100 Greatest Phillies: 3 – Robin Roberts

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 24, 2009 06:03 PM | Comments: 46
100 Greatest Phillies, Posts

Robin Roberts
Starting Pitcher

Career w/Phillies: 3739.1 IP / 234-199 / 3.46 ERA / 1871 K

For Robin Roberts, pitching was a piece of cake.

“Too many people try to make it more complicated than it really is,” he said once. If the thousands of other men who toed the rubber felt the same way, then Roberts wouldn’t be that special. Instead, No. 36 is a Hall of Famer, a living legend and practically … almost … the greatest pitcher in Phillies history. The man who made it look so easy is truly a Phillie legend.

Making his Phillie debut at age 21 in 1948, Roberts gave up just 52 earned runs in 20 starts that first season. Immediately touted as a upcoming star, Roberts didn’t disappoint, going 15-15 with a 3.69 ERA in his second season. Better things was surely ahead for the right-hander.

Roberts handled a quick, moving fastball that breezed by hitters’ bats too often. But he also threw that baby across the plate – his career high for walks in a season is an incredibly low 77, which he recorded in just his third season, 1950.

That 1950 season was Roberts’ breakthrough, despite the high walk total. It was his first 20-win season, going 20-11 with a 3.02 ERA and 146 strikeouts. He was awarded his first all-star berth, as well. The season would set a benchmark for Roberts that he would outdo almost every subsequent season. For the next five seasons he won at least 21 games (leading the National League in wins four-consecutive seasons). His ERA, for a while, would continuously decrease. His strikeout totals would increase. He’d lead the league five-consecutive seasons in complete games.

The apex of Roberts’ career came in 1952. That season he won 28 games, recording a 2.59 ERA while walking just 45 hitters. As he started 39 games (and finished 30), that’s very close to one walk per nine innings. Pretty good stuff. Of course, he’d continue his dominance in 1953 with a 23-16, 2.75 ERA season. By this point he was starting close to 45 games per season.

But that workhorse mentality got the best of him, as Roberts’ shoulder began to feel the pains of labor. The velocity of his fastball died a bit, allowing hitters to catch up and bash him enough. As a result he suffered a bit more between 1956 and 1960, though he still won his share of games (73 in that five-year span). Still, Roberts got around a good lot, something he never enjoyed.

“I never slept when I lost. I’d see the sun come up without ever having closed my eyes. I’d see those base hits over and over and it would drive me crazy.”

Luckily not too crazy, but it could’ve been easy: The 505 homers Roberts turned to watch remain the most surrendered by a pitcher in baseball history.

After a 1-10 shellacking in 1961, the Phillies released Roberts. He could’ve toiled for a few more seasons; instead, he improved himself as a finesse pitcher, racking up a few solid seasons and likely securing his Hall of Fame election. He hung up the cleats in 1966 and was already a Phillies retired number. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.

Piece of cake, huh?

Comment: For six seasons, Roberts was damn near untouchable; he was clearly the best pitcher in baseball during that span. Otherwise, he had a few more solid seasons, earning himself easy top 10 placement and more. For his dominance, his loyalty, his hand in a pennant – all of that, he’s clearly in the Phillies Mount Rushmore. But he comes in at No. 3. You know who remains.

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About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1948 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 Brian

    Nice pick. Lets get to #1 and 2. Very Intrigued at the order for #1 and #2, have my own thoughts but will hold off to see them. When does the drum roll start?

  • Posts: 0 sawaob12

    Very excited to see how these next 2 are ranked..

  • Posts: 0 John Fiure

    #1 Mike Schmidt
    #2 Steve Carlton

  • Posts: 0 Georgie

    John, just for argument’s sake, and because I like Carlton better, I’m going to go the other way! AND, pitching trumps hitting, imo.

  • Posts: 0 Fran

    Im going with john there.

  • Posts: 0 Greg V.

    #1 Doug Glanville
    #2 Paul Byrd

  • Posts: 0 Anthony

    My favorite player Mike Schmidt has to be #1. He’s only the greatest third baseman to ever play the game.

  • Posts: 0 BurrGundy

    Robin ROberts was truly a great pitcher. He absolutely deserves this lofty position and was the ultimate workhorse. I have been told that one reason he gave up so many homers was because he did not make a practice of brushing batters back off the plate, allowing them to dig in. In his prime, his stuff was so good it didn’t matter much. If I had to pick between Carlton and Roberts in their primes, realizing that both were truly great, i would pick Roberts because of his exceptional endurance and the fact his was unquestionably the best in baseball in his prime.

