Robin Roberts, Hall of Fame Pitcher (1926 – 2010)

Robin Roberts, successful pitcher and successful investment broker, passed away this week at the age of 83.  Roberts was someone I could appreciate as a pitcher – just got up there and threw.  He didn’t walk around the mound – he didn’t mess with his catcher.  He just got the ball and fired.  Roberts threw as hard as anyone – but didn’t make the big effort or use an especially long windup.  His bread and butter was a hard fastball at the knees, figuring the batter should just swing at it and move on.

For giggles, check out his page on Retrosheet – especially looking at his daily record from 1952 when he won 28 games for a pretty good Phillies team.  After getting off to a bit of a slow start (the whole team did, really), Roberts had won seven straight, then lost four and stood with a 7 – 5 record after losing to St. Louis in the second game of a double header on June 17th.  From that point forward, Roberts went 21 – 2 – completing all but two of his 23 starts, adding two appearances in relief – and one of those complete games was a 17-inning game in the first game of a doubleheader against Boston.  (What – the manager was saving EVERY pitcher for game two?  He gave up 18 hits and 6 runs, for crying out loud.)

Every other article about Roberts will likely look back at his career – but I wonder if they’ll tell this story recounted in an old Boy’s Life Magazine.  Chuck Ward, a Phillies scout, was having dinner with Roberts trying to convince the young arm to sign with Philadelphia.  After polishing off a big steak, Ward offered him a second steak.  Roberts allegedly said that, by offering seconds when no other pursuing team would, he would sign a contract with Philadelphia.

Google Books has digitized a number of old magazines – and it’s worth a look to dig around there from time to time.  You might see something that catches your attention – like this advertisement in Life Magazine from September 16, 1957.

Searching for articles about Roberts, I saw ads featuring him or his name peddling Murine, MacGregor mitts, and orange juice.

Hailing from the Land of Lincoln, there’s a small minor league baseball stadium in Springfield, IL named after Roberts, who grew up not too far from Lincoln’s tomb.  A few local colleges and high school teams play there now, but a decade ago it was the summer home of the Springfield Capitols, an independent minor league team.  It’s a older stadium – built in the 1920s – and I saw a game there in 2001.  While there, I happened to meet a couple of the principals who were working the small crowd.  The owners were looking to recapitalize the team and I had a chance to buy five percent for about $25,000.  Living in Florida at the time, I passed up the chance because I would have been an absentee owner (I wanted to work the crowds, tear tickets, sell advertising and all that stuff) and that didn’t appeal to me.  It turned out to be a good decision as the team was sold and moved out after the season ended…  I digress.

From all accounts, Roberts was a polished gentleman and a big time baseball junkie right to the end.  I even read that he didn’t waste time talking about baseball when he was selling stock ideas to potential clients.  Like his days on the hill, Roberts was all business.  And a winner.

My kind of guy.

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