The NL Central includes four ancient teams and MLB’s other team that switched leagues relatively recently. Who are their forgotten stars?
As June opens, and the reality of baseball “after” the COVID-19 pandemic becomes totally unclear, Call to the Pen presents the third in our series of stars forgotten by MLB history. As with the earlier pieces in this series, we’re sorting by current divisions. Today: the current NL Central teams’ obscure stars.
Bill Robinson, Pirates – Like many in the rest of our series, Bill Robinson was a star for only a relatively brief period with the Pirates, but he certainly did contribute to the Bucs effort at the end of the 1970s during their old, cross-state rivalry with the Philadelphia Phillies. Interestingly, the Elizabeth, PA native ended up playing for both franchises for a total of 12 of his 16 years in MLB.
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Both teams were very good in the late ’70s, the Pirates finally winning the World Series in 1979, and the Phillies in ’80.
Robinson retired after the 1983 season with the Phillies, but he had his best season in Pittsburgh in ’77, when the Pirates were very good, but not quite good enough to win their division. They won 96, the Phillies 101.
That year for Robbie (or Weaser) was in the middle of a five-year stretch in which the first baseman-outfielder hit .280 or better in four seasons with two years over .300. He drove in 104 runs in ’77, and at some level, one must wonder, “How?” The team also included Al Oliver, Phil Garner, Dave Parker, and Willie Stargell.
Robinson beat them all by at least 16 RBI – Parker was second. Robinson was also third on the team in average at .304.
It’s a bit difficult to evaluate Robbie as fielder since he played all three outfield positions, as well as first and third base. He was a marginal disaster at third, playing there infrequently and posting a Rtot of minus-14 (“you could look it up”), but in less obscure analytical terms, he was at or above the league average for fielding percentage for three of his other four positions.
For older folks, Bill Robinson’s place in MLB history is as a .258 hitter who played for several very good teams as a starter or frequently platooned player. For younger fans, well, who knows how he might finally be judged?
He never won any MLB awards except a paycheck, but in 1977, he finished in 11th place in the MVP vote. As a Pirates fan as a kid, I’d say Robinson deserves a minor star’s respect. In ’77, he had 13 three-hit games. Moreover, that best statistical year was his age-34 season. He learned.
Sadly, Bill Robinson died young, at the age of 64.