The Foundation recognizes Robin Roberts this week for his service in the United States Army Air Forces and the passion he had to serve his country.
When Roberts graduated from high school, his ambition was to join the fight in World War II and sacrifice for his country. He especially wanted to become a fighter pilot.
He qualified for the Air Force Cadet Reserve Program, attended Michigan State University, and was accepted into the Air Corps in 1944. The following year, he completed his basic training in Wichita Falls, Texas, at Shepherd Air Force Base. But because of the end of the war nearing, Robert’s preflight training came to an end.
In 1945, Roberts was discharged and returned to Michigan State University. It was at school that he developed a level of recognition and awe for his abilities as a pitcher. With that talent, Roberts pitched for Montpelier in the summer college circuit in 1947, attracting the attention of the Braves and the Phillies.
In 1948, he ended up signing with the Phillies, pitching for Wilmington in the Interstate League before being called up to the Major Leagues in June. His successful career with the Phillies included six 20-win seasons from 1950 to 1955, when he was the league’s most dominant pitcher. In 1950, he led the “Whiz Kids” to their first World Series appearance since 1915.
The Phillies released Roberts in 1961, but he went on to pitch for the the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, and the Chicago Cubs before officially retiring in 1967 at the age of 40. In his 19 MLB seasons, he compiled a 286-245 record, with 2,357 strikeouts. He had an impressive 395 complete games and 45 shutouts.
He went on to work as a stockbroker before returning to baseball as a college coach for the University of South Florida. He eventually returned to his baseball roots to coach high school baseball and later served as the Phillies broadcaster.
The Phillies honored Roberts when they retired his uniform, no. 36, and debuted a statue of him outside of Citizens Bank Park. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Robin Roberts embodied the values of Bob Feller for his willingness to serve his country during a time of great national need, despite a hopeful baseball career.