Richie Ashburn 1952 #216
by William Szczepanek
This 1952 card of Richie Ashburn is another of a player who exhibited greatness before Topps initial comprehensive set. Ashburn is best known for his years with the Phillies and was one of the Whiz Kids of 1950. His career spanned 15 years from 1948 through 1962. He wore uniform number 1 his entire career and it suited him well. A slap-hitting singles hitter, Ashburn sported a career .308 average, winning the batting title twice in 1955 and 1958 and having the best on base percentage 4 times. With an excellent eye he led the league 4 times in walks, which made him one of the best lead-off hitters of all time. With his excellent health he was in the lineup every day giving him more than 700 at bats in eight separate seasons.
Ashburn was fast. He had a career 234 stolen bases at a time when stealing bases was not a popular thing to do. He led the league in 1948 with 32 stolen bases and twice came in second. Ashburn patrolled centerfield with speed and elegance. He is considered by many to be the second best fielding center fielder of all time behind Willie Mays.
Because of his tremendous speed he caught balls that others could not get to and between 1949 and 1958 Ashburn led the league in putouts every year except 1955, when Mayo Smith rested Ashburn 91 games short of the record preventing him from again leading in putouts, trailing Mays by 2.
He was only an all star 4 times, playing center in the shadow of Willie Mays and Duke Snider, but accumulated more hits, 1,875, than any other player during the decade of the 1950s. "That’s right, more than Musial, more than Williams, more than Mantle, or Mays or Snider." ─ Writer Erick Emert in A Tribute to Ashburn.
Ashburn is best remembered for his fielding in the last game of the regular 1950 season, when he threw Dodgers' Cal Abrams out at home plate to preserving a 1–1 tie before Dick Sisler's pennant-clinching home run.
It is not certain whether it was Ted Williams or Stan Musial who gave Ashburn the nickname "Putt-Putt" because he ran like he had twin motors in his pants. I remember my father saying that he ran like a scared deer.
"I'm flattered that so many baseball people think I'm a Hall of Famer. But what's hard to believe is how one-hundred and fifty plus people have changed their minds about me since I became eligible, because I haven't had a base hit since then." ─ Richie Ashburn
Richie Ashburn was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
You can check out Ashburn's statistics at Baseball Reference.com.