Tag Archives: Robin Roberts

Phillies should change their policy and procedure on retiring numbers

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There is little doubt that Manuel will be joined on the Wall of Fame by a number of his former players. But should a few of those players also have their numbers retired?

 

On the day after Christmas, Matt Gelb of The Athletic continued a conversation that had previously taken place a few times over the last few years. Gelb published a piece that day in which he brought up the question of the Philadelphia Phillies policy on retiring uniform numbers.

The current Phillies unwritten policy was formulated back in the 1990’s. It holds that in order to be considered for a retired number, a player must be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Former director of public relations Larry Shenk is reported to have told Gelb for the piece that the policy was the result of an understanding between himself and club executives Bill Giles and David Montgomery.

As Gelb quotes Shenk: “We didn’t sit down and hash anything out. We didn’t put anything in writing. We didn’t take any votes. We just said, ‘This is what it’s going to be.’

It was a bad decision made by just three individuals that has now morphed into an unwritten policy to which the franchise continues to cling.

The policy holds to some standard that says a player must wait until (if?) some group of Baseball Hall of Fame voters decides worthiness.

How many times have we seen the Hall voters get it wrong on a player, only to have a Veteran’s Committee right that wrong a decade or two or more later? So a worthy player who was passed over by original Hall voters has to wait until they are old and decrepit, or worse yet, dead, to have their number retired?

It is time for a new, more formalized procedure to be instituted on the issue of retiring numbers of the greatest and most beloved players to wear a Phillies uniform.

The Phillies should have retired both Tug McGraw‘s number 45 and the number 15 for Dick Allen years ago. They should retire the number 10 as soon as possible, for both Larry Bowa and Darren Daulton.

And one day, the Phillies should also retire the numbers 6, 11, 26 and 35 for Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels.

Now, admittedly this is my own personal opinion. However, it is one that is shared by the vast majority of Phillies fans.

More than the specific worthiness of any individual player, the most important item that needs to be addressed is that the Phillies need to publicly announce that their unwritten Hall of Fame enshrinement policy is to be eliminated.

So, how should the Phillies handle the issue of retiring uniform numbers?

Per Investopedia: “According to the Corporate Library‘s study, the average board size is 9.2 members, and most boards range from 3 to 31 members. Some analysts think the ideal size is seven.

The Phillies organization should impanel a standing Honors Board made up of between seven to nine individuals whose responsibility would be to make final decisions on both the annual Phillies Wall of Fame honorees and also on retired numbers. The makeup of that board at any given time should be made public and available on the team’s official website.

Speaking of that Wall of Fame, yes, it is a great honor to be enshrined among the franchise greats. However, there can be little argument that even among Wall of Famers there are those who can be elevated above the rest due to their combination of outstanding individual playing careers, championship pedigrees, and relationships with the fan base.

Jim Bunning has the uniform number 14 retired in his number. Bunning pitched just six seasons in a Phillies uniform, won 89 games with the team, was a 2x NL All-Star while with the club, was the 1967 NL Cy Young runner-up, and never won a championship here.

Meanwhile, Hamels pitched for most of 10 seasons in Philly. He won 114 games in a Phillies uniform, was a 3x NL All-Star, finished among the top 8 in NL Cy Young voting four times, and was the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS and World Series for the Phillies 2008 title-winning team.

Rollins is the franchise all-time leader in hits. The emotional connection that he has with the fan base is similar to what teammates Utley, Howard, and Hamels enjoy, which stretching further back is what Daulton and McGraw enjoyed in decades before them.

Their skipper, Charlie Manuel, is just as beloved as his star players, perhaps even more so, and should have his number 41 retired by the club. He not only piloted the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship, but also to a 2009 National League pennant, five consecutive NL East Division crowns, and to 780 total victories, more than any other manage in franchise history.

No man has worn a Phillies uniform for more years in more roles than Bowa: world championship player, winning record as a manager after a lengthy losing era, respected and dedicated coach, organizational advisor.

Roy Halladay wore the number 34 and Jim Thome wore number 25, each in parts of four seasons with the Phillies. Each is beloved and respected by the fan base. Retiring their numbers would be popular, and would fit with the current Hall of Fame policy.

But when you consider their actual contributions to the history of the team when matched against the others? Not really a question.

Besides the number 42, which has been retired by all Major League Baseball teams in honor of Jackie Robinson, there are five numbers retired for Phillies greats.

Richie Ashburn (1), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), Robin Roberts (36), and Bunning (14) have their numbers retired.

