This article was written by Francis Kinlaw
This article was published in the The National Pastime: From Swampoodle to South Philly (Philadelphia, 2013)
The Phillies’ Richie Ashburn hit only 29 homers— approximately one per 300 times at bat—in a 15-year career, and none of them are legendary because of their length. Eight were inside-the-parkers that never left the playing field. Seven were hit in 1962 alone. This article sheds light on an often overlooked aspect of Ashburn’s career.
The Phillies’ Richie Ashburn hit only 29 homers— approximately one per 300 times at bat—in a 15-year career, and none of them are legendary because of their length. Eight were inside-the-parkers that never left the playing field. Exhibiting a slashing style of hitting that contrasted sharply with the “swing-from-the-heels” approach of most of his contemporaries, he could run like the proverbial wind, and he hit singles as well as anyone in the game. When one of those “singles” suddenly slipped between opposing outfielders, Ashburn’s blazing speed and impressive base-running ability made things very interesting.
Weighing 175 pounds and standing 5-foot-10, Ashburn may have lacked the physical equipment of a slugger, but he excelled in every other category. In his rookie season of 1948, he served notice that a new and dangerous guy was on the scene by finishing a distant second to Stan Musial (with an average of .333) in the chase for the National League’s batting championship. After posting averages in 1951 (.344) and 1953 (.330) that were well within the “batting-title range,” he finally obtained a crown in 1955 with a nifty figure of .338. He won another in 1958 by hitting at a .350 clip, and thus became one of the few men to win a batting title while playing for a last-place team. His average dipped from that lofty .350 to .266 in 1959 (a year in which he had 660 trips to the plate but only 20 runs batted in), but the decrease was temporary. His lifetime average was a very respectable .308 and, by hitting .306 for the expansion Mets in 1962, he joined a small group of players who batted higher than .300 in their final major-league season.
In the process of slapping out 2,574 career hits, Ashburn led the National League in hits three times (1951, 1953, 1958), in singles four times (1951, 1953, 1957, 1958), and in triples twice (1950, 1958). He registered more than 200 hits in three seasons (1951, 1953, 1958), and had a 23-game hitting streak in 1948. The only rookie voted onto or selected for either the National or American League All-Star team that season,[fn]Dan Daniel, “All-Star Squads List 15 Newcomers; Ashburn Only First-Year
Man Selected,” The Sporting News, July 14, 1948, 2. The eight starters—all but
the pitchers—were picked in a nationwide fan poll; the managers selected the
remainder of their squads. Ashburn was voted onto the National League’s team as
the center fielder.[/fn] he was also a member of the National League’s contingent in 1951, 1953, 1958, and 1962 (both games). (He seemed to merit selection to the 1955 squad but, despite having posted a midseason batting average of .327 while in the process of capturing the batting championship, he was snubbed by manager Leo Durocher who made no secret of the fact that he favored sluggers over slashers.)[fn]David Vincent, Lyle Spatz, and David W. Smith, The Midsummer Classic: The Complete History of Baseball’s All-Star Game, 139.[/fn]
Ashburn’s ability to reach base cannot be measured only by hits and batting percentages. In a league that was stocked with dangerous hitters, he received the most walks three times (1954, 1958, 1960), and tied for the lead in 1957. His talent for walking—as well as running—to first base must be deemed extraordinary given the fact that opposing pitchers were doing everything they could to keep the speedster off of the basepaths. High numbers of hits and bases on balls consistently translated into impressive on-base percentages, and his combined hits and walks twice reached or surpassed the lofty total of 300: in 1954 he had 175 hits and 125 bases on balls, and in 1958 he had 215 hits and 97 walks.
Once he reached base, that speed indeed became a factor. Nicknamed “Putt-Putt” by Ted Williams, who was quoted as saying that Ashburn had “twin motors in his pants,”[fn]Rich Marazzi and Len Fiorito, Aaron to Zuverink, 15.[/fn] Ashburn led the league in stolen bases in 1948 with 32 swipes. He also kept innings going with fast pedaling toward first base: He hit into only 83 double plays in 8,365 times at bat—a ratio of only one twin killing per 117 plate appearances.
As for durability, if Lou Gehrig was the “Iron Horse,” Ashburn was at least a “Steel Pony.” He averaged 146 games per season over his 15-year career, and from 1949 through 1958 he played in 98.5 percent of his team’s games. During one stretch he played in 730 consecutive games.
