In evaluating the 1997 Philadelphia Phillies for that team’s position player entry for the ‘Phillies 50’ series we find that there were no “one-and-done” players. Every position player enjoyed multiple seasons in Major League Baseball.
The most random player from that team is Mike Robertson. That 1997 campaign was the middle of three straight seasons in which he appeared in the big-leagues with three different organizations.
Robertson was a lefty bat and glove who was selected by the Chicago White Sox with their third round pick in the 1991 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Southern California.
During the 1994 season while at Double-A Birmingham, Robertson would get a treat when he lockered next to basketball great Michael Jordan during the latter’s attempt at professional baseball with the White Sox.
“I think he would have been an awesome baseball player if he would have started younger,” Robertson said per Charley Walters of the Southern Valley News. “You would see flashes of brilliance, something amazing and go ‘wow.’ There would be a burst, but then it was back to sub-par…I think he would have been like a Dave Winfield kind of player.”
Jordan’s foray into the baseball world would last just that one minor league season in which he played in 127 games with Birmingham before returning to the NBA.
Robertson would spend six full seasons rising through the Chisox farm system before finally get the call to MLB when rosters expanded in 1996. He would go 1-7 over a half-dozen games that month, and on the final day of the season in his only starting opportunity, Robertson would register his first big-league hit.
Manager Terry Bevington wrote his name into the starting lineup on that Sunday afternoon September 29, 1996 playing first base at the Metrodome against the host Minnesota Twins. With two outs and the scored tied at 3-3 in the top of the 6th inning and Darren Lewis at first base, Robertson laced a double off Scott Aldred into the right-center gap. Unfortunately, Lewis was cut down at the plate to end the inning.
On January 31, 1997 the Phillies obtained Robertson in trade from Chicago in exchange for a very similar player from their own system, 26-year-old Gene Schall. Assigned to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Robertson had a solid season. He slashed .298/.384/.440 with a dozen home runs and 72 RBIs, leading to a late August promotion to Philadelphia.
Robertson would appear in 22 games with that last place 1997 Phillies team under first-year manager Terry Francona over the season’s final month. He would make four starts in left field and one each in right field, at first base, and as a designated hitter.
His second appearance with the club would prove to be his biggest game. Starting in left field for the first game of a twi-night doubleheader on Monday, August 25, 1997 against the visiting San Diego Padres at Veterans Stadium, Robertson went 2-4 with a run scored and three RBIs.
Robertson delivered an RBI single off Will Cunnane in the bottom of the 4th inning that scored Rico Brogna with the first run of the ball game. In the bottom of the 5th his bases-loaded double scored Mike Lieberthal and Billy McMillon to make it a 6-0 game. The Phillies would go on to a 10-1 victory.
Five days later, Robertson would secure a minor place in Phillies history. On Saturday night August 30, 1997 during a 2-0 victory over the host Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium, Francona used him as the designated hitter. He singled in the top of the 6th inning and with two outs and the team holding a 2-0 lead, Robertson stole second base. He thus became the first Phillies designated hitter in history to swipe a bag.
In all, Robertson slashed .211/.268/.316 with three runs scored and four RBIs over 41 plate appearances with the Phillies during that 1997 season. Among his eight total hits were a pair of doubles and a triple.
Robertson became a free agent the following off-season and signed on with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks on January 12, 1998. He would appear in 11 games with the Dbacks during their inaugural season, all during the month of June, and that would be it for his playing career.