In my opinion, those six should be joined by 6, 10, 11, 15, 25, 34, 41, and 45 over the next few years. That would give the Phillies 13 retired numbers. When you consider that the New York Yankees have 22 numbers retired and that the Phillies have been around for 137 seasons, it really isn’t alot.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

The two greatest defensive plays in Phillies franchise history

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Carlos Ruiz tags out Jason Bartlett in 2008 World Series

For my money it has always been one of the two greatest defensive plays in Philadelphia Phillies history, both of which were made during situations in which the fielders were facing tremendous pressure.

It came during Game 5 of the 2008 World Series between the Phillies and visiting Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park, and was started by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who will be feted on Friday night when he officially retires with the organization.
You may be able to look back over the history of this now 137-year-old ball club and find more spectacular or technically difficult plays. But it would be hard to find two that combine those aspects of difficulty and spectacle with sheer importance in a championship-level setting.
The players at the center of these two phenomenal defensive moments also just happen to be arguably the most popular players among the fan base in the entire history of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

WHITEY’S STRIKE

The first of those two greatest defensive plays came all the way back in the final game of the 1950 regular season, and was pulled off by Baseball Hall of Famer and Phillies Wall of Famer Richie Ashburn. There were no playoffs in those days. If you finished in first place, you won the pennant and advanced to the World Series.
On that Sunday, October 1 afternoon at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the Phillies were battling the host Dodgers. The two teams were tied at 1-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning. A victory by the home side would mean they would tie for first place, forcing a playoff for the National League pennant.
The first two batters, Cal Abrams and Pee Wee Reese, reached base against Phillies right-hander Robin Roberts. The future Phillies Wall of Famer and Baseball Hall of Famer had turned just 24-years-old the previous day, but was already the ace of the staff. But now he was in trouble, and the pennant was in jeopardy.
Next up for the Dodgers was their own 24-year-old future Hall of Famer, Duke Snider. On the first pitch, Snider sent a clean base hit into center field, where the 23-year-old Ashburn fielded the ball and came up firing.
Abrams never hesitated, rounding third and heading for home as the potential game-tying run. Ashburn’s throw to catcher Stan Lopata was true, and Abrams was out as he slid for the plate. For its importance at that moment, and for what happened next, Ashburn’s strike to the plate may still be the greatest defensive play in Phillies franchise history.
Roberts would intentionally walk the next batter, Jackie Robinson, to load the bases. With the pennant-winning run now in scoring position, Roberts proceeded to get Carl Furillo on a pop fly to first baseman Eddie Waitkus, then retired Gil Hodges on a fly ball to right fielder Del Ennis to wriggle his way out of the jam.
The game moved into the top of the 10th inning, where Dick Sisler would drill a one-out, three-run homer off Don Newcombe to put the Phillies up 4-1. Roberts set the Dodgers down in order in the bottom of the frame, and he was then mobbed at the mound by his ‘Whiz Kids’ teammates in celebration of just the second NL pennant in franchise history.
UTLEY’S DEKE
As stated earlier, this play by Utley took place in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The only reason that I rate it equivalent to the Ashburn play is that it actually took place in the Fall Classic, where plays such as this make the difference between winning and losing an actual championship.
The Phillies led the Tampa Bay Rays by three games to one, and were just a win away from only the second world championship in franchise history. This fifth game between the two teams had been suspended by torrential rains that spilled through the Philadelphia area for the last two days.
The visiting Rays were desperate for a win at Citizens Bank Park. It would give them life, sending them back home to Tampa trailing 3-2 in the series, but with the final two games in front of their home fans.

