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 Three and a half years, and 180,000 plus signatures later, the Hall rescinded the roadblock, and in 1995 Richie Ashburn was elected to the Hall of Fame along with Mike Schmidt.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 ……….
Lookin’ good–I can’t wait to read the book!
Thank you, to my uber-talented daughter for your help and inspiration.
I’ll always love you……..your pa
Great website Jim! It’s going to be a fantastic baseball season…Phillies fans can’t wait!!
This July I’ll stop by to get YOUR autograph!
Thanks so much for the kind words. You’re right, it’s going to be an unbelievable season !!
What a great time to be a Phillies fan !!!!!…………………….jim d.
I’m proud to say that I was one of the 180,000 who signed the petition for your “Why The Hall Not?” campaign. I’ve pre-ordered the book and can’t wait to receive my copy.
I know Whitey would be proud of the current team of “Fightins”. Go Phillies!
Thanks so much. I just hope I make my friend Whitey proud with this book. Now that I’m working for the Phils, before every game , I head out to Ashburn Alley and give Whitey’s statue a high five for luck. It’s been working pretty good so far…………………..GO PHILS !!!!…………….jimmy d.
It’s been a crazy few weeks, since the book’s been out. I’m having a great time meeting some of the same people who signed my petitions almost twenty years ago ( whew !!! ). Hard to Believe Harry !!!!!……………………………jim
Jim, It was great meeting you and speaking with you this past Saturday at the Poppel show. You have some great stories and it was a pleasure listenting. Look forward to finishing the book soon, it’s a very enjoyable read so far! Well done!