Richie Ashburn was a baseball legend who played as a center fielder for 15 years in the major leagues, mostly for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was a six-time All-Star, a two-time batting champion, and a Hall of Famer. He was also a beloved broadcaster for the Phillies for 35 years, until his sudden and tragic death on September 9, 1997.
A Star on the Field
Richie Ashburn was born on March 19, 1927, in Tilden, Nebraska. He showed a talent for baseball from an early age, despite having a childhood hip disease that left his left leg shorter than the right. He started his professional career in 1945, when he signed with the Phillies as a 17-year-old. He made his major league debut in 1948, and quickly established himself as one of the best leadoff hitters and outfielders in the game.
Ashburn was known for his speed, his bat control, and his defensive prowess. He led the National League in hits three times, in runs four times, and in stolen bases once. He also led the league in putouts nine times, tying a major league record. He holds the major league record for most seasons with 500 or more putouts, with four. He had a career batting average of .308, and a career on-base percentage of .397. He won the batting title in 1955 and 1958, hitting .338 and .350 respectively.
Ashburn was the star of the 1950 Phillies team, known as the “Whiz Kids”, that won the National League pennant. He was also a member of the 1962 New York Mets, the expansion team that lost a record 120 games. He played his final season with the Mets, and retired at the age of 35.
A Voice in the Booth
After his playing career, Ashburn became a broadcaster for the Phillies, starting in 1963. He worked on both radio and television, and became a fan favorite for his witty and insightful commentary. He was known for his rapport with his fellow announcers, especially Harry Kalas, who joined him in 1971. The duo became one of the most popular and respected broadcasting teams in baseball history.
Ashburn was also known for his interaction with the fans, often sending them birthday greetings, answering their trivia questions, and giving them free passes to the games. He was generous and humble, and always had a smile on his face. He was loved by the players, the coaches, and the staff, as well as the fans. He was a fixture in the Phillies organization, and a symbol of the team’s history and tradition.
A Shocking Loss
On September 9, 1997, Ashburn was in New York City, where he had broadcast the Phillies-Mets game at Shea Stadium the night before. He was staying at the team hotel, and was preparing to leave for the airport, when he collapsed in the lobby. He had suffered a heart attack, and died shortly after. He was 70 years old.
The news of his death shocked and saddened the baseball world, especially the Phillies community. He was mourned by his family, his friends, his colleagues, and his fans. He was honored with a memorial service at Veterans Stadium, where thousands of people gathered to pay their respects. He was also honored with a plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame, where he had been inducted in 1995, after a long campaign by his supporters.
Richie Ashburn cause of death was a tragic end to a remarkable life. He was a baseball legend who left a lasting legacy on and off the field. He was a star, a voice, and a friend, who will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.