Jason Bartlett was a heads-up shortstop with the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. His daring spring home in the decisive game of the World Series was overcome by Utley’s Deke. (imagesbyferg on Flickr)
In the top of the 7th inning, Tampa Bay right fielder Rocco Baldelli blasted a one-out solo home run off Ryan Madson to tie the game at 3-3. The following batter, shortstop Jason Bartlett, grounded a single to left off Madson. Bartlett was then moved up to second base on a sacrifice bunt, and he stood there as the go-ahead run with two outs.
Up to the plate stepped Rays’ leadoff man Akinori Iwamura. The 28-year-old second baseman had signed with Tampa Bay a year earlier after nine years playing professionally in his native Japan, and was a dangerous contact hitter. Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel countered by bringing in southpaw reliever J.C. Romero to face the left-handed hitting Iwamura.
Romero got in front with a strike. But on the second pitch, Iwamura connected with a breaking ball and grounded it back through the middle. Bartlett had a good lead and took off running. Off the bat, and even as it rushed towards center field, the ball looked like it was a base hit.
Utley was playing Iwamura in the hole, shaded towards first base, and was roughly twenty feet from the ball as it rolled through the infield. But the Phillies then 29-year-old, six-year veteran second baseman bolted smoothly and confidently to his right. He backhanded the ball, and in one motion made a jump-throw in an attempt to get the speedy Iwamura at first.
And then he didn’t. In a play that epitomized Utley’s uncommon baseball instincts, the Phillies second baseman never threw the ball to first. As he cross behind shortstop Jimmy Rollins and the second base bag towards the left field side of the diamond, Utley realized he had no play on Iwamura.
But then he spotted Bartlett breaking for home. In one motion, Utley deked a throw to first, turned on a hop, and fired a one-hopper that was a bit up and behind the third base line to catcher Carlos Ruiz.
The Phillies catcher fielded the ball and dove for Bartlett, who had taken off in a head-first slide attempt to the front of the plate. “Chooch” applied the diving tag to Bartlett’s outstretched shoulder, and umpire Jeff Kellogg stutter-stepped around the pair to pump his fist in the “out” call as the home fans at Citizens Bank Park exploded.
The play has become known by various names to Phillies fans over the years, most frequently as “Utley’s Deke”, even though it has to be pointed out that the fantastic play by Ruiz on the back end is often over-looked.
In the bottom of the inning, Pat Burrell would lead off with a booming double high off the center field wall in what would be his final plate appearance in a Phillies uniform. Two batters later, Pedro Feliz singled home pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett to put the Phillies in front by 4-3. In the 9th, closer Brad Lidge would strikeout Eric Hinske to end it, sinking to his knees where Ruiz, Utley, and their teammates would pile up as World Series champions.
As the Phillies remember and celebrate the many great moments of the brilliant 13 seasons spent by Chase Utley in a Phillies uniform, “Utley’s Deke” is sure to be front-and-center. It is my personal favorite play by “The Man”, and remains one of the two greatest defensive plays in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.

RIP David Montgomery, Phillies minority owner and club chairman

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David Montgomery was a Phillies driving force for nearly five decades

The Philadelphia Phillies announced this morning that club chairman and minority owner David Montgomery has passed away at the age of 72 years. Montgomery had battled cancer for more than five years.

In an official release from the team (see below Twitter link), majority owner John Middleton stated the following:
David was one of Philadelphia’s most influential business and civic leaders in his generation. For 25 years, he has been an invaluable business partner and, more importantly, an invaluable friend. He was beloved by everyone at the Phillies. Leigh and I are saddened beyond words at David’s passing and extend our love and sympathy to Lyn, his children and grandchildren.
Born and raised on Pembrook Road in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, Montgomery graduated from both William Penn Charter High School and the University of Pennsylvania. He then continued his education at The Wharton School, where he graduated in 1970.
While at Penn, Montgomery was a classmate and friend of future Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. The two would attend Phillies games together at old Connie Mack Stadium, and per a 2008 piece by Tyler Kepner in the New York Times, they were typical Philly fans. Kepner wrote:
“They would try to eat all the food that $5 could buy — back when hot dogs cost 50 cents — as they shared their thoughts with the players. “I remember one time riding Turk Farrell,” Rendell said, referring to a Phillies reliever of the 1960s. “He got so mad he looked like he was going to throw a ball at us, and Turk could really hum the ball. We were scared to death.””
After they graduated, Rendell tried to get Montgomery to apply for a job with basketball’s Philadelphia 76ers franchise. Instead, in 1971 Montgomery got a job in the sales office of baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies through a connection with the club’s former pitching great, Robin Roberts, as well as through his connections made while coaching with the Germantown Academy football team.

