I won’t kid you and suggest that the roar of applause and adulation from the faithful has been so overwhelming that an encore was called for, though I have received a lot of complimentary e-mail messages, etc., after a two-part farewell blog the other day.
You know the old saying about, “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” I’m still getting paid by F+W Media and I’ve been reasonably efficient cleaning out my desk, etc., despite that 17-plus years, so why not do a blog encore regardless if anyone is out there in the dark metaphorically waving their Bic lighter back and forth? (I understand that cell phones are now used in place of lighters.)
(Richie Ashubrn's custom-made 1953 Topps card was created by TJ Dioguardi.)
So when I saw that Huggins & Scott would be auctioning a number of cool Richie Ashburn items in its upcoming sale, it struck me that an Ashburn blog might work handsomely for an encore. The Ashburn lineup for the Jan. 27 auction includes a game-used glove and bat, his 1955 Phillies contract and his 1962 New York Mets Team MVP Trophy.
(Assuming my final blog behaves like all the others, the Huggins & Scott link to their auction should be directly above this line but invisible. Same with the site for TJ Dioguard's custom-made cards at the top of the page. Don't ask, just click and have faith. – Ed.)
Seeing that last item brought me back nearly 25 years or so to a talk I attended at a small college outside of Philadelphia where the legendary former ballplayer and Phillies announcer was regaling the audience with stories from his playing career. Despite the Philadelphia metro area Zip Code, many of the stories centered around that exquisitely awful 1962 Mets club that had anointed Ashburn as its finest player – on a team that lost 120 ball games.
This is from a column about Ashburn that appeared in SCD in June of 1998.
The 1962 season ended on a discouraging note even by the subterranean standards established by the Amazing Mets. It was also the final game of Ashburn’s career. I’ll let Richie tell it:
The last game I played was in Chicago, and we were down by one run in the top of the ninth. Sammy Drake singled, then I singled to center field. First and second, nobody out.
Our catcher, Joe Pignatano, was supposed to bunt, but he fouled a couple off, then swinging away hit a soft line drive to shallow center. The Cubs’ second baseman, Kenny Hubbs (who died in a tragic plane crash the next year) raced back on the ball, dove and caught it, rolling around in the outfield in the process.
Drake and I had thought it would fall in, so we were scrambling to get back. Hubbs fired to second to double off Drake, then on to first to get me. Triple play. Ended the game, the season and my career.
As we were walking into the dressing room, we were feeling pretty down, and Casey wanted to make us feel better. “Fellas, don’t feel bad,” he said. “This has been a team effort. No one our two guys could have done all this.”
And with that – and the final ersatz SCD cover shown below – I’ll get off the stage.