The Phillies Nation Top 100: #3 Robin Roberts – Phillies Nation

The Phillies Nation Top 100: #3 Robin Roberts

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #3. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back tomorrow morning for #2.

#3 – Robin Roberts

Years: 1948-1961

234-199, 3.46 ERA, 1.171 WHIP in 3739.1 IP

Previous Rank: 3 (No Change)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 2nd among pitchers, 4th among Phillies

Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976

Won 20 games or more in six-straight seasons (1950-1955), led MLB in games started in six-straight seasons (1950-1955), threw 20 or more complete games in seven-straight seasons

Ranks first in Phillies history in IP, CG

Made seven-consecutive NL All-Star teams (1950-1956), Five Top 7 NL MVP finishes

There isn’t a whole lot to say about Robin Roberts, the greatest right-handed pitcher in Phillies history, that hasn’t already been said. Roberts is the all-time leader in Phillies’ history in appearances, innings pitched, and complete games and ranks second in wins, strikeouts, and games started, and third in shutouts. Roberts also was selected to seven-straight NL All-Star teams and started on the hill for five of those teams. But it is perhaps his link to one of the biggest underdog stories of all-time that helps Roberts rank so highly on this list.

In 1950, Roberts would lead baseball with 39 games started and five shutouts, going 20-11 with a 3.02 ERA, starting the All-Star game, and finishing seventh in MVP voting for the NL Pennant-winning Phillies. The group, collectively known as the Whiz Kids with an average age of 26.4 years old, shocked baseball, winning the pennant by two games over Brooklyn. Roberts, just 23 at the time, would lead them into the 1950 World Series, where he would lose a 2-1 ball game in the tenth inning. Yes, Roberts pitched all ten innings. Roberts would throw a scoreless eighth inning in relief in Game 4, but the damage was done, and the Phillies would lose 5-2 in Game 4 and the series 4-0.

Roberts was just about everything you could ask of a starting pitcher. Roberts was reliable: Roberts led the National League in games started in six-straight years while throwing 20 or more complete games in seven-straight years. Roberts was durable: from 1951 through 1955, Roberts led the MLB in innings pitched. And he was a winner: from 1948 through 1961, his years as a Phillie, Roberts led all right handers in wins across MLB.

From the day he was signed prior to the 1948 through October 16, 1961, when the Yankees purchased his contract, Roberts was among the best pitchers in baseball: Roberts ranked second in wins, third in appearances, second in starts, second in complete games, third in shutouts, second in innings pitched, and third in strikeouts. Aside from a 1-10 hiccup in 1961, Roberts was remarkably consistent. Roberts won 10 or more games in 12-straight seasons (1949-1960) and won 20 games or more in six-straight seasons (1950-1955).

Roberts would be traded from the Yankees to the Orioles prior to the start of the 1962 season, spending parts of four seasons in Baltimore, parts of two seasons in Houston, and his final season, 1966, with the Cubs. Roberts was elected to the Hall of Fame on his fourth try on the ballot in 1976 and was the first Phillie elected to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1978. Roberts died of natural causes at the age of 83 on May 6, 2010 at his home in Florida. There has never been, and may never will be, a better right-handed pitcher for such a consistent period of time for the Phillies than Robin Roberts.

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  1. whizkidfanatic

    February 26, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    For those of us who followed the career of Robin Roberts there can be no better example of what it is to combine class, dignity and competitive juices. This was a man for the ages.

    I am reminded of a Dick Allen interview by Bob Costas when Costas referred to Mike Schmidt as “the face of the Phillies”. Allen gently but firmly corrected him saying “no Bob, Robin Roberts is and will always be the face of the Phillies”.

    I have referenced what it was like to see him pitch in my comments on Tim Malcolms list. Rather than repeat it here I will merely state that although I have no problem with Carlton rated ahead of him, havving seen them both pitch many times, if it came down to winning
    one game, I’d go with Robin every time. The tougher the game, the tougher he pitched.
    Getting to meet him in his later years was the thrill of a lifetime. Especially because I came to realize that as my boyhood hero, he turned out to be an even better person than I could have hoped for.

    A quick story and I’ll quit, though I could go on for days about this guy. A mutual friend was staying with him for a couple of days at his and Mary’s place in Florida. He asked Robin if he would play catch with him so he could tell his children he’d played catch with a Hall of Famer. Robin was in his mid-seventies at the time but gladly obliged. My pal said after a few warm up tosses the ball kept coming in faster and faster. He had to ask Robin to quit after ten minutes because his hand was swelling up.

    • mudmin

      February 26, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Awesome story. Don’t think you are posting too much. There probably wont be much reason to update this list for 5-10 years, so I kind of look at this as a mini encyclopedia of Phillies greats peppered with our witty and deeply insightful banter.

      Great job, again, Ian btw.

