bottom of the 7th as a pinch-hitter for starting catcher Mike Ryan. There he began his career by unceremoniously striking out against Chicago Cubs reliever Joe Decker.

In that 1972 season, the Phillies had juggled their catching position between a trio of veterans, Ryan, Tim McCarver, and John Bateman, all of whom were aging into their 30’s. By the following year, Boone was the starter, and only Ryan remained to back him up.

Boone played in 145 games for the Phillies in his first full big league season of 1973. Over 575 plate appearances as a 25-year old he batted .261 with 10 homers, 20 doubles, and 61 RBI. For that performance he finished third in the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Gary Matthews and Steve Rogers.

This was the official beginning of what would become one of the longest, most successful careers of any catcher in Major League Baseball history. Boone would be a starting catcher every season from that 1973 right through the 1989 campaign.

With the Phillies emerging as a contender in the mid-1970’s, the club decided to bring in veteran left-handed hitting catcher Johnny Oates to platoon with Boone in the 1975 season. It very nearly caused Boone to quit the game for medical school.

BOONE STARTS AS PHILLIES EMERGE

The Phils would finish a strong 86-76 in 1975, just 6.5 games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East race. With a strong, young team entering the Bicentennial year of 1976, the Phillies became divisional favorites. Boone was reinstated as the unquestioned full-timer behind the dish.

The Phillies would capture each of the next three NL East crowns. The club won what was then a franchise record 101 games in both 1976 and 1977. Boone would become an NL All-Star for the first time in ’76, an honor that he would repeat with the Phillies in both 1978 and 1979.

Having taken well to the catching position, Boone developed during those years into one of the best defensive backstops in the game. In both 1978 and 1979 he would win the NL Gold Glove Award for the position.

 

PHILLIES AND BOONE FINALLY WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP

Despite being a consistent contender, Boone and the Phillies were unable to win a championship. In 1979 the team faded to a fourth place finish, and there was much talk that perhaps their window had closed.

But in 1980 under firebrand manager Dallas Green, the Phillies would fight their way back to the top of the NL East. Boone would, in fact, provide a pivotal hit as the club clinched the NL East crown. And this time would prove different in the postseason.

First, the Fightin’ Phils battled past the tough Houston Astros in what may be the greatest NLCS ever played. Then the Phillies fought off the talented Kansas City Royals to win the first World Series championship in franchise history.

Boone was an integral part of that World Series club. He batted .314 in the 1980 postseason, including .412 in the Fall Classic. He had three hits, including two doubles and two RBI, as the Phils won the opener by a 7-6 score. Boone then registered hits in each of the final four games of the six game series.

 

FINAL PAGE IN PHILADELPHIA

Still, Boone would be 31 years old in the 1981 season. And the Phillies now appeared to have his heir apparent ready to take over. Keith Moreland was 26 years old and had hit .314 in what was his official rookie season in 1980.

While the Phillies captured the first-half title during the strike-affected 1981 split-season, Boone and Moreland were basically splitting the catching duties.

By the time that the NLDS rolled around that October against the Montreal Expos, Moreland had taken over as the starter. The redhead started the first four games of that series, in fact.

It was only in the decisive Game Five that Green opted to go back to his veteran. In what would prove to be his final game in a Phillies uniform, Boone went 0-3. Rogers shut out the Phillies 3-0, giving Montreal their only playoff series victory.

BOONE HEADS WEST TO CALIFORNIA

Feeling that the 33-year old Boone was nearly finished, the Phillies sold him to the California Angels on December 6, 1981. Boone would demonstrate over the rest of the decade that his amazing career was actually just beginning a second act.

In California from 1982-88, Boone came under the guidance of former Phillies manager Gene Mauch. The resilient veteran Boone would be the starting catcher for each of his next seven seasons. Boone would add an AL All-Star appearance and four more Gold Gloves to his career resumé.

In both 1982 and 1986, the Angels would capture the AL West crown and advance to the ALCS. However, the Halos fell just short of a World Series appearance in heartbreaking fashion each time.

In the 1982 American League Championship Series they blew a 2-0 lead as the Milwaukee Brewers rallied to take three straight games.

In the 1986 American League Championship Series, the Angels led the Boston Red Sox by 3-1 in the series, and took a 5-2 lead into the top of the 9th inning of Game Five. But Boston, down to their last strike, rallied in dramatic fashion. The Red Sox would win in 11 innings, then blow the Angels out in the next two games to capture the series.

That November, Boone became a free agent for the first time. The Angels had a good thing going, and re-signed him to a three-year contract at more than $2.6 million total dollars.

 

BOONE ENDS HIS CAREER IN KANSAS CITY

In October of 1988, Boone became a free agent once again. This time the Royals offered him $1 more than he had been making in California, and Boone took that sign of respect and left.

