COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Decades ago, pitchers were expected to finish what they had started. The closer was rare and the set-up man even more so. The complete game was the norm.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Robin Roberts defined the role of the starting pitcher. The future Hall of Famer pitcher completed 305 games in his 19-year career. But even in an era filled with complete games, Roberts' streak against the Boston/Milwaukee Braves in the mid-1950s was truly remarkable.
Over the course of three seasons between 1952 and 1954, Roberts pitched 13 consecutive complete games against the Braves. In that time, Roberts had a 12-1 record against the Braves.
This week, fifty-seven years ago, the Milwaukee Braves finally got to the Phillies ace. The right-hander was relieved in the seventh after giving up six hits, five runs and one walk through six complete innings.
Opposing pitcher and future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn pitched a complete game for the Braves, allowing the Phillies just one run on seven hits. Roberts took the loss in a 5-1 defeat.
In the 13 complete games prior to the loss on Aug. 24, Roberts' only loss came on June 12, 1954 when Braves pitcher Jim Wilson threw a no-hitter.
For the winningest pitcher in the National League from 1952 to 1955, losing was uncommon – and difficult to take.
"I never slept when I lost. I'd see the sun come up without ever having closed my eyes," Roberts said. "I'd see those base hits over and over and they'd drive me crazy."
Roberts never missed a start in the 1950s. He was one of the game's most consistent and productive pitchers with six consecutive 20-win seasons from 1950 to 1955.
Roberts lead the National League in innings pitched from 1951 to 1955 and complete games from 1952 to 1956. He was named an All-Star in seven consecutive seasons, from 1950 to 1956.
"I don't think anyone was ever able to concentrate in a baseball game any better than I was," Roberts said. "I stood out there in total isolation, just throwing that ball as well as I could. Nothing bothered me."
Roberts was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Aug. 6, 1976. On his fourth try on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, he received 86.9 percent of the vote.
"Not only was he a great pitcher, but Robin was a wonderful human being," fellow Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson said. "They don't come any better than Robin."
Nicole Pappas was the public relations intern in the Class of 2011 Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program