His most memorable play may have been neither a hit nor a base-running ploy, but rather the defensive act of nailing Cal Abrams of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the plate in the ninth inning of the final game of the 1950 season. That throw from short center field preserved a 1–1 tie and set the stage for Dick Sisler’s pennant-clinching home run in the 10th inning. The circumstances of the moment ensure its legendary status in “Whiz Kid” annals, but such a play was not unusual for a man who led National League outfielders in assists three times. He also led his league’s fly chasers in putouts in nine seasons, and became the only outfielder to record 400 putouts in nine different seasons and to record 500 putouts in four different seasons.
Ashburn’s uniform “#1” was retired by the Phillies in recognition of his 12 years of stardom in the City of Brotherly Love, and his identity was well established in Philadelphia as an athlete. But the difference of 84 points in his 1958 and 1959 batting averages gave the Phils front office an uneasy feeling, and the fan favorite known as “Whitey” was traded to the Cubs in January of 1960 for Alvin Dark, John Buzhardt, and Jim Woods. Then, after spending two (homerless) seasons in Chicago, he was sold to the Mets in December of 1961. Amid the disaster of the Mets’ first season, Ashburn “distinguished” himself by continuing to hit for average, by becoming the first Met to play in an All-Star Game (the second of two such games played in 1962), and by hitting more home runs than he had hit in any previous season.
Seven of Ashburn’s 29 homers were hit in 1962. Prior to that relative “explosion,” his season high had been the four he tagged in 1951, and during two extended periods he had failed to reach the seats—or, in his case, the gaps between outfielders—at all.[fn]The dry spells occurred from April 29, 1956, to April 27, 1958, and between July
2, 1959, and June 10, 1962.[/fn] When, as a Met, he finally knocked one over the wall in Wrigley Field to bring an end to the second drought, he took off on a veritable rampage by connecting for four more circuit drives within two weeks—and then he tagged two other homers later in the season.
Why the sudden appearance of a slugging Ashburn in 1962? Quite simply, after a decade and a half in the majors, Ashburn finally had an opportunity to play the majority of his games in a stadium that was ideally suited to his talents.
As a member of the Phillies, Ashburn had hit nine of his 22 home runs in the Polo Grounds. (He hit six more homers there during his season with the Mets.) The New York Giants’ home park, with a spacious center-field area that extended 475 feet from home plate and a cozy rightfield foul-line measurement of 258 feet, was favorable for batters with speed but limited power—and Ashburn took full advantage of the surroundings while playing for Philadelphia.
Because Ashburn’s round-trippers have been generally overlooked due to the significance of his other achievements, let us review chronologically his 22 career home runs for the Phillies and his seven-homer “explosion” as a member of the Mets:
Date: May 29, 1948 (Saturday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (18,843)
Circumstances: Ashburn turned a rather ordinary single off of left-hander Thornton Lee into an inside-the-park home run. As the leadoff hitter in the top of the first inning, Ashburn hit the game’s third pitch slightly to the left of center field. As center fielder Bobby Thomson dashed for the ball, it took an unpredictable hop toward left field and bounced between Thomson and left fielder Whitey Lockman. Ashburn circled the bases. Ashburn’s hit was the first of seven by the Phillies off of Lee, who went the route in a 7–1 Giants’ victory.
Date: July 30, 1948 (Friday night)
Site and attendance: Shibe Park, Philadelphia (12,020)
Circumstances: Trailing Cincinnati by a 4–3 score in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Phillies tied the game on the first of two home runs by Andy Seminick. Then, after Robin Roberts was retired, Ashburn’s inside-thepark blow off of left-hander Ken Raffensberger gave the Phils a 5–4 lead.
Date: April 24, 1949 (Sunday afternoon; first game of doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Shibe Park, Philadelphia (33,748)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s seventh-inning home run over the right-field wall with one man on base broke a 4–4 tie with the Dodgers and sparked the Phils to a 7–4 win. Ken Heintzelman, a left-handed pitcher who would throw a complete game for Philadelphia, had singled and was on first base at the time. Ashburn hit a fastball that had been thrown by Carl Erskine on the inside of the plate.[fn]Stan Baumgartner, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 25, 1949.[/fn]
Date: May 30, 1950 (Tuesday morning; first game of twin bill)
Site and attendance: Ebbets Field, Brooklyn (18,884)
Circumstances: In the first game of a morningafternoon twin bill on Memorial Day, Ashburn gave his team a temporary 5–4 lead by tagging a delivery from Preacher Roe over the right-field wall with no runners on base in the eighth inning. The Dodgers, however, defeated the Phillies, 7–6, in 10 innings.
