Roberts fit right in with today's Phillies stars
Hall of Famer played ball with Werth's great-grandfather
PHILADELPHIA -- Jayson Werth comes from a baseball family, so he appreciates the history of the game as much as anybody.
It was just one reason he cherished his relationship with Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts.
Roberts, who won 286 games in his 19-year career with the Phillies, Orioles, Astros and Cubs, died Thursday morning in Temple Terrace, Fla., from natural causes. He was 83.
Roberts is best remembered as one of baseball's top pitchers in the 1950s, and the Phillies' workhorse on the 1950 National League champion Whiz Kids. But he also is remembered as a kind gentleman, a fine family man and a brilliant storyteller.
Werth smiled Thursday as he recalled how Roberts was the only person he knew to have played baseball with his great-grandfather John Schofield. Werth's family is from Springfield, Ill., where Roberts grew up. He played semi-pro ball with Schofield 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, and won a World Series with the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. Werth's uncle Dick Schofield Jr. played 14 seasons in the Majors and won a World Series with the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays. His stepfather, Dennis Werth, played four seasons in the Majors and won an American League championship with the 1981 New York Yankees.
But Werth and Roberts found a connection through his great-grandfather.
"I would always talk to [Roberts] about him," Werth said. "He was the only guy I knew who knew him other than family."
But Werth was not the only Phillies player who recalled Roberts fondly Thursday. Roberts had a way about him. He played long ago, but he never boasted or bragged about his career. He respected the game as it developed over the years.
He related well with today's stars.
In fact, Roberts sat with Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and others in the Phillies' clubhouse at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., this spring.
"He always wanted to see me hit triples," Rollins said, smiling. "'Hit me a triple today, J-Roll.' 'OK, Mr. Roberts.' And I think all except for once I got one when he told me that he wanted to see one. He always wanted to sit down and talk. That was great. He was legendary around here. Whenever you have a statue outside the ballpark, you must have been pretty special. Obviously, being a Hall of Famer stamps your career.
"He lived a long life. He lived a fruitful life. He made an impact on the game. It's like some guys forget how it is to play, what it was like. I got the impression that he never forgot. He never lost respect for the game. He never forgot what it was like to go out there, suit up and go to war every day, which was cool."
"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."
The Phillies will honor Roberts in several ways this season. Before Thursday's 7-2 win over the Cardinals, they held a moment of silence before the national anthem and hung the 1950 National League championship flag at half-staff. The team hung black drapes on Roberts' Wall of Fame plaque in Ashburn Alley and on his oil painting in the Hall of Fame Club.
The Phillies also hung Roberts' jersey in the Phillies dugout, where it will remain at home and on the road this season. They will wear a No. 36 patch on the right sleeve of their jerseys throughout the season, beginning Friday.
Like many Phillies, left-hander Jamie Moyer marveled at Roberts' career. Roberts once threw 28 consecutive complete games.
"That's something that will never, ever be done again," he said.
Not even by Roy Halladay?
"Nope," Moyer said.
Roberts was one of a kind. The Phillies seemed to understand that Thursday as they recalled his life.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.