  • Posts: 0 whizkidfanatic

    I of course saw Robin pitch many times and really hoped he’d win 300 games. He came close but it didn’t happen. Eddie Sawyer once said if the Phillies had another hitter or two, Robin would have won 400 games. A bit of hyperbole from Eddie, but there’s little doubt he’d be in the 325-340 category. After 1951 my family moved to Chicago where I’d ditch school everytime the Phillies came to town for at least one game. My poor Mother finally gave up trying to stop me and just pretended to believe I’d gone to school. In those days the Cubs were awful and weekday crowds were seldom more than 7-8 thousand. I’d buy a box seat behind the Phils dugout for $2.50 using my caddy money and watch my guys. The close confines of Wrigley were (and still are) fabulous for feeling like you are right on the action. It was so much fun when Robin pitched. He worked fast, threw strikes and went right at the hitters. I saw him pitch many 1:45 games. His concentration was incredible. In those days Robin was just too good for most hitters. After winning 28 in 1952, it looked like he would be the next 30 game winner. After winning his 20th on August 12 in ’53 I thought he’d do it but he went 3-8 from that point on primarily because he had to face the Dodgers and Giants often down the stretch.

    While it is true that all the innings began to catch up with him beginning in 1956, it must also be noted that the ball club itself wasn’t very good after that either. In fact, even with slightly less velocity on his fastball Roberts pitched well enough to have won 20 games in three of his “mediocre” seasons; ’56, ’58 and ’59. For instance, in 1958 his “comeback” season, he was 17-14 with 6 one run losses three of which were 1-0 losses. Winning 17 and then 15 in ’59 for a last place team demonstrated that he was still a very effective pitcher.

    While I have no serious reservations about Carlton ranking ahead of Robin I must say this; having followed both their careers closely, there is no question in my mind that if I had to win one game, I would go with Roberts over Carlton.

  • Posts: 0 Matt

    hahahaha greg, you’ve got to be kidding! you’re crazy, dawg. it’s definitely:

    1. Paul Byrd
    2. Doug Glanville

    come on dude.

  • Posts: 0 Phillies Phan SC

    This surely leaves no doubt whom, now which order…

    I dissent, I believe it is this:

    1. Steve Carlton
    2. Mike Schmidt

    Schmidt was probably the best third baseman to EVER play the game. My ONLY reason was Schmidt’s strikeout ratio, which means NOTHING, except when we are talking about #1 and #2 best Phillies. Just my opinion… I think #32 was the best Phillie of all time, I only wish I was old enough to remember him pitching.

  • Posts: 0 Woodman

    Roberts 28 consecutive complete games record will stand forever!!!

  • Posts: 0 Grrrumpy Miner

    The best part about Michael Jack is that he respects great talent and feels David Wright is the goods.Sure he’s in enemy territory,but you have to admit barring major injury or drop off the face of the earth,Wright is a future Hall of Famer.

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane there Whiz! I only remember seeing Robin Roberts when he came to the Orioles toward the end of his career. He was a major influence to the “Baby Birds”, a pitching staff that eventually helped take the Orioles to dominate the mid 60′s to the early 70′s, making appearances in 4 WS, winning 2. Over an incredible stretch of Yankee proportion, in 10 years the Orioles won 950 games, made 4 WS appearances (won 2) and 2 division titles thanks in part to Robin Roberts influence.
    Sorry all, I digress.
    We in Baltimore never saw how great a picther he really was but knew a gamer when there was one in our presence. And Robin was that. My dad spoke of him a lot, having golfed frequently with him and his buddies.

  • Posts: 0 km

    mike schmidt and steve carlton and 1 and 2, in either order.

  • Posts: 0 bigbobster

    Interesting…never considered that Roberts was an influence on Palmer and McNally…another reason to like the man…Always wondered if Phils win whole thing in 64 if they hold on to Roberts? He did win 13 for O’s that year.

    And what a year 1952 was for Philadelphia pitching…Roberts wins 28 games for the Phils, and Bobby Shantz wins 24 for the A’s. Two of the best pitching seasons of the entire decade, in one city, in one year.

  • Posts: 0 Tom G

    Robin was the coach at USF (South Florida) when I was there…he was a class act and always seemed to have time to tell a funny story from the Whiz kids days…Andy Semminck etc…it was a hoot to listen to the good ole day stories…
    A true treat…he was a strong ox of a man…yet humble…what a great teacher for those kids.

    Final two…

    1) Lefty–WINS, K’s, Clutch, and arguably the best lefty of all time…72 is one for the ages…
    2) Michael Jack–best bagger of all time, HR’s, D, but a slight less great than Lefty…made it look so easy!

  • Posts: 0 Steve.M.

    I would put Carlton #1 because that is what I told my dad a few weeks ago!
    My dad thought Roberts could be #1 as well.

    My choice for Carlton is based on 27 wins when the Phillies only won 59 games in 1972 and he was the first to win 4 Cy Youngs. I remember looking at the strikeout totals every day when he was battling Nolan Ryan for the yearly strikeout lead.