Phillies chairman and minority owner David Montgomery passed away earlier today after a six-year battle with cancer. (Centpacrr)
In that first job with the team he sold season and group ticket packages. Montgomery was also briefly the scoreboard operator at Veteran’s Stadium in the early years of that facility.
Within a few years he became the Phillies director of sales and marketing, and then in 1980 became the head of the Phillies business department. That same year, the franchise celebrated the first World Series victory in its then 97-year history.
In 1981, Montgomery joined a group headed by Bill Giles to organize the purchase of the Phillies from the Carpenter family. Montgomery was named as the executive vice-president following that purchase, and then was elevated to the role of chief operating officer in 1992.
In 1994, Montgomery acquired an even greater ownership interest in the team. Then in 1997 he was named to replace Giles as the 14th team president in franchise history. He was the first Philly native to run the club in six decades.
In the club’s official release (below Twitter link), Giles stated the following:
David was truly a great man. I have never known a person with more integrity or who truly cared so much about everyone who worked for the Phillies. He and I worked hand-in-hand for over 30 years. During that time, I saw his unparalleled love for his family, the Phillies and the team’s fans, and of course, the City of Philadelphia…He will be tremendously missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Cancer first affected Montgomery in the operation of the team when he left on an interim basis for treatment of jaw cancer in August 2014. After returning in January 2015, Montgomery took on the title of chairman, which he held until his passing, with Pat Gillick replacing him as the club president.
During his long career in baseball, Montgomery also served as the vice chair of the Board of Directors of Major League Baseball Enterprises (formerly MLB Properties) and was a member of the MLB Executive Council. He was a member of the MLB Schedule Committee, the Labor Policy Committee, and the Commissioner’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters.
Last March, the Phillies named their new indoor facility at the Carpenter Complex, their spring training home in Clearwater, Florida, as the “David P. Montgomery Baseball Performance Center” in his honor. On the occasion of that honor, Montgomery was quoted as follows in a piece by Matt Breen for Philly.com:
The word is overwhelmed but the reality is that it was special that the whole organization was here because, as you know, that’s what I believe in. I believe that in whatever capacity you work for us, you determine the Phillies family. I believe that.”
This past November, the former ‘Daisy Field’ ball fields on which Montgomery played during his Little League days with the Andorra A’s out in Wissahickon were re-named in his honor as well.

Montgomery is survived by his wife Lyn; their three children, and three grandchildren. Memorial services are pending, and we will pass those along at our social media sites when available. Our entire staff joins with all of Phillies Nation in mourning the passing of not just a great baseball man, but an outstanding Philadelphian.

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 series to resume with Phillies retired number legends

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Phillies legends Schmidt, Carlton, Bunning to be covered as ‘Philography’ series resumes

It was just over four years ago that I first decided to write mini-biographies about famous Philadelphia Phillies figures of the past. The effort was largely for me. I have always enjoyed history and biographies of influential and famous figures from the past, not just sports-related.

While I knew the “baseball card” information on most of the players, I knew very little about their backgrounds. Where did they come from? What was the specific path leading them to Philadelphia?
If they played for another team, what achievements did they enjoy with that club? How did their career, and in some cases their lives, come to an end? Did they enjoy a post-baseball career?
Out of this natural curiosity on my part the “Philography” series was first born. I decided that I wanted to write about the playing careers, and touch on other aspects of the lives, of some of my own Phillies favorites of the past. The series would begin with a star player from my youth, “The Bull” himself, Greg Luzinski.
Over the next two months, I produced a new piece each week, picking from the team’s past in no specific pattern: Mitch WilliamsChris ShortVon HayesPlacido PolancoJim KonstantyDick AllenDick RuthvenGrover Cleveland “Pete” AlexanderDarren Daulton,
Paintings and memorabilia adorn the walls and fill the
halls on the Hall of Fame level at Citizens Bank Park

The Philography series was officially born. I then made the decision that this would become a regular off-season project, to write a handful of Phillies mini-bios each fall and winter.

In December 2015 a piece on Larry Bowa was produced, and we were off and running once again. A month later I reached back in time to produce a piece on Sherry Magee. Before spring training began for the 2016 season there would be installments on Kevin StockerGranny Hamner, and the only female to appear thus far, Edith Houghton.
The series returned in December of 2016 with a piece on Bob Boone, and I made a decision to push the series in a specific direction for the first time. That off-season, I would go after the Phillies all-time best catchers who hadn’t previously been covered. With Daulton and Boone in the books, the series continued with Wall of Famer Mike Lieberthal and old-timer Red Dooin.

And then the series was shelved. Last off-season saw a number of changes in my life, and most of my writing took a back seat for a while. I returned to regular baseball writing this summer upon joining the staff here at Phillies Nation. And now, the series will be making its return as well.
This off-season will see the continuation of “Philography” with some of the biggest names in franchise history. Over the next few weeks there will be pieces covering each of the five players who have had an actual uniform number retired by the Philadelphia Phillies due to their play with the team: Richie AshburnJim BunningMike SchmidtSteve Carlton, and Robin Roberts.
I hope that you enjoy these pieces, which it will be my goal to release each weekend beginning after Thanksgiving. If you are interested in catching up with the past “Philography” series installments, they can each be found at the following links.