The news of the early morning death of Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts put Citizens Bank Park in a somber mood. Roberts, who made regular visits to the team's clubhouse, including two months ago in spring training, died of natural causes at age 83.
Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth and Roberts were fast friends from the time they first met. Not only were both born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, but Roberts was the only person Werth knew who played baseball with his great-grandfather, John Schofield. They played semi-pro ball together when Roberts was in his late teens and Schofield was in his 40s. Werth's grandfather Dick "Ducky" Schofield played 19 seasons in the majors.
"I would always talk to (Roberts) about him," Werth said of his great-grandfather. "He was the only guy I knew who knew him other than family."
Werth was one of several Phillies who regularly carried on conversations with Roberts when the Hall of Famer came to town. Roberts watched the current Phillies team regularly.
"Robin would always tell me stories about people in my family, being that he was from my hometown, but especially about my grandfather and my great-grandfather. He would make it a point to tell me good things about them," Werth said. "That was how much of an overall good guy (Roberts) was. He will definitely be missed and remembered. And being that he was from Springfield, Illinois, he definitely has a special place in my heart."
Somewhat ironically, Werth's streak of reaching base in 26 straight games ended Wednesday, but it didn't take him long to start another on-base streak Thursday afternoon. Werth launched a three-run home run with two outs in the first inning to give the Phils an early 3-0 lead.
After rounding the bases, Werth pointed skyward at home plate to recognize the Phillies Hall of Famer.
"I don't usually do that sort of thing, but definitely Robin was on the thoughts and hearts of many people today," Werth said. "As I was coming around third, I definitely had him on my mind. That was definitely big ups to Robin right there."
Ryan Howard sat with Roberts during the end of a spring training game two months ago in the Phillies' clubhouse at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida.
"Mr. Roberts was always kind to me," Howard said. "It was kind of a breath of fresh air. He was always so nice and polite. He was an upbeat, good-spirited person, the kind of person that made you feel warm. You were happy to be in his presence."