Andy Ashby's first major league win hung on the arm of the sometimes wild Wild Thing Mitch Williams. Ashby'd allowed three hits over seven innings as the Phillies amassed a 4-1 lead on the Cubs, Sept. 24, 1991.
Ashby watched the action from the clubhouse television, according to the Chicago Tribune, as Williams walked the bases loaded, but got out of it allowing only one run.
"I wasn't worried," Ashby told The Tribune. "Mitch has been there before. He knows how to adjust."
It was the first of what would be 98 career major league wins for Ashby in a career that spanned 14 major league seasons.
Ashby was brought up that year by the team that signed him, the Phillies. Ashby, a native of Kansas City, was signed by the club as an amateur free agent in 1986. He played at the various levels of single-A through 1989, making AA Reading in 1990.
With Reading, Ashby posted a 10-7 mark with a 3.42 ERA, getting Eastern League Player of the Week honors in August. It earned him a promotion to AAA Scranton for 1992 and it also earned him induction into the Reading Phillies Hall of Fame.
Ashby was first called up to the big club in June, making his debut June 9. But it was his follow-up performance that had people talking. Ashby became only the 12th pitcher in the history of the National League to strike out the side on nine pitches.
Ashby pitched in eight games that year for Philadelphia, 10 more the next. Then the Phillies left him unprotected in the expansion draft and the Rockies grabbed him. Rockies manager Don Baylor couldn't believe his fortune.
"I don't quite get it," Baylor told the Associated Press that first spring. "I'm still waiting for the punch line on this one. I know he's kind of erratic at times. But his arm is always there. If he's wild, he's wild throwing 91-92 mph."
The punch line was Ashby went 0-4 with an 8.50 ERA over 20 appearances that year for the Rockies. The Rockies shipped him mid-year to the Padres, where Ashby would have his best years.
Ashby went 12-10 for the Padres in 1995, his first of four years with double-digit wins for the club. In 1998, he notched a record of 17-9 with a 3.34 ERA, helping the Padres to its second National League championship.
"You couldn't ask for a better place to play," Ashby told the Associated Press that June.
His appearance in the World Series that year was not as good. In 2.2 innings, Ashby gave up seven runs, four of them earned as the Padres got swept. But Ashby made the All Star team that year and the next.
Then came his decline. He split 2000 between the Phillies and the Braves, going 12-13 with a 4.92 ERA. Then came three years with the Dodgers, including a 3-10, 5.18 ERA campaign in 2003.
Ashby returned to the Padres for two more innings, both scoreless, in 2004, ending his career.
- Spartenburg Herald-Journal, Associated Press, June 16, 1991: Ashby: 9 pitches, 3 Ks
- Chicago Tribune, Sept. 25, 1991: Phils Know How To Spell Relief: Beat Cubs
- Sumter Item, March 29, 1993: Ashby amazes Rockies' Baylor
- The Southeast Missourian, June 26, 1998: Five years later, Padres emerging from ashes of 'Fire Sale"
- New York Times, Oct. 18, 1998: Stewart's Primary Lesson is to Teach Ashby to Think
Made the Majors: 823 - 47.9%
Never Made Majors: 896-52.1%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 357
10+ Seasons in the Minors:205