Monday, April 29, 2013

#540 - Bob Robertson

Now this is an action shot. Big Bob Robertson shows a mighty swing in Pittsburgh and if he’s on target the ball is about an inch out of the frame. Poor Bob was in the midst of a long career down-stride which saw a lot of early promise get arrested by injuries. By the time of this photo he had no knees and a messed-up back which constricted both his playoff time and his stats. But he was still capable of launching an occasional dinger like in September when he busted a three-run crack to put the Pirates in first place. They were able to hold onto that status for about a week before the Mets got them. Bob had some mean muttonchops on some of his cards, especially in ’73 but it’s tough to tell if he’s sporting them here. A little too much action for details.

Bob Robertson was born and raised in the college town of Frostburg, Maryland. He went to Mount Savage High School, a pretty appropriate name given some of his stats there. In hoops he scored over 2,000 points in his four seasons and in baseball as a shortstop and sometimes outfielder he hit .568 his senior year. He was signed by the Pirates after graduating in ’64 and because he grew a bunch his senior year was moved to third base. There he had a bit of trouble getting acclimated to his new position – he barely fielded .800 – but hit the ball at a .302 clip in Rookie ball with 13 homers and 63 RBI’s in only 70 games. In ’65 he moved up to A ball where he improved his numbers on both sides, fielding at a .932 average and putting up a .303 average with 32 homers and 98 RBI’s. In ’66 in Double A he won his league’s triple crown with a .287/32/99 season. He finally slowed down a bit in Triple A in ’67 when he hit .256 with 128 strikeouts in only 367 at bats. But he also had 19 homers and 63 RBI’s in his first season of playing some at first base. He came up to Pittsburgh that September and hit a massive homer at the Astrodome to get everyone excited. In ’68 he had a nice spring training but at the end of it he had to be hospitalized for a kidney infection that required surgery and then a follow-up after the infection spread to his other one. Bob missed the whole season and didn’t swing the bat again until winter instructional league ball when he had seven homers and 27 RBI’s in about 40 games. After another good spring camp he beat out fellow rookie Al Oliver for the first base job but after hitting only .180 with 27 strikeouts in his 78 at bats he was sent down to Triple A where he banged out 34 with 76 RBI’s – and a big reduction in K’s – in only 360 at bats.

Robertson returned to The Show in ’70 to again battle it out for first base time with Oliver, who had a nice rookie year. Bob got most of the starts at first while Al added some outfield time to keep him in the lineup. Bob turned in a pretty big year with those homer and RBI totals in less than 400 at bats. He then added a double to his numbers in the playoff loss to the Reds. His ’71 numbers took a slight haircut to his prior season but his post-season was awesome. He hit three out – one on a missed bunt sign – in one game against the Giants and for the playoffs batted .438 with four homers and six RBI’s. He followed that up with two homers and five RBI’s in the Series win against the Orioles, which was celebrated by the iconic photo of Steve Blass leaping into Bob’s arms. Then the bad stuff happened. Bob had missed about thirty games in ’71 because of knee problems. In ’72 Willie Stargell was moved primarily to first – ironically to take pressure off his knees – and Bob put in some outfield time which aggravated his. He also had a prolonged hitting slump and between those two elements his playing time was reduced about a third, his average collapsed, and his power numbers tanked. In ’73 he injured one knee badly at Wrigley and after a ’74 in which his numbers were pretty good in the power department – 16 homers and 48 RBI’s in only 236 at bats – he had operations on both knees. But his mobility was shot and after bouncing to .274 with a .388 OBA in ’75 (but in only 124 at bats) Bob had another knee operation. That killed his ’76 season during which he hit .217 with only two homers in 129 at bats.

The Pirates released Robertson at the end of spring training in ’77. At the time he claimed he was injured – and a back surgery performed shortly thereafter pretty much confirmed that – and he filed a grievance against the Pirates to collect his season’s pay since he claimed he should have been on the DL and not released (he won). In November he signed as a free agent with Seattle where in ’78 he had not bad numbers as a DH with a.230/8/28 season in 174 at bats. But the Mariners released him and after a short tryout with Kansas City he hooked up with the Blue Jays for whom he played a few games in ’79 before retiring. Bob finished with a .242 average with 115 homers and 368 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .283 with six homers and 12 RBI’s in 21 games.

After playing Robertson had his own advertising agency and also some motivational speech work. He returned to baseball in the early Nineties to coach in the Houston organization (from about 1990 to ’97) before hooking up as a salesman with Bayliner, a Maryland-based power boat manufacturer, which he was doing at the time of a 2011 interview. He also does card gigs and makes appearances on behalf of the Pirates.

Topps rightfully capitalizes on Bob’s ’71 post-season work for the star bullets. His name is really Robert Robertson – no imagination there – and he liked to play guitar. I know he’s way too big but did this guy used to moonlight for The Band? And nothing personal against Bob, but in this set he’s about the least deserving of a “10” card designation of anyone so far.

The only true link has to go through the Angels since Allen just didn’t pitch enough elsewhere:

1. Roberston and Leroy Stanton ’78 Mariners;
2. Stanton and Lloyd Allen ’72 to ’73 Angels.eHHeHYeHJh

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