From ace starter in Montreal to World Series-winning closer in Brooklyn, Ed Roebuck certainly proved his versatility on the mound in the mid-1950s.
After tying for the team lead in wins (18) with the Triple-A Montreal Royals in 1954, Roebuck made the big league Dodgers as a reliever the following spring. Brooklyn bench boss Walter Alston, who had previously managed Roebuck in Montreal, believed that the 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander could be a reliable arm at the back end of his bullpen. And he was right.
The 24-year-old Roebuck, the only rookie on the 1955 Dodgers, rewarded his manager’s faith in him, by recording 12 saves (second-most in the National League) and helping Brooklyn defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series for their only title. Roebuck pitched two scoreless innings in his only 1955 Fall Classic appearance.
“I was too busy just trying to stay on the team that I didn’t have time to smell the roses,” Roebuck told the Los Angeles Times in 1985, when asked about his role with the 1955 Dodgers. “I still can’t believe that I was there. I honestly thought that all of the players were so much better than me.”
And you can’t blame him for thinking that. It was a long road to the big leagues for Roebuck.
Born in East Millsboro, Pa., in 1931, he was a multi-sport star in high school who honed his pitching skills with local American Legion and coal mining teams. When Roebuck turned 18, multiple big league clubs were interested in signing him. He had attended a tryout camp with the Dodgers in Washington but hadn’t heard anything back from them, so he actually had an agreement to sign with the Boston Red Sox until the Dodgers intervened.
“We [his family] lived way back in the sticks and one day this big black Buick comes up to the house and I was surprised that he [the Dodgers representative] got his car through all the mud and everything,” Roebuck said prior to his induction into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. “He wanted to take me to Brooklyn and my mother said, ‘You’re not taking him anywhere until his brother okays the deal.’ I had five brothers and three sisters and my one brother Joe said, ‘Go ahead and go with him.’ The guy was Jim Murray from the Dodgers ticket department and he drove me to Brooklyn. We went to Ebbets Field and I worked out again. I went to Brooklyn on the recommendation of scouts Rex and Joe Bowen who had run the tryout camp in Washington.
“Branch Rickey took me up to his office and he presented me with a contract, but I had already committed to the Red Sox, but Boston couldn’t match Brooklyn’s offer, so I signed with the Dodgers.”
Roebuck reported to the Dodgers’ Class-B Newport News in 1949 and started the 1950 season there again until he was promoted to Class-A Elmira, where he pitched for the entire 1951 campaign. He first landed with the Triple-A Montreal Royals in 1952, where he would win 12 games and post a 2.29 ERA to help the Royals to an International League-best 95-56 record.
He returned to Montreal the following season and registered 15 wins and a 3.07 ERA to help the club win both the league championship and Junior World Series. Unfortunately, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and Johnny Podres had strangleholds on spots in the Dodgers rotation, so it was difficult for Roebuck to advance. In 1954, the sinker-ball throwing Roebuck was, again, assigned to Montreal. That season, he tied Ken Lehman for the team lead with 18 wins and finished with a solid 3.07 ERA.
The next spring, he finally cracked the big league staff and became a mainstay in the Dodgers’ bullpen for several years. After recording a 2.71 ERA in 44 games in 1957, Roebuck was effective again the ensuing year until he was sidelined by a shoulder injury in July that forced him to miss the remainder of the season and good chunk of 1959.
Roebuck came back to pitch effectively in 1960, before re-injuring his shoulder in 1961. He returned in 1962 to enjoy his finest season with the Dodgers (10 wins, 3.09 ERA), before he was dealt to the Washington Senators for Marv Breeding on June 30, 1963.
He pitched well for the Senators, before he was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies on April 21, 1964. That year, he put together his best big league season, posting a 2.21 ERA in a career-high 60 appearances. He would toe the rubber for the Phillies for parts of two more seasons before hanging up his playing spikes.
After his playing career, Roebuck scouted for several teams, including the Dodgers, Phillies, Braves, Reds, Pirates and Red Sox. Two of his most notable signings were future all-stars Jason Kendall and Freddy Sanchez.
Roebuck retired from scouting in 2004 and now resides in Lakewood, Calif., with his wife, Janice, who he has been married to for more than 50 years.