  • Posts: 0 Joe O'Phillie

    Schmidt is #1. He was a Phillie his whole 17 year career and is the best 3rd baseman ever. Carlton is among the best pitchers ever. But he had 60 wins and spent 5 years with St Loius before he joined the Phils for 13 seasons. Their greatness overall is close but Schmidt is clearly #1 Phil because of his longevity as a Phil.

  • Posts: 0 Anthony

    Joe makes a great point. I believe that Schmidt playing his whole career in philly should play a big part.

  • Posts: 0 Jeltzismyhombre

    James argues that if they had a Cy Young award in the 50s, Roberts would have won the NL award every year from 1951-1955. That would be Maddux / Clemens / Johnson / Carlton territory folks. He was that good.

  • Posts: 0 ashmidt

    nice post whiz,what a class act robin roberts wqs, i tjink it should be alexander #1, roberts #2 and carlton #3. just my opinion. big bob hit it with 1952, i think robin should have been the mvp, but bobby shantz won it in the al,and the powers that be didnt want 2 philly mvps. come on hank sauer, the fix was in.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    I get this vibe that Tim likes pitchers more, so I’d assume he’d go with Carlton No.1… but it’s really a coin toss

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    But JoeO’Phillie raises a very good point… longevity as a Phillie matters a LOT.

  • Posts: 0 Greg V.

    On Roberts, one of my favorite moments from last season was seeing an afternoon game against Boston on the 60th Anniversary of Robin Roberts’ major league debut and he threw out the first pitch to Cole Hamels. Two generations of Phillies legends on the mound at once was great. The game sucked. Kendrick got shelled and it was like 10-1 Red Sox fans to Phillies fans in my section. But the brief ceremony before was really cool.

  • Posts: 0 Greg V.

    For me, it’s impossible to pick between Carlon and Schmidt as to who is better. I think I would go so far as to say they are tied for the 1 spot! Both men gave so much to the franchise and the city’s fans. If I had to, I’d go with Lefty in the one slot because things really turned around when he came to town. He was the first piece to the puzzle in the quest for a championship. So yeah, I’m going with Lefty in the 1 slot!

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    Yeah I would put Lefty number 1 but they could really be 1 and 1a
    The greatest position player and greatest pitcher, I loved going and watching those 2 play

  • Posts: 0 rob

    1. Pete Rose
    2. Pete Rose

  • Posts: 0 James Kay

    @rob – You have been staring at too many Andy Warhol works.
    @whizkidfanatic – That was an effective portrait of Roberts.

    On May 13, 1954, Roberts gave up a lead-off home run to Cincinnati Red Bobby Adams and then retired 27 consecutive batters to win 8-1, on a one-hit game.

    He was the only pitcher in major league history to defeat the Boston Braves, the Milwaukee Braves and the Atlanta Braves. How many times did he defeat Spahn?

    He ended his playing career in the minors in 1967. They probably had to tear the uniform off of his body.

    When compared to Carlton, all of the pitching numbers (except for homers rendered) are strikingly similar with slight advantages to Carlton. But if I was asked to choose between the bulldog right hander Roberts and the psychotic lefty Carlton, my choice would be Roberts.

  • Posts: 0 Jim

    n0 way you put carlton in front of schmidt. schmidt played his entier career here while carlton only played half of his in philly

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    OK – hate to burst any bubbles here but the best 3rd baseman of all .
    We called him Mr. Clutch (althogh there were years when he did not seem it) – he was cosidered a player “from a different league” by a HOF contemporary – Brooks Robinson.
    I like Schmidt, I saw him his entire career and I saw Brooks play from 61 to in the 70′s – the “Human Vacuum Cleaner”. He was in the top 10 in MVP voting 7 times, winning once (64, came in 3rd in 65 and second in 66). Played in 4 WS with 2 rings and was the WS MVP in 71 when the Birds crushed the Big Red Machine in 5 games. That is when Johnny Bench declared that Brooks Robinson played in the next league up.
    18 times he was the 3rd baseman on the AL AS classic.
    Mike was awesome, no doubt my second favorite 3rd baseman of all time – there is in my opion only 1 better than Mike in my lifetime – Brooks Robinson.
    I would def put Mike just barely ahead of Lefty as my alltime Philly favorite. Watching Lefty pitch was watching artwork at its best but an everyday player should get higher consideration as best, the “go to” Phillie of all time.

  • Posts: 0 Woodman

    Schmidt’s hitting numbers are much better than Brooks Robinson. I like Brooks too, BUT really, Schmidt was a superior all round player. Brooks a nice second, though.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    I thoroughly enjoy the third party accounts… Wrigley field must have been an amazing place back to see a baseball game back in the day and I’m sure that Roberts was worth the cab money every time!

