Sadly on April 13, 2009 the baseball world, and especially Phillies fans lost a great announcer and baseball man, Harry Kalas. For many years Harry worked with Phillies Hall of Fame ballplayer Richie Ashburn who passed on in 1997. Harry always referred to Ashburn as Whitey and the two men became great friends. I want to share two stories about this partnership, one was Harry’s favorite story about Whitey and the other is from my own experience.
Harry Kalas loved to tell this story about his old friend and booth mate, so here goes. “One of Whitey’s responsibilities when he was broadcasting for the Phillies was doing the pregame show, taping an interview with an opposing manager or player or coach. He’d take his tape recorder down to the clubhouse and get an interview and he’d come back up. He’d say, ‘Boys, that might be the best interview I ever had.’ He’d hand the tape machine to the technician and the tech would say, ‘Whitey, there’s nothing on here.’ I mean, if this happened once, it happened 50 times. “And Ashburn would then have to scramble out of the booth, go find the first warm body and try to do an interview for the pregame show.”
“So one night, we’re sitting in a hotel bar in New York and a blonde hooker came walking up to us. She said, ‘Boys, I’ll do anything you want for a hundred dollars.’ Whitey thought for a while and said, ‘How about the pregame show?’ “
This second story is one I personally witnessed. Some years ago my cable provider offered the Phillies network as part of their service and one evening I heard the following conversation between Harry and Whitey. Kalas was talking about baseball superstitions, such as players on a hot streak wearing the same socks or underwear day after day, or sleeping with a bat to make sure it wasn’t lost or stolen. Harry then asked Richie if he had ever done any of those things. Ashburn shot back, “Sure Harry, I slept with a lot of old bats in my day.” Whitey had a very acerbic wit and loved to demonstrate it to Harry.
Ashburn had a big hand in things the last time the Phils beat the Dodgers to go on to face the Yankees in a World Series. That was 1950 and that year the Phillies had a big lead on the Dodgers that evaporated in late September as the Dodgers went 13-3, while the Phils went 6-10 to close the gap between the teams to one game, with but one to play. The Dodgers had come into a season ending two game series at Ebbets Field bone tired having just played 3 consecutive doubleheaders, and were facing a Phillies squad that had been off the day before. Despite this, Brooklyn won game one of the series to narrow the margin to one game. The next day in the bottom of the 9th inning with the scored at 1-1, the Dodgers Cal Abrams was on second base with no outs. Duke Snider was up next and singled to the outfield where Ashburn was playing a shallow center. Despite this the Dodgers 3rd base coach Milt Stock sent in Abrams who was thrown out at home by Richie.
The Dodgers failed to score and lost in 10 when the Phils Dick Sisler hit a 3 run homer in that inning. Thus much as they would only one year later in that far more famous situation with the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, the Dodgers would be denied entry to the World Series by an opposition player’s 3 run homer hit during the last league game they would play that year. Milt Stock, who had made such a bad decision in sending home Abrams with no outs and Ashburn playing shallow, was fired shortly after the season for that lapse in judgement.
Robin Roberts, only one day after his 24th birthday, pitched the entire 10 innings that day for the victory and a National League pennant. The Phillies jubilation would be short-lived however as they would be swept in 4 by the Yanks in the series. Despite the sweep the games were close scorewise, with the Phillies done in by the fact they managed to score only 5 runs in the 4 contests. The Phillies also had the misfortune to have had their number 2 pitcher, Curt Simmons, called up by his National Guard unit shortly before the series commenced. Doubt that would happen in today’s world. Both Simmons 80 and Roberts 83 are looking forward to the the Phils-Yanks rematch. Roberts has even come to town and agreed to participate in pre-game interviews.