Yesterday I saw that Robin Roberts died. I mentioned it to a friend and his response was “Geez, I didn’t know she was sick.” OK, I’ll admit that when I think of Robin Roberts I too generally think of the modern reporter (who is certainly easier on the eyes than the old pitcher).
Roberts, the pitcher not the reporter, is usually at the foggiest edges of my mind when I think of baseball. He wasn’t a particular favorite of mine and we seldom got to see the Phillies play on TV or hear them on the radio. When we did, I don’t remember Roberts being the pitcher, so I guess he didn’t show up very often when I got to see or hear the Phils.
He was one of the Whiz Kids who brought, in 1950, Philadelphia its first National League pennant since 1915. Then they went out and were swept by a Yankees team that included a rookie southpaw named Whitey Ford. Roberts pitched game two and lost 2-1, then mopped up the last inning in a 5-2 game four Series ender.
He stayed with Philadelphia through 1961, then went to Baltimore, Houston, and the Cubs before retiring. I was never a great fan and for years wondered what the big deal was about Robin Roberts. His winning percentage was OK, but nothing special. He had almost as many hits as innings pitched and his ERA was OK for the age, but not spectacular. What he didn’t do was walk anybody. He walked 902 batters in 4689 innings. It took a while to realize how good he was because I never connected him to those awful Phillies teams that he pitched for much of his career.
He’s mostly forgotten now, although he made the Hall of Fame in 1976. I guess there are a lot of reasons. He never played for any of the great New York teams of the era (No Willie, Mickey, and the Duke aura). The Phillies were bad most of his career (1950 being an exception rather than a rule). When he left Philly he was mostly done and didn’t have very good years elsewhere. He pitched in an era noted more for its sluggers than its pitchers. Finally, he wasn’t either Warren Spahn or Whitey Ford, the dominant pitchers of his era. Even they have gotten a little lost in the shuffle, but Roberts had gone all the way to obscurity. He’s so obscure that my local newspaper’s sports page didn’t even mention his passing. Ain’t that a shame?
This is two of these semi-obituary pieces I’ve written in a row. A request to the baseball gods: Knock it off. Let me write about other things for a while, please.