On August 17, 1957, one of Philadelphia’s most loved baseball heroes fouled twice, striking the same spectator, in one at-bat.
Center-fielder Richie Ashburn, one of the 1950 National League Champion “Whiz Kids,” played outstanding ball for the Phillies from 1948 until 1959. He led the league several times in batting and fielding statistics, retiring with a .308 lifetime batting average. After his retirement from baseball in 1962, he joined the Phillies radio and TV broadcast team as a color commentator, a job he loved and held until his death in 1997. A long campaign by Philadelphia fans resulted in his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. Over 25,000 local fans drove to Cooperstown for the ceremony – a day which must have meant much to the boy who grew up on a farm in Tilden, Nebraska, dreaming of his day in the big leagues.
But August 17th was not quite a day he had dreamed of. In the second game of a four-game series against the New York Giants, which the Phillies won, 3-1, Richie fouled twice into the stands, striking spectator Alice Roth. Alice was married to Philadelphia Bulletin Sports Editor Earl Roth. The first errant ball broke her nose; the second struck her as she was being carried out of the stands on a stretcher. Alice was a good sport and she and Richie remained friends for many years.
The Philadelphia Phillies retired Ashburn’s #1 in 1979. The center-field entertainment area of Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies current stadium, is named Ashburn Alley in honor of Richie’s 47 years of service to the Phillies organization.
Image Credit: Chuck Hofmann/Madison County Museum