His deep baritone voice is reminiscent of Elvis, and he's known to croon Falling in Love with You on karaoke nights.
Wearing a straw cowboy-style hat and an almost-southern drawl, Bob Robertson graciously chats with golfers and volunteers at Iron Masters Country Club during the Becky Sheetz Memorial Golf Tournament. When asked for an autograph he says, "Thank you," pleased that fans still remember and appreciate his days as Pittsburgh Pirate.
The former first baseman enjoyed playing during one of the greatest eras in Bucco baseball history. With teammates the likes of Bill Mazeroski and Willie Stargell, his locker stood next to Roberto Clemente's.
"My memories were as a young adult laying on my grandmother's couch listening to the games [on the radio] and hearing names like Stargell and Clemente," Robertson said, "and then to find myself at spring training with those guys and running onto the field with them just a few years later."
But for all the accolades the future hall-of-famers received, it was Robertson who was the first player to blast a home run to the left field upper deck at Three Rivers Stadium. He also belted two home runs during the 1971 World Series, helping the Pirates defeat Baltimore four-games-to-three; his post-season performance remains one of the finest in Pirate history.
"What made our team great was our will to win," he said, "We got upset when we lost in spring training. We had talent and depth, but we also had pride in our city, in ourselves, and in the uniforms we got to put on every day."
Robertson recognizes the changing times in baseball. Having played before the era of free agency, when big league teams were built from the farm system up, he notes the game had a purity that may have gone by the wayside in this age of technology, acknowledging every swing is now analyzed by computers.
This gentle giant has never lost respect for the game he loves, or for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, even though the current team has endured fifteen straight losing seasons. He is an active member of the Pirates Alumni Association and still gives back to many communities of Pirate fans in Central and Western Pennsylvania.
Today's star players could learn a lesson from this sentimental soul who enjoys photographing wildlife in his wooded Maryland backyard.
He doesn't hesitate to reflect on his teenage years, when he sat in the stands at Forbes field, marveling at the spotless white baseballs and the professional players who never seemed to drop them. "I'm gonna play down there one of these days," he told a friend.
That day came more quickly than he imagined, and like most dreams, was over far too soon. Injuries took their toll, but Robertson still relishes every moment of his baseball career, particularly his decade in Pittsburgh.
Once and always a Pirate, he says, "I wish every young player could experience one day in the big leagues."
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.