Spartan Legend Roberts Passes Away

Press release from Michigan State. LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State baseball legend and Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts passed away Thursday (May 6) morning in his Florida home. He was 83. Roberts, considered one of the greatest pitchers in Philadelphia Phillies history,played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball.

"As one of the best pitchers to ever take the mound at Old College Field, to his spectacular Hall of Fame career in Major League Baseball, Robin Roberts was truly one of the great ambassadors for Michigan State University," said MSU director of athletics Mark Hollis.

"Whether returning to campus for a basketball reunion or attending a baseball awards banquet, he always stayed connected to MSU. The class with which he carried himself combined with his dedication and longevity in the game of baseball made him a true Spartan."

Upon his arrival at Michigan State in 1944 from Springfield, Ill., Roberts initially distinguished himself as a basketball star. He came to campus on a basketball scholarship and averaged 10 points per game over his three years on the team. It wasn't until his junior season that he tried out for the baseball team and began to forge his legacy.

In two years playing for legendary baseball coach John Kobs, Roberts posted a modest 9-6 record, though his record does not fully demonstrate his dominance. In 1946, the right-hander posted a school-record six shutouts. The following season, he set the then MSU single-season record with 86 strikeouts, which still stands in the schools' top-10 list.

"He was a selfless, hardworking guy," said friend Jack Cawood, who played basketball with Roberts at MSU. "He was a hard worker - always one of the last guys to leave practice. He was a great person and had such a sharp memory. He could talk about games that happened 50 years ago."

Having established himself as a dominant pitcher in the collegiate ranks, Roberts went on to sign a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies early in 1948. On June 18, 1948, Roberts began his spectacular career when made his professional debut with the Phillies.

At the age of 21, Roberts made 20 starts in his rookie season, going 7-9. In 43 starts the next season, he improved to 15-15, setting the stage for several consecutive fantastic years to come.

He posted the first of six consecutive 20-win seasons in 1950 in helping the Phillies to the National League pennant – the first for the organization in 35 years. As part of the Phillies' famed ‘Whiz Kids' that season, he became the team's first 20-game winner since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1917.

In 1952, he won a league and career-high 28 games and came in second in the National League MVP race. He went on to lead the NL in wins in each of the next three years. He won 23 games in each of those three spectacular seasons, logging over 300 innings and never walking more than 77 batters in each year.

Roberts' sensational stretch from 1950-56 also included seven consecutive All-Star Game appearances.

After pitching a total of 14 seasons with Philadelphia, Roberts was sold to the Yankees after the 1961 season, but was later released before the start of the 1962 season. Roberts followed by signing with the Baltimore Orioles, where he pitched from 1962-64, posting winning records in each season. He later pitched for the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs before retiring after the 1966 season.

For his MLB career, Roberts posted 286-245 record. He racked up 2,357 strikeouts with a career-ERA of 3.41. In 14 seasons with the Phillies, he racked up 234 victories and is still the winningest righty in team history. The workhorse pitcher posted 305 complete games and 45 career shutouts.

In 1976, Roberts received the highest possible honor for a professional baseball player, when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

His passion for baseball took him to a new endeavor in 1977, where he took over as head coach of the University of South Florida baseball team until 1985.

In 1992, Roberts was one of 30 Spartan athletes, coaches and administrators inducted into the charter class of the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame.

Since being honored with the inaugural MSU Baseball Alumnus of the Year Award in 2002, Roberts was an active part of the MSU baseball program. His legacy and merits helped elevate the awareness of Spartan baseball as he became increasingly involved with the program.

As one of several trips back to campus over the past few years, Roberts was one of hundreds of former MSU baseball players that attended the historic McLane Baseball Stadium dedication in May 2009.

"In my two years here at Michigan State, I had the opportunity to get to know Robin really well," said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. "Not only was he a great Spartan, but a great friend to the MSU baseball program and me. We are all deeply saddened by his loss and we hold his family in our prayers."

Roberts is one of three Spartans, joining John Kobs (25) and Danny Litwhiler (1), to have his number (36) retired. He was the first player in Phillies history to have his number retired.

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