PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Robin Roberts, the tireless Hall of Fame pitcher who led the Philadelphia Phillies to the 1950 National League pennant as part of the famed “Whiz Kids,” died Thursday. He was 83.
Roberts died at his Florida home of natural causes, the Phillies said, citing son Jim.
The right-hander was the most productive pitcher in the National League in the first half of the 1950s, topping the league in wins from 1952 to 1955, innings pitched from ’51 to ’55 and complete games from ’52 to ’56.
He won 286 games and put together six consecutive 20-win seasons. Roberts had 45 career shutouts, 2,357 strikeouts and a lifetime ERA of 3.41. He pitched 305 complete games, but also gave up more home runs than any other major league pitcher. Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer is on the verge of breaking that mark. The 47-year-old Moyer has given up 498 homers, seven fewer than Roberts.
“He was a boyhood hero of mine,” team president David Montgomery said. “Then I had a chance to meet him personally. I remember pinching myself knowing I was talking to Robin Roberts. His career and stats speak for themselves. But first and foremost he was a friend and we’ll miss him badly.”
Roberts, the son of immigrants from Wales, played in an era when pitchers expected to go the distance. Put it this way: In the past 25 years, Phillies pitchers threw a total of 300 complete games — five fewer than Roberts all by himself. Roberts made 609 career starts, finishing more than half.
“Robin was one of the most consistent, competitive and durable pitchers of his generation and a symbol of the Whiz Kids,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “Robin truly loved baseball and always had its best interests at heart.”
Long after his career ended, Roberts followed the Phillies closely and was still popular in Philadelphia, drawing boisterous applause from fans each time he came back. A statue of him outside the first-base gate at Citizens Bank Park was adorned with a wreath Thursday, one of several tributes the Phillies planned.
Roberts’ No. 36 jersey, which the team retired in 1962, was hung in the dugout before an afternoon game with St. Louis. It will remain there the rest of the season, at home and on the road. Players will wear No. 36 on their sleeves, starting Friday night.