      • Ian Riccaboni

        February 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm

        Whizkidfanatic – thank you for sharing that terrific story. I was unaware of the Dick Allen interview. I wonder if it’s archived anywhere…

        Other than the World Series ring that Carlton has, both Roberts and Carlton have very similar stats. I can personally say I would have been fine with either in either spot.

        Thank you for the compliment mudmin and thank you for following the series!

    • wbramh

      February 26, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Great story, WhizKid!
      Thanks for sharing it.

    • photoFred

      February 27, 2014 at 8:51 am

      I’ll go read your comments from the previous list. Thanks.

      Regarding Roberts: one thing I have heard (or read—can’t remember) is that one of the reasons he gave up as many dingers as he did was he refused to knock batters off the plate for fear of causing injury. Has anyone else heard that?

      • whizkidfanatic

        February 27, 2014 at 12:57 pm

        Ian: Enjoying the list! Good work. I don’t know if the Allen/Costas interview is available but I believe Dick Allen can confirm it. He and Robin had great mutual respect. Another trailblazer who had great respect for Robin on and off the field was Don Newcombe.

        wbramh: Thanks for the kind words, I have enjoyed your comments as well!

        mudmin: Much appreciate your sentiments!

        photoFred: Robin always chuckled at the idea that he didn’t throw at hitters. He said if they threw at his guys he always retaliated, otherwise he simply wanted to throw strikes. Once after the Yankees threw at Boog Powell, Robin knocked Roger Maris right on his rump and received a standing ovation from the Oriole fans. I happened to be dial twisting and heard the game on the radio.

        Robin was taught early by Cy Perkins his best baseball confidante, that two out of your first three pitches should be strikes. Of course he tried to pitch up and in within the strike zone and with his amazing control he was notoriously good at staying ahead of the hitters in the count.

        Willie Mays and others said there was no sense taking a lot of pitches on Robin because he wasn’t going to walk you anyway, so they all went up there to get their cuts. As Robin said, “they were big league hitters so sometimes they won the battle”. I will say this; a large number of those homers came in games that Robin had well in hand with no one on base.

      • wbramh

        February 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm

        That’s true about Roberts. He was cut from the same cloth as Walter Johnson. Neither man tried to brush back (or hit) batters and neither liked giving up intentional walks. Robbie didn’t even pay much attention to holding men on base. He drowned out every distraction, from the crowd to base runners and hyper-focussed on the plate. It worked for him. While refusing to use the brush back pitch probably contributed to his high HR rate I suspect those dingers were also a result of his rising fastball. If it didn’t rise enough or missed the corners he could be in trouble, especially when his velocity began to drop off in the mid ’50s. But he hit those corners with almost surgical precision. A patient batter could be rewarded but Robbie’s career would suggest even a patient batter often had to wait a long time to see his pitch.

        While Robbie was no 100 mph Walter Johnson, he still possessed a blazing fastball in his early years, one enhanced by a slow delivery that made timing his pitch very difficult. Once the fastball tailed off he relied totally on his control and the transition extended his career by quite a few years.

        There are many filmic moments burned in memory from my visits to Connie Mack back in the 1950s. Three immediately come to mind.

        Willie Mays crushing a line drive to the right center gap, turning the bases on a dime (yes, his cap flying off his head as he passed 2nd) and finally sliding into 3rd for triple.

        Jackie Robinson stealing 2nd in a tremendous cloud of dust on a boiling summer day. The umpire’s call was totally obliterated in the haze and his verdict only became apparent when Jackie brushed himself off and remained on the base.

        The third (and first to come to mind) was not a single moment but a generic clip (in my mind’s eye) of Robin Roberts on the mound, for like Mays, Mantle, Clemente, Aaron, Gibson, Koufax, Allen and Schmidt, Robbie was another larger-than-life, near-mystical player who had all eyes on him whenever he took the field.

        What a pitcher – and by all accounts (I never had the pleasure of meeting him), quite a decent human being.

  2. Keith

    February 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Always great to hear that or heroes are class acts too. Great story

  3. Abel Ruiz

    February 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    They don’t make them like they use to

  4. Dr. Dave

    February 27, 2014 at 8:39 am

    The Phils sure could have used Robin in 1964! At age 37, pitching for Baltimore, he was 13-7 with a 2.91 ERA in 31 starts and pitched 204 innings.

    My Dad took me to see him pitch in 1967. Robin was attempting a comeback, pitching for the Phils AA Reading team. In 11 starts, he went 5-3 with a 2.48 ERA. He wasn’t called up.

    The game was in Williamsport. He lost 1-0. My younger sister is named Robin. Yeah, boy or girl, they were being named after the great Phillies pitcher.

    • J. Phillips

      February 27, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Robbie was the consumate gentleman and a total class act. I played golf with him a couple of months before his death and he shot 83. A rare gem, that may never be replaced. Hope you’re having some vanilla ice cream up there, buddy. RIP

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