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Rube Robinson

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John Henry Roberson, also known as Rube Robinson and Hank Robinson, born August 16th, 18871 in Floyd, AR, was a professional baseball player from 1908-1929.

Biography

Robinson was the son of Joseph Allen Roberson and Isabelle (nee Stroud) Roberson and grew up in White County, AR.2

Robinson made his professional debut in the 1908 Arkansas State League with Argenta and Newport. He also played with Jonesboro in the 1909 Arkansas State League, Newport in the 1909 Northeast Arkansas League, El Reno in the 1910 Western Association and Caruthersville in the 1910 Northeast Arkansas League before going on to pitch in higher classifications on baseball. He played in parts of six major league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees between 1911-1918. Robinson spent the majority of the rest of his career in the Southern Association with the Little Rock Travelers.

In all, Robinson won more games and pitched more innings than any other Arkansan in history. He
had a professional career win-loss record of approximately 329-2393 and pitched an estimated 4942.0 innings.4 Robinson won 190 of his games as a member of the Little Rock Travelers, an all-time franchise record. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1962 and the Texas League Hall of Fame in 2011.

Robinson died on July 3rd, 1965 in North Little Rock, AR.56 He was buried in Edgewood Cemetery in North Little Rock, AR.7

Excerpts

"Pete Robinson, a left handed pitcher from Beebe, appeared in the [Argenta] Shamrock uniform this morning and will probably be given a try-out this afternoon."8

"John Henry Roberson, who gained baseball fame as Rube Robinson, died Friday night at his North Little Rock home after a long illness. He was 75. The former star lefthander of the Little Rock Travelers was elected to the Arkansas Hall of Fame [sic] in 1962. He was born at Floyd in White County on August 16, 1889. He broke into professional baseball with Newport in 1908. When he retired in 1929, he had won 304 games. "Rube" was the natural baseball nickname for country boys in those days, and "Roberson" persistently became "Robinson" in the box scores. Rube didn't protest. He pitched in the National League for Pittsburgh and the St. Louis Cardinals, 1912-1916, and briefly for the New York Yankees in the American League in 1918. His composite major league record was 42-37. He Lilked [sic] Home. It was said that he had bona fide major league ability, but he always grew restless and homesick in the big leagues. Too far from White County, and also he couldn't get along with Miller Huggins, his manager at St. Louis in 1914-1915 and at New York. He proved he could win in the majors. He pitched 175 innings for Pittsburgh in 1912, with a 12-7 record and a 2.26 earned run average. The next year, he went 14-9 fir the Pirates in 196 innings, with a 2.39 ERA. After that, his won-lost totals were spotty, but his big league earned run average remained consistently low. In his short stay with the Yankees, he beat the Red Sox (who were en route to the pennant) on a two-hitter. Little Rock was perfect for him because it was so close to home. And for Little Rock, Rube was nearly perfect most of the time. He posted Top Mark. He was sold to the Travelers by St. Louis in 1916, at his own request, and started in the Southern Association with an 11-1 record. For the next six seasons, he reeled off these marks: 21-17, 8-2, 23-12, 26-12, 17-20, and 26-11. He was sold to New Orleans in 1923, but returned to Little Rock the next year and stayed until 1928, when he moved over the Atlanta for finish his career. He was never as successful during his second hitch with the Travelers, because by then he was pitching for a string of cellar clubs. His 26-12 chart in 1920 led the Travelers to their first pennant. They didn't win another until 1937. He is rated the best left=handed pitcher to work in the Southern for any extended period of time. He is the only pitcher to win 25 or more games more than once. Had Best Control. It was said that he had the best control of any lefthander in baseball. In 1911, when he was 22 years old, he pitched 300 innings for Fort Worth and walked only 60 batters. He went 28-7 in the Texas League that year, and was purchased by Pittsburgh. He was a great student of pitching -and a great student of hitters he faced. He was an agonizingly slow worker on the mound and although fans do not ordinarily like a slow worker, Robinson was a favorite all over the league. He was a good hitter as pitchers go, and often drove in important runs for himself. He was particularly rough on the Memphis Chicks, and for a dozen years he was almost unbeatable against them. Old-timers say he didn't need a warm-up, because he didn't throw hard enough to get up a sweat. In later years, when asked his stock in trade, Robinson would smile, wink, and say softly: "I pulled the string on 'em." Meaning, they say, he threw slow, slower, and still slower. But when he was younger, just out of White County, he threw hard. Held SA Records. He held the Southern Association records for most innings pitched (3,128), mostly [sic] victories (208) and most years with one club -13 with Little Rock, eight of them in succession. He topped all Southern pitchers in lifetime fielding with 1,147 chances and 1,013 assists. After baseball, he moved to North Little Rock to work for Missouri Pacific Lines and mange their amateur team. He managed the team to two championships and gave it up. He then put in a full career with the state Highway Department, retiring in 1959. Like many other outstanding baseball players, he had little interest in the game after retirement. He did, however, become absorbed in the sandlot careers of his grandchildren. Survivors include in his wife, Mrs. Dorothy Lattuce Roberson; a son, Fred O. Roberson, and a sister, Mrs. Frank Haggie, all of North Little Rock; a sister, Mrs. Arthur Allen of Woodruff, S.C.; two brothers, Earsy Roberson of Searcy and Earl Roberson of Benton, two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p. m. Tuesday at the First Methodist Church at North Little Rock. Burial will be in Edgewood Cemetery at North Little Rock. Arrangements are by Healy and Roth."5

Stats

Statistics at Baseball-Reference.com.

1. It's not entirely clear when Robinson was born. Early sources, including the 1900 U.S. Census , 1910 U.S. Census , Robinson's World War I Draft Card and his marriage license , indicate that he was born between 1886-1888. Later sources, including Robinson's World War II Draft Card , Social Security Death Index , obituary, and grave marker all consistently give Robinson's birth year as 1889. However, because Robinson's younger sister Margaret Maradia Roberson Quattlebaum is documented as having been born in February of either 1889 or 1890, it can be surmised that Robinson must have been born between 1886-1888. For the purposes of this page, Robinson's birth year is given as 1887 based on his World War I Draft Card.
3. Several seasons of Robinson's earliest minor league statistics are missing or imprecise. Based on box scores, it appears Robinson went 7-6 in the 1908 Arkansas State League, 11-8 in the 1909 Arkansas State League, 9-2 in the 1909 Northeast Arkansas League, and 7-0 in the 1910 Northeast Arkansas League. However, the 1909 Reach Baseball Guide credits Robinson with a 9-5 record in the 1908 Arkansas State League and the 1910 Reach Baseball Guide credits him with a 9-3 record in the 1909 Northeast Arkansas League.
4. Inning totals are not available for several of Robinson earliest minor league seasons. However, based on boxscores, it is estimated that he pitched approximately 125 innings in the 1908 Arkansas State League, 180 innings in the 1909 Arkansas State League, 105 innings in the 1909 Northeast Arkansas League, 180 innings with El Reno in the 1910 Western Association, and 72 in the 1910 Northeast Arkansas League.
5. Arkansas Gazette, 7/4/1965, p.3B