Date: July 8, 1950 (Saturday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Ebbets Field, Brooklyn (20,714)
Circumstances: With the Dodgers clinging to a precarious 1–0 lead after seven innings, and with pitcher Robin Roberts set to be the leadoff batter in the top of the eighth, Phillies manager Eddie Sawyer sent Dick Whitman to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Whitman “rolled out,” but Ashburn followed with a high fly ball[fn]Stan Baumgartner, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 1950.[/fn] off of Don Newcombe that cleared the right-field screen and landed on Bedford Avenue. The score remained tied until Bill Nicholson, pinch-hitting for Mike Goliat with two out in the top of the ninth inning, hit a three-run homer to give the Phils a 4–1 victory.
Date: May 13, 1951 (Sunday afternoon; first game of doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (26,740)
Circumstances: Ashburn hit the first pitch of the game into the upper deck in right field. The blow gave the Phillies an early lead against Larry Jansen before the Giants took control of the contest and rolled to a convincing 11–2 victory.
Date: June 4, 1951 (Monday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Shibe Park, Philadelphia (2,343)
Circumstances: Ashburn hit a solo inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning of a 12–4 loss to Pittsburgh. The home run, which was hit to center field off of Murry Dickson with two out in the ninth inning, obviously had no effect on the outcome of the game.
Date: July 3, 1951 (Tuesday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (9,295)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s home run off of Giants starter Sheldon Jones with two men on base in the top of the third inning put the Phillies ahead by a 3–0 score. But New York came from behind five times in this 13-inning game to capture a 9–8 victory.
Date: September 3, 1951 (Monday afternoon; first game of doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (31,397)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s three-run homer in the fifth inning erased a 3–1 New York lead and sparked the Phils to a 6–3 victory in the first game of a Labor Day twin bill. Andy Seminick had opened the top of the fifth with a single to right field. Robin Roberts then walked and, with the Giants infield pulled in to protect against a bunt against one of baseball’s fastest baserunners and most skilled bunters, Ashburn drove the second pitch from Giants starter Al Corwin into the right-field stands—and drove Corwin from the game. The fans present for this game nearly witnessed an extremely strange combination of occurrences: an over-the-fence clout by Ashburn and an inside-the-park homer by the powerful Willie Mays. The Giants’ rookie sensation hit a ball to right-center field in the second inning with Whitey Lockman on base and, when the ball went past right fielder Nicholson, Mays circled the bases. However, after the ball had been returned to the infield, Phillies third baseman Tommy Brown called for it and claimed that Mays had failed to touch third base. When the umpires granted the appeal and ruled Mays out, one of the more unlikely happenings in the history of the sport was erased from the record books.
Date: July 29, 1952 (Tuesday night; second game of twi-night doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Shibe Park, Philadelphia (19,055)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s inside-the-park home run to center field with one out in the fifth inning helped lift the Phillies to a 4–3 win over Cincinnati. This homer, which was hit off right-hander and former “Whiz Kid” Bubba Church, came with no runners on base and increased the Phils’ lead to 2–0.
Date: May 19, 1953 (Tuesday night)
Site and attendance: Crosley Field, Cincinnati (8,561)
Circumstances: Ashburn led off the top of the fourth inning with a drive over the right-field fence, providing the game’s first run as Philadelphia defeated the last-place Reds, 6–3. The victory lifted the Phils into first place. The fence over which Ashburn’s hit passed had been moved in prior to the 1953 season, but the homer off of left-hander Harry Perkowski was not cheap: The fence was moved in 24 feet prior to the season, but its distance from home plate was still a respectable 342 feet.[fn]Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals, 138.[/fn]
Date: May 29, 1953 (Friday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (6,253)
Circumstances: This round-tripper by Ashburn was less than crucial in a 12–3 rout of the Giants. Ashburn’s blow to right field off of right-hander Bill Connelly came in the sixth inning with one out and the bases empty, and it extended the Phillies’ lead to 9–1.
