As I'm sure you're all aware of by now, Phillies Hall-of-Fame pitcher Robin Roberts passed away this morning, and the Phillies will wear a No. 36 patch the rest of the season to honor him.
I'd be lying if I said I knew much about Roberts, beyond the fact that he was a great pitcher for the Phillies, probably the best right-hander this organization has ever seen. But I never got to see him play, seeing as his playing days were long before I was born (1948-1966), and he wasn't in my home or car every game via the television and/or radio the way Richie Ashburn was. There wasn't the same emotional connection for me when I heard the news about Roberts as there was when Whitey died, which unbelievably happened more than 12 and half years ago.
But Robin Roberts was one of our own here in Philadelphia, a legend, an icon, a great. I've never once heard anyone utter an unkind word about him, as a pitcher or a man. And make no mistake about it, he was truly one of the greats. Roberts pitched 19 seasons in the major leagues, the first 14 of which came in Philadelphia. He won 286 games in his career, 234 of them for the Phils. He won 20 games a remarkable six straight seasons, from 1950-1955, and almost made it six straight, when he finished with 19 in 1956. Roberts made seven all-star appearances, all as a Phillie, and even finished second in the MVP voting in 1952, when he went 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA, threw 30 complete games, pitched 330 innings and struck out 148 batters.
Pitching in another era, long before the days of closers and specialized relief pitchers, Roberts was as durable as they came. Of his 609 career starts, he finished 305 of them himself. 305! More than half of his starts. Crazy times, indeed. He reached 30 complete games in 52 and 53, and threw at least 20 complete games six other times, pitching more than 300 innings six times and more than 200 eight more times besides that. In all, he ended a brilliant career with a 286-245 record, playing plenty of times for terrible Phillies squads, a 3.41 ERA and appeared in 676 games in all. He struck out 2,357 batters in his career and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1976.
His No. 36 is one of just five numbers retired in team history (excluding Jackie Robinson's No. 42, which is retired across baseball), joining Richie Ashburn (#1), Jim Bunning (#14), Mike Schmidt (#20) and Steve Carlton (#32) as the only Phils to have their jerseys retired. I may have never had a chance to see him play or listen him reminisce about his playing days, but I'll always respect him as a key part of Phillies history, and the greatest right-hander pitcher in franchise history.
R.I.P. Robin Roberts. Go throw some BP to Whitey up there in heaven, as Harry Kalas narrates it for the masses.