This two-man list wasn’t created with the intent of defining who was the best player in Philadelphia sports’ history. This particular story was written to honor two men who are revered across the region for interconnected reasons.
Don Richard ‘Whitey’ Ashburn achieved immortality on two challenging platforms.
On the field, number 1 became the greatest center fielder in franchise history. Off the field, that ‘Whiz Kid’ forged a lasting bond with Harry Kalas and millions of fans from inside the broadcast booth.
“The likes of them will never be seen again”, as we old-timers like to say.
Many who knew ‘Richie’ from his television and radio days never saw the lifetime .308 hitter take one live swing. He was simply the likeable guy who used to play for ‘our’ team way back when.
Countless Philadelphia Phillies’ games were enhanced through Ashburn’s natural verbal charms, with his on-air talent becoming even more apparent during the lean mid- to late-1980s’ years and post that unexpectedly marvelous 1993 run.
Taken too soon in the fall of 1997, the Nebraskan’s death seared many tough hearts.
‘Harry the K’ thankfully lived to announce the indelible 2008 World Series season. But, the absence of his great friend could often be heard within the resonance of his voice.
Unlike this next parallel man, Ashburn didn’t initially earn iconic status through a championship parade.
Exuberant shouts of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” aren’t old-school rants. All hardcore fans know that they’re ever-cool chants.
With him, the Philadelphia Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Without number 1, no subsequent silver chalice has been raised.
The historically linked seasons that Bernard Marcel Parent created in 1973-74 and 1974-75 proved to be monumental in Philadelphia sports’ history.
During those two hockey years, Bernie backstopped the ‘Bullies’ through his consecutive Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy Awards. He stymied all opponents while wearing a grin behind his iconic goalie mask.
Parent served as a goaltending coach for the team after his playing days prematurely ended in February 1979. Later, he embraced his current career as a Flyers’ ambassador and corporate business motivator. Both roles clearly proving that his intellectual gifts matched past crease skills.
I never had the opportunity to meet Ashburn, but would’ve loved to.
I have met Parent on a number of occasions. In the fall of 2010, I spent a few hours interviewing him one-on-one in his office. He’s as genuine and good-hearted in-person as he appears to be from afar.
Philadelphia’s resilient sports skyline
Both sportsmen initially forged their images through Hall of Fame seasons. When their playing careers ended, each person revealed a deeper part of his character within the public’s clear view. A deeper perspective was collectively gained and their iconic statures grew.
Ashburn and Parent blended multiple talents to build their lasting life resumes. Their examples serve as a model for all to emulate.
No one is rightfully held in higher esteem over an always resilient Philadelphia sports skyline than these two great souls.
Sean O’Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his career by working in public relations in the front office for the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A team that was formerly located in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. This specific feature is the two-thousandth article that he’s written since transitioning to the online world in September 2010. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his blog Insight.
More from this author and the Yahoo Contributor Network:
When Philadelphia Phillies’ Legend Richie Ashburn Played The Game
Philadelphia Flyers’ Bernie Parent: Postgame Reflections (Interview)
5 Lessons Philadelphia Flyers Fans Have Taught The Hockey World
5 Traits of Hardcore Philadelphia Phillies’ Fans
Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas Soundtrack Plays On