Robin Roberts, Phillies Great, Dead at 83
Roberts was 83.
"Dad didn't miss a Phillies game on television, including last night. He really loved this team and was so thrilled that he was included in the World Series festivities the last two years," said his son, Jim. "He'd sit there and would comment, 'Did you see Jimmy [Rollins] make that play. ... Chase [Utley] can really play this game. ... My man Jayson [Werth] is some kind of an athlete. ... Did you see that change-up from Cole [Hamels]. ... How strong is Ryan [Howard]. ... Roy [Halladay] makes pitching look so easy and it isn't. ... I wish I had Brad [Lidge]'s slider. ... 'Shane [Victorino] can fly, can't he?'"
The right-handed pitcher spent 19 seasons in the major leagues, 14 with the Phillies, four with the Orioles, two with the Astros and one with the Cubs, winning 286 games and posting a lifetime ERA of 3.41.
"Probably the best fastball I ever saw was Robin Roberts,'" Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner once said. "Robin didn't throw as hard as Rex Barney, but his ball would rise around 6 or 8 inches, and with plenty on it. And he had great control, which made him very difficult to hit."
Roberts was a seven-time All-Star and from 1950-55 pitched a remarkable 300-plus innings in each season. He led the majors in complete games a record five straight years, 1952-56.
"He looks like the kind of pitcher you can't wait to swing at, but you swing and the ball isn't where you thought it was," Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said.
Said teammate Bob Miller. "One in a million – well respected for his ability and as a person."
Roberts was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976 and later served as a board member for the Hall of Fame.
"He was so proud to be a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum," Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement, "and served as a Hall of Fame Board member with great distinction, thoughtfulness and a fondness for the Museum's role in preserving the game and its history. Cooperstown will miss one of baseball's most compassionate and caring individuals, and we extend our deepest sympathy to his family."
Said commissioner Bud Selig, in a statement, "Robin truly loved baseball and always had its best interests at heart."
Roberts also had a hand in the formation of the players' union.
"Robin played an important role in establishing the Major League Baseball Players Association as a bona fide labor organization," current executive director Michael Weiner said, "by helping the players of his day understand the benefits to be gained by standing together as one. Robin and his peers had the foresight to hire Marvin Miller as the MLBPA's first executive director in 1966, a decision that has since benefitted all Major Leaguers and their families."
Roberts -- who grew up in Springfield, Ill., and originally attended Michigan State on a basketball scholarship before turning to baseball full-time -- is survived by four sons and one brother.
"Yes, he was a Hall of Fame pitcher," Phillies team president and CEO Dave Montgomery said, "His career and statistics speak for themselves. But first and foremost to all of us here, he was a friend. We will miss him."
Current Phillies remembered him as humble and helpful.
"He never was that guy, 'This is what I did,' " outfielder Shane Victorino said. "He just talked about baseball. He wasn't one of those guys that had to brag about himself. He let his numbers do the talking."
Said Ryan Howard: "He was kind of a breath of fresh air. He was always so nice, so polite. The kind of person who just made you feel warm."
The Phillies planned a moment of silence before Thursday's day game against the Cardinals, with the team's 1950 pennant -- the "Whiz Kids," for whom Roberts was the ace -- at half-mast.
Beginning Thursday, the Phillies planned to hang a No. 36 jersey in the dugout for every game the remainder of the season, and a No. 36 patch was to be added Friday to the right sleeve of the Phillies' jerseys. A black drape was hung on Roberts' Phillies Wall of Fame plaque and his statue at the first-base gate to Citizens Bank Park was adorned with a wreath.
Even as recently as this spring training, Roberts would drop by the Phillies clubhouse to stay in touch. Roberts -- who was given 2008 World Series and 2009 NL pennant rings told team official Frank Coppenbarger, "I'm ready for another ring."
"He was always a guy that was here to help," Victorino said. "We lost another legend in Phillies history. It's sad.
"I think he still felt he was part of the organization. He still had the love, I think, for the organization."
Victorino even had a retro jersey with Roberts' No. 36 made up and got Roberts to sign it.
"I think one thing he did really well was follow the game and he know the game really well," closer Brad Lidge said. "We had tremendous respect for him and always appreciated when he gave us advice. When I was lucky enough for him to start a conversation with me, I was all ears."
Said Jamie Moyer, who grew up in Philadelphia and heard about Roberts' exploits from his dad: "He was more of a storyteller. He never really talked about himself. Just a really nice person.
"He meant a lot to the city. He meant a lot to this organization."