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Phillies ace Roberts had a debut to remember

Philadelphia Phillies

Robin Roberts was signed to a $25,000 bonus by the Phillies after graduating from Michigan State University in 1947. He had a basketball scholarship to MSU, but also played baseball for the Spartans.

He went to Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla., the following spring and roomed with another rookie, Richie Ashburn. They would become two of the greatest players in Phillies history. Each has had his uniform number retired, and each is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Robin Roberts was signed to a $25,000 bonus by the Phillies after graduating from Michigan State University in 1947. He had a basketball scholarship to MSU, but also played baseball for the Spartans.

He went to Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla., the following spring and roomed with another rookie, Richie Ashburn. They would become two of the greatest players in Phillies history. Each has had his uniform number retired, and each is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Phillies alumni

As a 21-year-old, Roberts began the 1948 season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, at the time a Phillies farm team in the Class B Inter-State League. He posted a 9-1 record with a 2.06 ERA, completing 10 of 11 starts. In 96 innings, he struck out 121. A sign that he was something special came on June 5, when he tied the league record with 18 strikeouts in a 4-1 win over Trenton.

After dominating that league, Roberts was called up by the Phillies. Upon learning that he was headed for the big leagues, his Wilmington teammates gave him a going-away present: a pen and pencil set.

Less than 24 hours after being promoted, Roberts was on the mound in the Major Leagues. Allowing single runs in the third and seventh innings, Roberts and the Phillies fell to the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-0, on June 18 before 13,501 fans at Shibe Park. His line: eight innings, five hits, two runs, two walks, two strikeouts.

"I felt a bit nervous pitching to Stan Rojek in the first inning," Roberts said in an Associated Press story back then. "I guess any fellow would feel that way pitching to his first hitter in the big leagues. But once I walked him and struck out Frank Gustine [second hitter], I felt natural the rest of the way.

"As long as I can keep my fast ball alive and fool 'em with a curve once in a while, I'll try to give 'em a battle all the way."

Five days later, Roberts recorded the first of his 234 Phillies wins, 3-2, over the Cincinnati Reds at Shibe Park. It was the first of 272 complete games, a Phillies record that may never be broken.

Roberts wound up pitching 14 years with the Phillies. He's the franchise leader in games pitched (529), complete games (272) and innings pitched (3,739 1/3) while second in wins (234) and strikeouts (1,871).

Larry Shenk is in charge of alumni relations and team historian for the Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies