3. RICHIE ASHBURN, Centerfielder/Broadcaster
Richie ‘Whitey’ Ashburn was perhaps the most beloved and iconic player in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise. Over a half-century spent mostly in Philly, Ashburn was a player, instructor, and broadcaster, though he never got the one job that he wanted a shot at the most – manager of the team.
Rich Ashburn was signed by the Phillies as World War II was coming to an end in 1945. By 1948 at just age 21, he was making his debut in the big leagues, and finished 3rd in NL Rookie of the Year voting. For the next dozen seasons, Ashburn was a fan favorite patrolling centerfield at Connie Mack Stadium.
There were black players at the time who called Whitey “the fastest white player in the game“, and in an era dominated by powerful centerfielders like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Duke Snider, Ashburn was considered at least their equal defensively.
In 1950, Ashburn helped lead the ‘Whiz Kids’ to the National League Pennant, just the 2nd in franchise history. In the decisive game of the NL Pennant race, his throw from centerfield nailed a Dodger runner at the plate trying to score the winning run, and set the stage for the Phils clincher in extra-innings.
He was a 4x NL All-Star with the Phillies, and received NL MVP votes 7x, including finishing 7th in the balloting in 1958.
After retiring, Ashburn was hired as a broadcaster with the team for the 1963 season. He would spend most of the next 36 seasons doing Phillies games for radio and TV, becoming synonymous with the club to two new generations of fans.
From 1971 until his death in 1998, Ashburn broadcast with Harry Kalas as his partner. The two became best friends and franchise icons to the fan base. In 1995, Whitey was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame at the same time as Mike Schmidt.
Richie Ashburn is 3rd on the Phillies all-time Hits, Games, and At-Bats lists. He is also 4th in Runs, 5th in Triples, and 9th in Doubles.
He has been honored with the naming of the centerfield concourse area as “Ashburn Alley”, and a statue of him has been placed directly in centerfield along that strand of shops and food outlets.