Boone would finish out his career in Kansas City, adding a final Gold Glove Award to his mantle in the 1989 season.

At age 42 in the 1990 season, Boone was finally relegated to a backup role, and with a last place Royals squad, behind 26-year old Mike Macfarlane.

September 27, 1990 would prove to be Boone’s final game. Fittingly it came against the Angels. On a Thursday night at Anaheim Stadium, Boone went 2-3.

In the top of the 7th inning against one the game’s great feel-good stories, left-hander Jim Abbott, Boone delivered an RBI single in his final big league at-bat.

As if wanting to say goodbye to the game with a fun flourish, Boone still had a final surprise for those in attendance. With just 38 career steals over parts of 19 seasons, Boone took off for second base. As might be expected, he was unsuccessful, as Angels catcher Lance Parrish gunned the throw to second baseman Johnny Ray.

He would continue on, catching the bottom of the 7th and 8th. Starting pitcher Hector Wagner, a 21-year old Dominican right-hander, would be the last pitcher that he would handle in the big leagues.

END OF A LONG AND GLORIOUS PLAYING CAREER

Boone decided to try to come back in the 1991 season with the Seattle Mariners. However, he was released during spring training, bringing his playing career to its official end.

Boone finished with a .254/.315/.346 slash line. He recorded 1,838 hits with 303 doubles, 105 home runs, and 826 RBI. He won seven Gold Glove Awards, and was a 4x All-Star. Boone received MVP votes with both the Phillies in 1978 and the Angels in 1982.

In a nice piece on Boone’s career for the LA Times in 1992, Bob Nightengale quoted him:

“I think it’s hard for people to believe this,” Boone said per Nightengale, “but I went out exactly the way I wanted. I told myself years ago I was going to wring it out until the absolute end. And the end is when I can’t get employment. Some guys want to dictate how their career ends. They want their farewell tour. But I never wanted a Mike Schmidt press conference, the tears, and all that. You’ve got to understand, I was never in it for the glory. I was an aberration. God blessed me with skills that didn’t deteriorate. And now, I can leave with a certain satisfaction that I did my job for a long time, and I did it well. I did it the right way. And I take great pride in that.”

BOONIE THE SKIPPER

One of the smartest and most respected men in the game, Boone wasn’t out of it for long. He caught on as a coach, and by 1995 was named the Royals manager. He would serve in that role for parts of three seasons, and again for parts of three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds from 2001-03.

Boone finished with a 371-444 record as a skipper between the two organizations, never guiding a winning team. His best finish as manager was the 70-74 second place finish of his first Royals team in 1995.

Boone remains in baseball, however. He is currently the Assistant General Manager and VP of Player Development with the Washington Nationals.

Boone is also a part of one of baseball’s few three-generation families. His father, Ray Boone, was an infielder who played for six clubs between 1948-60. Two of his sons, Aaron Boone and Bret Boone, reached the Majors. Aaron played from 1997-2009, and Bret from 1992-2005.

This “Philography” is the continuation of a series which I began in October of 2014. The Boone piece marks the 15th in the series, which will continue in January with the other catcher on the Phillies Wall of Fame, Mike Lieberthal.

Each of the previous pieces can be viewed at the following link:</span
PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

Philography: Edith Houghton

 

By Unknown - Original source: Philadelphia Record, 1946Image provided by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from the Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue http://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/7202: Edith Houghton (DAMS 7714), Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue [V07], Historical Society of PennsylvaniaPublished in the Philadelphia Record ca.1946, when she was hired as a baseball scout by the Philadelphia Phillies; copyright of the newspaper was not renewed for 1946; nor is there a copyright renewal for any photograph listed using the name Edith Houghton, or described as a woman playing baseball, or naming any of the teams she played on, on or before 1946. Renewal records were checked from 1950 to 1975. This image is therefore believed to be in the public domain in the U.S.A., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48171291 Edith Houghton, baseball’s first female scout

The Phillies have a rich historical tradition that includes being the North American pro sports franchise with the longest-running, continuous use full name (Philadelphia Phillies), the losingest franchise in Major League Baseball history, and the first team to wear pinstripe uniforms.

On February 15th, 1946 the Phillies added to that historical legacy by hiring the first solo female scout, in fact one of the very first female game-related employees, in the history of baseball.

Edith Houghton was a native of the city, born and raised in North Philly into a typically large family at the time, the youngest of ten children. Her father had been a semi-pro ballplayer, and began to teach young Edith the game as a child.

As Shawn Selby wrote in his piece that appeared with SABR, “She would play games with neighborhood kids whenever she had the chance and from her parents’ bedroom window on the second floor she would watch night games on the field outside her house.”

