Richie Ashburn is the Inspiration for the Band Name “Yo La Tengo”

After the 1959 season, the Phillies decided to part ways with beloved center fielder Richie Ashburn. Whitey was shipped to the Cubs for 3 players. After a couple of years in Chicago, he was picked up by the expansion Mets, and spent his final season (1962) in baseball purgatory. The worst team of the modern era, the Mets went 40-120 that season, and the whole year was little more than a running collection of blunders, errors, and losses.

One constant source of Keystone Cop mishaps was the lack of communication between Ashburn, playing center, and the Mets shortstop, a Venezuelan named Elio Chacon. Chacon didn’t speak English, so when Richie would yell “I got it! I got it!” Chacon would keep chasing after the ball and the two would inevitably collide, allowing the ball to fall harmlessly to earth. Finally, the team’s right fielder Joe Christopher, who was bilingual, suggested that instead of yelling, “I got it!”, Richie should yell “Yo La Tengo!” to ward off the shortstop. Ashburn and the young shortstop agreed on it, and sure enough a few games later, a pop fly went into left center, between Ashburn and Chacon. “Yo La Tengo! Yo La Tengo!” shouted Whitey. Chacon stopped in his tracks. Whitey reached his glove up to make the catch…and got plowed over by Mets left fielder Frank Thomas, who didn’t speak Spanish. Whitey and Frank fell to the ground, and the ball landed between them. As they got up to collect themselves, Howard turned to Ashburn and said, “What the heck is a yellow tango?” Incidentally, Thomas was later a member of the 1964 Phillies team. Here’s a great Yo La Tengo song, “Today is the Day”.

2 Comments on “Richie Ashburn is the Inspiration for the Band Name “Yo La Tengo””

  1. Todd says:

    Another former Philadelphia athlete is part of the Yo La Tengo folklore as well. YLT has an album called “I’m Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.” Seems like an odd name for an album title, right? Well, they got the name because lipreaders once were able to determine that former Villanova star and 76er Tim Thomas said a similar line to Stephon Marbury during a timeout huddle when they both played for the Knicks. The band found that so amusing and hadn’t yet come up with a title for their soon-to-be released album so they just went with it. It’s actually a pretty good YLT album too.

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