I was bitten by the baseball bug as a youngster growing up in Southwest Philadelphia. Just one year old, when the 1950 Whiz Kids achieved their glorious year, my Phillies memories were mainly of a perennial second division team. That meant a finish generally no higher than fourth place, in a National League that consisted of just eight teams.
The 1957 season would provide a life altering event for me, as an eight year old. Before a midsummer game at old Connie Mack Stadium, my Dad got us down to a spot by the Phillies dugout. Autograph book in hand, Hoping to get my baseball hero, the Phillies number 1. The first autograph to go in that book, Richie Ashburn, is to this day, one of my prized possessions. It was basically, a forty-five second encounter between a young fan, and the star player.
Thirty-four years lapsed since that day at the long-gone ballpark. Rich Ashburn was now the revered announcer for the Phillies. I was married with three kids, and twenty years into a career with a financial printing company. By an odd twist of fate, Richie was at an autograph show, and I went there to get his signature. After hearing fan after fan say to Rich how unfair it was, that he would never get into the Hall of Fame, my only question was “why not?” That day, the “Richie Ashburn….why the hall not?” campaign was born.
Over the next three and a half years, my campaign was featured on local and national TV and radio, and newspaper and magazine articles across the country. The Phillies gave me a space at Veterans Stadium to attract fan interest and gather signatures, that would hopefully overturn a rule, that essentially prevented Whitey from ever being eligible for the Hall of Fame. Three and a half years, and 180,000 plus signatures later, the Hall rescinded the roadblock, and in 1995 Richie Ashburn was elected to the Hall of Fame along with Mike Schmidt.
Along with the previous media coverage, my campaign was featured in the 1997 book “Richie Ashburn ….remembered” and the award winning 2008 Dan Stephenson film “Richie Ashburn …a baseball life”. After retiring from the printing industry in 2004, my working life came full-circle. In 2010, I went to work for the Phillies. So, if you’re at Citizens Bank Park this season, and you meet a guy who says ” there’s never a bad day at the ball park”, be sure to say hi ……….