Gaylord Perry? Jim Kaat? Jered Weaver? Jerry Koosman? There are so many choices for this day in the Opening Day Countdown Down Under as we mark the time left until Major League Baseball begins its regular season on March 22 in Sydney, Australia. But when you hold the Major League record for consecutive Opening Day starts for the same team at 12, this is your place.
Robin Roberts started for the Phillies on April 18, 1950, in front of 29,074 fans at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Facing the defending National League champs from Brooklyn, the right-hander from Springfield, Ill., didn’t let a Dodger past first base until the seventh inning, and by then the Phillies had an 8-0 lead. Roberts went on to the first of 21 complete games that season, and that was just the beginning. He also went on to his first of six straight 20-win seasons, his first of seven straight All-Star selections, and led that group of young Phillies known affectionately as the “Whiz Kids” to their first World Series in 35 years, ultimately swept by the Yankees that fall.
Roberts also beat the Dodgers the next Opening Day, so little wonder then that the Phillies kept a good thing going. The greatest righty in Phillies history would start every Opening Day after that through the 1961 season (5-6 with one no-decision in those outings), so a generation of fans knew it was officially Baseball Season when No. 36 made his first appearance. Roberts dominated on the hill with two pitches, fastball and curve, and a smooth and efficient motion with a penchant for finishing what he started. He passed away in May 2010 at the age of 83 as a beloved Hall of Famer, and he left a legacy that included Opening Day personification.
Don Newcombe was the Dodgers’ opposing pitcher that day in 1950 at Shibe, and he said it was “a pleasure to pitch” and always braced for a “battle” against Roberts for so many games in their careers. Watch:
Here is a video look back at Roberts’ career:
The 2014 Phillies open the regular season March 31 at Texas and then host Milwaukee on April 7 in the home opener at Citizens Bank Park. Who should follow Roberts at 35 Days in our countdown? Keep coming back as we add a new Opening Day moment each midnight ET on the way to Sydney and plan for your season at the ballpark. MLB Schedule | Tickets