Phillies icon Robin Roberts, who was a key member of the 1950 Whiz Kids, died this morning at his Temple Terrace, Fla., home from natural causes, the Phillies said. Roberts was 83.
He spent 14 years with the Phillies (1948-61) posting a 234-199 record, before stints with Baltimore, Houston and Chicago, compiling a 286-245 record with a 3.41 ERA for his 19-year career. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.
"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 make that play... Chase can really play this game… My man Jayson is some kind of an athlete… Did you see that change-up from Cole... How strong is Ryan... Roy makes pitching look so easy and it isn't… I wish I had Brad's slider... Shane can fly, can't he?.'"
Funeral arrangements are pending. The Phillies will hold a moment of silence to honor Roberts before today's game against St. Louis.
Roberts' No. 36 jersey will hang in the Phillies dugout beginning today and will remain throughout the season, both at Citizens Bank Park and on the road. Beginning with tomorrow night's game, players will wear #36 on the right sleeve of their jerseys throughout the remainder of the season. The Phillies 1950 pennant also will be hung at half-mast.
"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am deeply saddened by the loss of Robin Roberts," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Robin was one of the most consistent, competitive and durable pitchers of his generation and a symbol of the Whiz Kids, who in 1950 brought Philadelphia its first National League pennant in 35 years. Robin won 20 games or more six straight years, led the N.L. in complete games five years in a row and did not miss a start throughout the 1950s.
"Robin truly loved baseball and always had its best interests at heart. We will miss him and I extend my deepest sympathy to all of his family, including his four sons, his brother and his seven grandchildren, and his friends and fans everywhere."
Said Phillies president Dave Montgomery: "I'm very proud of the relationship that Robin had with this club. Yes, he was a Hall of of Fame pitcher and his stats speak for themselves. But first and foremost for all of us here, he was our friend. We will miss him."
Roberts started three games on the final five days of the 1950 season and was the winning pitcher in a victory over the Dodgers that gave the Phillies their first pennant in 35 years. Roberts won 20 games that season, becoming the team's first 20-game winner since Grovery Cleveland Alexander in 1917.
Roberts was born in Springfield, Ill., and attended Michigan State University to play basketball, not baseball. He was a two-time captain of the hoops team but his professional future was in baseball.
He made his big-league debut on June 18, 1948.
Roberts was a workhorse as the Phillies made the 1950 World Series and continued their success. Between 1950 and 1955 Roberts won 20 games each season, leading the NL in victories from 1952 to 1955. Six times he led the league in games started, five times in complete games and innings pitched, and once pitched 28 complete games in a row.
Roberts won a career-high 28 games in 1952. In 1953, he went 23-16 and lead the NL in strikeouts with 198.
"Everybody knows how good he was," Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino said. "He wasn't a Hall of Famer for no reason. People know. We lose another legend in Phillies history. It's unfortunate again."
He was sold to the Yankees after the 1961 season and has his Phillies jersey retired before a spring training game against the Yankees in Clearwater. It was the first jersey retired by the team.
After his big-league career ended in 1966 with the Cubs, he pitched for the Reading Phillies in 1967 before retiring.
He then coached the University of South Florida baseball team from 1977-85.
Roberts was a regular during Phillies functions, and especially during the team's recent run of success. Roberts talked extensively before last year's World Series against the Yankees about the 1950 Series between the two teams.
"He's meant a lot to the city. He's meant a lot to this organization," Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer said. "When things happened, in pregame ceremonies, he was always included. People always appreciated him. People knew a lot about him and his career. It wasn't like, 'That was the guy who pitched back then.' We was very well respected in all walks of life."
Added Cole Hamels: "He just had great stories and great observations from when he'd watch one of your games. And I think that just kind of showed that he was really in tune with baseball, but he was willing to help. And that's what it takes. Because not everybody has that gift to be able to help somebody. That's a tough thing to be able to do, to come across as wanting to help somebody and not come across in a negative manner."