Richie Ashburn: 181 singles
Ashburn was an All-Star during his rookie season in 1948, hitting .333 with a league-high 32 stolen bases. He was an integral part of the 1950 NL Championship team and hit over .300 eight times with the Phillies, twice leading the league in batting average.
Never a power hitter, Ashburn hit only 29 home runs for his entire career. However, his bat control and speed enabled him to reach base consistently, spraying singles with the occasional extra-base hit all over the field. His 181 singles in 1951 is a franchise record for singles in a season. He did so while compiling a league-leading 221 hits, including 31 doubles, five triples, and four home runs.
Looking at what it would take to pass Ashburn’s mark of 181 singles in a season is mind-boggling. A player that bats a little over .300 in 600 at-bats would need ALL singles to reach the mark. A 600 at-bat season is difficult in this day when players are getting more days off.
Suppose a Phillies player leads the league in at-bats, which generally averages roughly 660 at-bats. If the player hits only singles, to reach 182 singles would require a .276 batting average. It would take a slap hitter, who hits for a very high average, to approach the mark.
Larry Bowa and Ashburn, for example, had nearly 83 percent of their hits as singles. If a similar-type player comes along and accumulates 600 at-bats, he would have to get about 218 hits for a .363 average to reach the mark.
However, today’s game is so reliant on power, that such hitters may never be seen regularly in the game again. Ashburn’s mark will most likely stand the test of time.