    I put Schmidt number 1… best 3B of all time. The fact that he was solid defensively and offensively is important. He was an every day position player, GOAT at his position and he spent his entire career here… gotta give him the nod. Carlton is a beast but Schmidt stands alone, in my opinion.

  • Posts: 0 Tyler

    Brooks brings up a good point, yes pitchers are valuable, but they pitch once every five days (assuming they’re starters, which Carlton was). Whereas Schmidt played everyday for his entire career here. That’s incredible. I give Schmidt the nod, also because he still helps out the Phils in ST

  • Posts: 0 Albert

    I know Schmidt is regarded as the greatest Phillies player of all time, but I think I would need to put Carlton at number one on this list. When the Phillies acquired lefty he really helped turn the franchise around, and he won a lot of games on some bad early 70′s teams. Carlton won 27 games for a Phillies team that won only 59 games in 1972! Tim likes to look at numbers (Bobby Abreu number 10!?!? :( ) so I’m going to pencil in Lefty at number one.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I think I had Ashburn #1, Carlton #2, and Schmidt #3 ???

    Carlton was UNREAL

  • Posts: 0 Chase Mutley

    Pete Rose is *my* favorite Phillie of all time even though his playing career was well over by the time I was aware of baseball. I just liked his reckless style of play.

    Michael Jack is the no-brainer for #1 on this list, however. He is the all-time face of the franchise; a Phillies lifer; and the best player at his position in the history of baseball.

    I hope that when you do this list again in 10 years, Tim, that Jimmy, Chase, Ryan and Cole are all in the top 10. I think we should all feel really lucky that we’re currently watching one of the, and what may one day prove to be the best, Phillies TEAMS in history.

  • Posts: 0 Joe Green

    #1 – Schmidt
    #2 – Carlton

    If Carlton had been a Phillie his entire career, the order would be reversed. Schmidty gets #1 as he was a Phillie his entire career.

  • Posts: 0 whizkidfanatic

    @Brooks and James Kay-thanks for the kind words!

    An aside. I also drove up to County Stadium in Milwaukee a couple of times when Robin pitched against the Braves and later on twice at Comiskey Park against the White Sox when he was with Baltimore. The Braves cuffed him around pretty badly on one of my tips. It was about the time he wasn’t going well and I was worried for him. He sure came around however.

    When I saw him at Comiskey, he was relying much more than ever on location but, ironicallly he was still mainly a fast ball, curve ball pitcher. He seemed to me to have developed an ability to take something off his fastball and I figured Harry Brecheen the Orioles pitching famous for teaching the changeup had worked with him. I do know that there were always a lot of sharp ground balls and fly ball but most of the time they were right at somebody. And, he still had the ability to get a strikeout when he needed to. This is the mark of a great location pitcher, the ability to know where a certain batter will hit a pitch thrown to a specific location. Whenever he pitched with Baltimore it was a clinic for the young pitchers. I heard an interview driving home after a Robin win against the White Sox. It was Harry Brecheen the Orioles pitching coach. Bob Elson asked him about having Robin on the team and Harry replied that most of the time if they weren’t starting, his pitchers went to the bullpen and “…kinda goof off a little, but when Robin pitches they are up watching every pitch of every inning…”. This indicates the respect he had amidst his teammates. In an age where youngsters must choose their heroes carefully, I have never regreted that Robin was one of mine…a great athlete and person!

  • Posts: 0 the lopez!

    schmitdty’s number 1?

    how about craziest phillie?

    dutch dalton speaking to aliens and trees
    lefty carlton in his concrete house ranting about the world bank?

  • Posts: 0 Brian

    #1 Schmidt
    #2 Carlton in my book.
    I always loved the fact that Schmidt spent his entire career as a Phillie!

  • Posts: 0 Cookie

    I played for Robin at USF on the first team that represented USF in the NCAA tourney and have remained a very close friend over the years. He is without a doubt, the classiest and finest human being I have ever met. His contributions to baseball should be recognized by every player today and the benefits they earn playing this great game. I once asked Robin how many games he thought he may have one playing on a upper division team and he said maybe another 100…….folks that puts him at 386 and in pretty good company behind only Mr. Young and Mr. Johnson……what a work horse, what a talent, and most important….what a great man. His contributions today with the BAT organization and the Hall of Fame still keep in very active in the game at the age of 82.

  • Posts: 0 Матвей

    Хорошая статья, как и все предыдущие. Буду теперь и дальше следить .

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    Матвей~ Please translate your text into english. What country does your language represent? Israel?

  • Posts: 0 Марк

    Да уж… Тут как говорят люди: Артель воюет, а один горюет :)

  • Posts: 0 Carra

    great post, thanks for providing so much. Keep up the good posts.! http://www.hoover-f5914900.com

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