Date: June 29, 1954 (Tuesday night)
Site and attendance: Forbes Field, Pittsburgh (5,088)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s inside-the-park homer off of right-hander Max Surkont, with two out and two men on base in the top of the eighth inning broke a scoreless tie and sent the Phillies to a 4–0 victory over the Bucs. The rally, which culminated with Ashburn’s dramatic blow, began when Pirates shortstop Gair Allie fumbled a grounder hit by Danny Schell. Schell advanced to second base when Bobby Morgan walked, and Ashburn then slammed a hit between right fielder Sid Gordon and center fielder Dick Hall, which rolled all the way to the right-field gates. Ashburn easily beat the relay to home plate.[fn]Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30, 1954.[/fn]
Date: June 21, 1955 (Tuesday night; two home runs)
Site and attendance: Busch Stadium, St. Louis (7,717)
Circumstances: The two homers by Ashburn were significant as the Phillies posted a 10–8 victory over St. Louis after overcoming a four-run Cardinals’ lead. With St. Louis holding a 6–2 advantage in the top of the seventh inning, and with Roy Smalley (who had singled) on first base, Ashburn faced Harvey Haddix with two out. Ashburn hit Haddix’s first offering into the right-field stands to reduce the lead to 6–4. The Cardinals still led by a score of 8–7 in the top of the ninth when Glenn Gorbous, pinch-hitting for Murry Dickson, led off by drawing a walk from Cards hurler Frank Smith. When Smith’s first two pitches to Ashburn missed the strike zone, Cardinals manager Harry Walker summoned left-hander Paul LaPalme from the bullpen. Ashburn smacked LaPalme’s first delivery into the right-field grandstand to give the Phillies a 9–8 lead. Granny Hamner then made LaPalme’s night even worse by hitting his next pitch over the fence to complete the scoring.
Date: July 7, 1955 (Thursday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (5,130)
Circumstances: Approximately two weeks after his two-homer game, Ashburn hit for the circuit again, but this time his team came out on the short end of a comefrom- behind affair. With no one on and one man out in the top of the sixth inning, and with the Phillies holding a 4–0 lead, Ashburn hit a pitch from Hoyt Wilhelm into the lower right-field stands to increase his team’s margin to five runs. The Giants, however, dominated the game from that point on to register an 8–5 win.
Date: April 28, 1956 (Saturday afternoon; two home runs)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (8,297)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s two homers off of lefthander Johnny Antonelli accounted for four runs in a 6–2 victory over the Giants. Ashburn led off the top of the sixth inning with a drive that bounced off a screen attached to the right-field foul pole at the upper-deck level. His round-tripper reduced a 2–0 Giants’ lead to 2–1. Then, after the Phils tied the score and scratched out a run in the top of the ninth inning to go ahead 3–2, Ashburn locked up the game by drilling a three-run homer against the façade of the upper right-field stands. The decisive blast, on a 3–2 pitch with two men out, came with Andy Seminick on second base and Robin Roberts on first.
Date: April 29, 1956 (Sunday afternoon; first game of doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (18,689)
Circumstances: One day after hitting two balls into the upper reaches of the Polo Grounds, Ashburn knocked an inside-the-park home run to raise his season total to three with 144 games yet to be played! (He would hit no more homers in 1956, nor would he hit any in 1957.) The bases were empty with two out in the top of the third inning when Ashburn slammed a Ruben Gomez delivery against the right-field wall. The sharply hit ball[fn]Joseph M. Sheehan, “Monzant Holds Phils to One Hit and Strikes Out Nine to Win, 8-1; Meyer, Relief Hurler, Belts Homer in Tenth to Beat Giants Earlier, 5-4,” New York Times, April 30, 1956.[/fn] hit the wall on one bounce before the Giants’ Don Mueller could position himself for the carom, so Mueller was forced to dive headfirst in an attempt to corral the ball.[fn]Art Morrow, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30, 1956.[/fn] Ashburn circled the bases before center fielder Willie Mays could fire the ball to the infield. The home run erased a 1–0 New York lead, and the Phillies went on to capture a 5–4 victory.
