July 20th, 1957 – I had just turned 8 years old, and the Fightin’ Phils were playing the Cincinnati Reds.
I had bought an autograph book at Woolworth’s, the day before, hoping for the chance to make Richie Ashburn, my first autograph. My Dad, two brothers and I, got to the game early and made our way down to the dugout area. When we got there, there he was, the Phillies star centerfielder.
Rich signed my book, patted me on the head, 45 seconds, and it was over.
Thirty-three years later, in 1990, I met Rich at an autograph show, in New Jersey. He had just been removed from Hall of Fame consideration, by a rule change, which was the topic of conversation, among the gathered fans. When I got up to Rich, for my autograph, I asked him, “How would you feel, if your fans started a campaign to overturn that unfair rule?”
That day, driving home from the show, I came up with the idea, for “Richie Ashburn…Why The Hall Not?”.
Over the next four and a half years, I got almost 200,000 signatures on my petitions. My campaign was on radio stations, and in newspapers across the country.
On July 30, 1995, 38 years after that first autograph, Richie went in the Hall of Fame, with Mike Schmidt.
In 2008, the Phillies did a tribute movie entitled Richie Ashburn, A Baseball Life, that I was included in. My book, Richie Ashburn…Why The Hall Not?, was published in 2011.
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