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Robin Roberts: 1926-2010

May 6, 2010, 10:45 AM EDT

Robin Roberts.jpgPhillies great Robin Roberts has died. He was 83 years-old. No word on the cause of death, but judging by the surprise in the blogosphere and Twittervese it was not necessarily expected.

Roberts led the NL in wins for four straight years in the 1950s, winning 28 games in 1952 and 23 each of the next three years.  His win totals are remarkable give that, aside from the Whiz Kids year of 1950, the Phillies were never anything special. They won 83 games once, but otherwise dwelled in fourth and fifth place during Roberts’ prime.

Roberts was the ultimate workhorse, even for the era in which he played, pitching over 300 innings each year between 1950 and 1955, and 297 in 1956. There was no Cy Young award during his best stretch of years, but he almost certainly would have won it multiple times had there been one.

I obviously never got a chance to see Roberts pitch, but he is one of my historical favorites. I used to look at his entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia, marveling at his win totals and innings pitched, wondering how it was possible for a mere mortal to do such a thing.  The truth may be that all of those innings took their toll on Roberts — he swooned badly in mid career, rebounding only once he left Philly and went to Baltimore, where he was treated with a bit more care — but that doesn’t take away from his obvious greatness.

Universally described as a class act by all who knew him, Roberts will no doubt be missed.

  1. yossarian - May 6, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    Following the news, Joe Posnanski tweeted this:
    “RIP Robin Roberts, the only Hall of Famer who ever called me out of the blue to ask me for a tour of the Negro Leagues museum.”
    Class acts flock together, apparently.

  2. Matt - May 6, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    RIP to a good guy.
    Deaths come in threes…..I swear, if Vin Scully is next, I’m giving up baseball forever.
    captcha: done croke. if it was “done croak” on a story about death, I may have just hung them up myself and retired from the Internet.

  3. Darryl - May 6, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    Met him a couple of years ago. What a gentleman. Great ambassador of the Phillies, and of baseball. He will be missed.

  4. Jonny5 - May 6, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    RIP Robin, I’m sure your statue in front of CBP will be adorned with flowers tonight. I have a picture of my son with that big ole statue. One of my favorite pictures of my kid.

  5. diane - May 6, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    He was pitching when i was little. im getting a phillies shirt with a number 36 on it and the name ROBERTS. WHAT A GREAT GUY!!

  6. Matthew - May 6, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Robin Roberts was Jim Palmer’s first room mate in the major leagues and Palmer constantly discusses how Roberts helped make Palmer an effective pitcher.

  7. hardjuge - May 6, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    True Gentleman of the Game, RIP!

  8. Jonny5 - May 6, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    I love what his son had to say.

  9. Chris Simonds - May 6, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    When I was eight years old my Cub Scout troop made a Saturday field trip to Connie Mack Stadium to watch the Phillies. My favorite team at the time was the Tigers (the snarling tiger logo and the script D roped me in) but I liked the Phillies because they had Curt Simmons and his name was almost like mine, and Robin Roberts, who had a very cool sounding name, though it was nothing like mine. We had first base grandstand seats, not up front, but not way back either. I remember we were in sunshine the whole game. I remember our blue and gold uniforms and I remember being shocked at the crumbling dirty concrete and many broken seats in the stadium (I guess Mr. Cornelius MacGillicuddy, the former owner, was notoriously tight-fisted, while I was living in a Levittown and thought all the world was new and clean and spiffy). I remember I was excited because Roberts was going to pitch. I also remember we were all eagerly anticipating Richie Ashburn, because he was fast and stole bases and because all us giggling eight year old wits called him “Ass Burn” when adults weren’t around. I don’t remember who the opposing team was and I don’t remember who won. I remember being impressed just with Roberts warm-up tosses. But most of all I remember the start of the game, the batter stepping in and Roberts’s first pitch. My jaw dropped. This was my first experience of major league ball and that pitch really traveled, faster than anything I had ever imagined. Even with the crowd still noisy, I heard the whomp in the catcher’s mitt and the hoarse strike call and saw the batter twitching and fidgeting afterward, as if he were angry. I liked baseball before, but after that first Robin Roberts fastball, which of course in ancient memory is the fastest pitch I have ever seen anybody throw, I was hooked. RIP Mr. Roberts.

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