“So enamored with baseball was she that by the time she was 8 she was the on-field mascot for the local police league teams,” wrote Selby. “The job even allowed her to sit next to the mayor at games from time to time. At 9, young Edith was already doing hitting and fielding displays on the field before games.

As she came to adolescence in the 1920’s, young Houghton wasn’t much into dolls and dresses like most girls her age. No, that pre-pubescent Houghton was a tomboy, and her first love was that game taught to her by her father – baseball.

She didn’t just love the game, she was very good at it, so good that she was able to make the Philadelphia Bobbies women’s barnstorming factory team in 1922 when she was just 10 years old. The team was composed of girls in their teens and early-20’s, and Houghton became their starting shortstop.

Paul Vitello of the New York Times reported in 2013 that a Lancaster, PA newspaper wrote about Houghton during her first season as a player.

That piece had stated “Little Miss Houghton, 10-year-old phenom, covered the ground at shortstop for the team and made herself a favorite with fans for her splendid field work and at the bat.

In 1925 as a 13-year old, Houghton even got to tour Japan with the Bobbies, who were named after the popular women’s “bob” hairstyle of the day worn by all of the team’s players.

The website ‘Exploratorium Science‘ tells that she was nicknamed “The Kid”, and described her as being “so small that she had to tighten her cap with a safety pin and use a pen knife to punch new holes in the belt of her uniform pants.

The American women (and two men), almost all of whom were from Philly, played against Japanese men’s teams on their two-month tour.

For a young woman in 1925 to be playing baseball and going to Japan – well, that was pretty exciting,” recalled Houghton to a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2001, per a 2012 piece by Philly.com’s Vernon Clark.

That 2001 reporter was Frank Fitzpatrick, who wrote a nice piece on Houghton, the team, and that Japanese trip (available at this link.)

In his piece, Houghton commented on being so young, and being around women all older than her: “All of the girls were older than I was,” Houghton told Fitzpatrick. “So when they wanted to smoke and drink, they didn’t do it in front of me.

The Selby piece linked earlier here also has wonderful descriptive information on that Japan tour, including that Japanese newspaper accounts had even noted her abilities:

Houghton was singled out for special praise when, in a game against the Nippon Dental College team, she caught a baserunner napping by using “the famous Hans Wagner ‘hidden ball’ stunt.

On the team’s return, Houghton signed with the top female team in the country at the time, the New York Bloomer Girls, for whom she would play for six seasons taking her through her high school years at Philly’s Girl’s High.

She then joined up with the Hollywood Girls, a team from Boston that played exhibitions against semi-pro men’s teams.

Houghton joined the United States Navy WAVES all-female division in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II.

The New York Times reports that she worked as a Navy supply manager, while also playing baseball with Navy-sponsored women’s teams.

After the war, Houghton returned to Philadelphia and was working for a hardware store chain when she learned that the Phillies, her favorite team and one of the worst teams in baseball for decades, was looking to hire scouts.

Houghton approached Phils’ owner Bob Carpenter and made her pitch. The Phillies’ owner quickly hired her, making her the first female scout in pro baseball history.

As Selby wrote, the typically skeptical Philly newspapers were not impressed with what many saw as a cheap publicity stunt:

In a clever turn of phrase, one paper explained that since the Phillies had often played like a bunch of Girl Scouts, they might as well take the drastic step of hiring a girl scout in a bid to get out of the basement of the National League.”

Houghton was not the first-ever female employed in a scouting position. The Chicago White Sox employed Bessie Largent during the 1920’s and 1930’s in that role.

However, Largent was signed only as part of a tandem team with her husband, Roy, and thus Houghton is widely recognized as the true trailblazer in this position.

Houghton would scout hundreds, perhaps thousands, of aspiring ball players over the next half-dozen years, signing 16 players to professional contracts with the Phillies organization.

Unfortunately, none of those players went on to reach the big leagues, though two reached what was known then as the ‘Class B’ level.

In late 1951, Houghton had to leave the organization when the Navy called her back up to active duty in Korea.

She would then remain in service with the Navy through the Korean War and on into Vietnam in the early-60’s, reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer before leaving military service in 1964 at age 52 and retiring to live in Sarasota, Florida.

Houghton largely dropped out of public sight at that point. She is not known to have ever married or had children

On February 2nd, 2013, Houghton passed away just eight days before her 101st birthday.

There is a nice audio interview with Houghton by exploratorium.edu available here.

Women have remained a rarity in professional baseball, though they have reached higher ranks in the game than in Houghton’s pioneering days.

The best recent example is Kim Ng, former Los Angeles Dodgers assistant general manager. She is currently MLB’s Senior VP for Baseball Operations. Many believe Ng will one day become the first female to lead a Major League Baseball organization. All it takes is one owner with vision, just as Carpenter had in hiring Houghton.