Date: April 27, 1958 (Sunday afternoon)
Site and attendance: County Stadium, Milwaukee (18,408)
Circumstances: After playing 309 consecutive games without homering, Ashburn finally hit another shot as the Phillies defeated the Braves. With two out and the Phils holding a 2–1 lead in the top of the fourth inning, Jack Sanford singled to right field. Ashburn then hit Lew Burdette’s first offering over the right-field screen to increase the lead to 4–1. The Phillies went on to register a 6–2 victory. Estimates by sportswriters of the distance of Ashburn’s drive varied slightly[fn]The account of the game by United Press stated that the ball went 355 feet; the New York Times said it traveled 375.[/fn] but, estimates aside, the ball easily cleared the fence, which was erected 315 feet from home plate at the foul line.[fn]Lowry, 54.[/fn]
Date: June 22, 1958 (Sunday afternoon; first game of doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Connie Mack Stadium, Philadelphia (30,454)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s two-run homer off of Marv Grissom with two out in the eighth inning wiped out a 4–2 Giants lead, setting the stage for an extra-inning struggle that was finally decided in the 14th frame when Willie Kirkland (who had been called up from Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League the day before)[fn]Bob Stevens, “Mays Gets 1,000th Hit As Giants Sweat to Regain Bat Touch,” The Sporting News, July 2, 1958, 9.[/fn] homered for San Francisco. Bob Bowman, after reaching base on Daryl Spencer’s error, scored ahead of Ashburn. Ashburn’s blow passed over the right-field wall of the Philadelphia ballpark, which had been renamed since his last homer there—nearly six years before!
Date: July 2, 1959 (Thursday evening; second game of twi-night doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Connie Mack Stadium, Philadelphia (15,428)
Circumstances: Ashburn’s inside-the-park home run against the Reds had little effect on the outcome, an 8–4 Cincinnati victory. Because the Phillies trailed by a score of 5–1 when Ashburn hit a Don Newcombe pitch to the base of the center-field light standard in the sixth inning, the long hit with two out and no runners on base merely reduced the Reds’ margin of victory.
Date: June 10, 1962 (Sunday afternoon; second game of doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Wrigley Field, Chicago (16,332)
Circumstances: After almost three years without a homer (including the two seasons spent as a member of the Cubs), Ashburn connected for the Mets against Chicago. His solo home run into the right-field seats[fn]Philadelphia Inquirer, June 11, 1962.[/fn] off right-hander Bob Anderson with one out in the eighth inning put his team ahead by a 3–1 score. New York added an insurance run, but Ernie Banks’ three-run drive in the ninth inning—following an error by Ron Kanehl on a grounder that should have been converted into the game-ending putout—sent the contest into extra frames. The Cubs posted a run in the 10th inning to win, 5–4.
Date: June 17, 1962 (Sunday afternoon; first game of doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (13,128)
Circumstances: This home run by Ashburn, a drive into the right-field seats off of right-hander Barney Schultz leading off in the bottom of the fifth inning, was overshadowed by an incredible blast in the same game by rookie Lou Brock of the Cubs. Brock became the first major leaguer to hit a ball into the right-center field bleachers at the Polo Grounds when he slammed an Al Jackson delivery at least 460 feet. (Joe Adcock had blasted a homer into the bleachers on the left-field side of the center-field clubhouse off of Jim Hearn on April 29, 1953. And, one day after Brock’s long drive, Henry Aaron hit a pitch from the Mets’ Jay Hook into the same area of the bleachers. Thus, Brock was the only major leaguer to hit a ball into the seats to the right-field side of the clubhouse.)[fn]Philip Lowry, 200; Craig Carter, Editor, Take Me Out to the Ball Park, 167; The Sporting News, May 6, 1953, 11; The Sporting News, June 30, 1962, 9.[/fn] Ashburn homered as the first batter in the fifth inning, and his blow tied the game at five. The Cubs regained the lead, however, and went on to an 8–7 victory.
Date: June 22, 1962 (Friday afternoon; first game of twi-night doubleheader)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (11,484)
Circumstances: Ashburn banged this homer early in the game between the Mets and the National League’s other expansion club of the 1962 season, the Houston Colt .45’s. By doing so, he extended an interesting pattern: This drive and his preceding four round-trippers were hit during doubleheaders. Leading off for the Mets in the bottom of the first inning, Ashburn tagged Dick “Turk” Farrell’s 2-2 pitch into the right-field stands to provide the first New York run in an eventual 2–0 triumph.
