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Former USF coach an All-Star legend

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Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game starting pitchers will be San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto and Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. Both are making their first start.

Three pitchers own the record for the most all-star starts. The Dodgers’ Don Drysdale took the mound for the National League five times as did the Yankees’ Lefty Gomez for the American League. Former USF Bulls’ coach, the late Robin Roberts, joined Drysdale as the most prolific starter in history.

From 1950-1955, Roberts started five of the six games played during that span. He did not earn a win, nor did he suffer a defeat in any of those five games.

What made a guy like Roberts a five-time starter and a future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame? In a word, dependability.

The Philadelphia Phillies could count on him to go deep into games. Opponents knew he would be around the plate.

From 1952-56, he led all of baseball in complete games, averaging 28 per season. By comparison, only one pitcher this century – the Rays’ James Shields in 2011 – had as many as 10. Shields had 11.

“Workhorse is a weak description,” wrote Philadelphia Daily News writer Stan Hochman in 2003. “He was a mule; stubborn, cantankerous and willing to toil from sunup to sundown.”

Roberts also led the league in home runs allowed for straight years, but also averaged only slightly more than one walk per game. That meant more solo homers instead of multiple-run shots.

After winning 286 games and being selected for seven all-star teams, Roberts retired. The Phillies retired his number 36 jersey.

He operated a seafood company in Philadelphia and worked as a stockbroker before being lured to Tampa to take over the Bulls’ baseball program. Roberts was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976, the year before taking the job with USF.

Under his leadership, the Bulls won 262 games from 1977-85. They qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 1982 and won the Sun Belt Conference Championship in 1981 and 1982. He died in Temple Terrace, Fla. In 2010.

Tonight’s All-Star Game will provide plenty of familiar names for baseball fans. A half century ago, Robin Roberts was among the most familiar of the players of his day.

 

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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