Date: June 23, 1962 (Saturday afternoon; two home runs)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (6,425)
Circumstances: As the Mets gained revenge for a 16–3 drubbing they had endured in the previous evening’s nightcap by whipping the Colt .45’s by a score of 13–2, the first of Ashburn’s two homers came on a delivery by righthander Ken Johnson with no one out in the third inning, after Mets pitcher Jay Hook had led off by reaching first base on a bunt single. Ashburn’s long drive bounced off of the right-field façade. His second home run of the day—and his fifth in a two-week period—never left the premises. Facing left-hander Dean Stone as the leadoff hitter in the fourth inning, Ashburn’s hit tipped off of right fielder Ramon Mejias’s glove and rolled into rightcenter as Ashburn raced around the bases.
Date: July 14, 1962 (Saturday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (37,253)
Circumstances: Three weeks after homering twice in the lopsided victory over Houston, Ashburn hit another circuit drive in a very different situation. With the Mets trailing the Dodgers by the discouraging score of 17–0 and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, New York hurler Bob Moorhead was on first base after receiving a walk. Ashburn then proceeded to hammer a pitch from Stan Williams against the upper right-field deck. The home run affected only the game’s final score as the Mets absorbed an embarrassing 17–3 defeat.
Date: August 19, 1962 (Sunday afternoon)
Site and attendance: Polo Grounds, New York (10,182)
Circumstances: The final home run of Ashburn’s career came in the fifth inning of a game against the Cardinals, with the Mets trailing by a score of 6–2. Ashburn homered to right field off of Lindy McDaniel with the bases empty and one out to reduce his team’s deficit, but St. Louis went on to pin a 10–5 loss on the New York club.
This review of Ashburn’s limited but interesting relationship with the long ball has provided the following facts:
- Ashburn hit 10 homers against the Giants, four against the Reds and Dodgers, three against the Cardinals and Colt .45’s, two against the Pirates and Cubs, and one against the Braves.
- Ashburn hit 20 home runs off of right-handers, and nine against lefties.
- Ashburn hit 15 homers in the Polo Grounds, six in Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, and two in both Ebbets Field and Busch Stadium. He hit one home run in Crosley Field, Forbes Field, Milwaukee’s County Stadium, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
- Ashburn hit 17 of his homers on the road and 12 in his home park.
- During his years with the Phillies, Ashburn hit 16 homers on the road and only six in Philadelphia.
- Approximately 75 percent of Ashburn’s home runs were hit toward right field.
- While Ashburn hit only 29 home runs in 15 years, he hit two homers in a game three times!
- Ashburn hit 11 of his home runs (nearly 38 percent of his total) during doubleheaders.
- Don Newcombe and Johnny Antonelli were the only pitchers to surrender more than one home run to Ashburn. They each allowed two homers to him.
The significance of this research lies not only in revelations regarding an often overlooked aspect of Ashburn’s career, but also in the development of contrasts between Ashburn’s home-run statistics and those of his peers. (Those analyzing Ashburn’s offensive achievements should be aware that Baseball-Reference.com fails to mention that his round-tripper on June 4, 1951 and his second homer on June 23, 1962 remained within the ballpark. Also, the website states that Ashburn’s inside-the-park home run at the Polo Grounds on April 29, 1956 was hit to left field, although reliable accounts in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer stated that the ball was hit to right.) Mays, Mantle, Snider, and Doby were—like Ashburn—elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but their power numbers were entirely different. Mays hit 660 home runs in his career, of which only eight were of the inside-the-park variety. Mantle hit 536 home runs, and only six within the fences. Snider’s comparable totals were 407 and three; Doby’s 253 and three. Even the accomplished contemporaries of Ashburn who lacked Hall of Fame credentials far surpassed him in the home-run category while registering fewer insidethe- park totals: Bell (206 and two), Piersall (104 and two), Bruton (94 and two), and Virdon (91 and one).[fn]Ballpark factors and the number of years played could have obviously affected these totals in varying degrees.[/fn]
Given the discrepancies between Ashburn’s slap-and-run talents and the power-driven tendencies of the truly exceptional ballplayers who were dominant at his position throughout the era, a conclusion can be drawn that those differences were unquestionably remarkable and perhaps unique.
FRANCIS KINLAW has contributed to 13 SABR convention publications (the number of shutouts registered by the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff in 1950) and attended 17 SABR conventions (the number of plate appearances by Richie Ashburn in the 1950 World Series). A member of SABR since 1983, he resides in Greensboro, North Carolina and writes extensively about baseball, football, and college basketball.
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