Thursday, June 21, 2012
#491) ROBERT PERSON
Robert was used primarily as a starting pitcher in the minors, but made his big-league debut from the Mets bullpen on September 18, 1995. He threw two scoreless innings in the 7-1 New York loss to the Atlanta Braves at Fulton County Stadium. Days later, a steady rain at Shea Stadium postponed his home debut and first starting assignment in the major leagues. "I was on edge all night and I was so pumped up," Person was quoted. "My objective was to show what I can do and to pitch to the hitters like I can." Robert got that chance on September 27th, and made the most of his opportunity. He threw seven innings of one-run baseball and was credited with the 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Person also added a pair of singles and scored a run. "Getting my first major league win and my first major league hit were both just as exciting as the other," beamed Robert. "I was proud of myself and my team."
Person was given a chance to pitch from the New York bullpen to start the 1996 season. He struggled early and was returned to Norfolk at the end of April with a 8.44 ERA. He returned to the Mets in June, but this time in the starting rotation. It was a change that seemed to make all the difference. Robert hurled 20 innings in his first three starts while striking out 20 hitters. "I'm not looking over my shoulder," Person said. "I'm pretty confident now." When injured Mets pitcher, Paul Wilson returned from the disabled list it returned Robert to the relief core on July 12th. He finished the year pitching a combination of the two roles that yielded a final record of 4-5, 89.2 innings, 79 strikeouts and a 4.52 ERA.
That winter the Mets traded Person to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for John Olerud on December 20, 1996. Robert would pitch nine years in the major leagues. Including a 15 win season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2001.
Life after professional baseball was a struggle for Person. Bad business decisions saw the money he had earned disappear. "It's been hard," Robert told Sports Illustrated in 2011. "Sometimes I get down, But I try not to stay down. When you're playing you assume—by investing your money—you'll be set for life. Well, I trusted the wrong people. Bad people who took advantage." The former pitcher found limited work as a carpenter in Largo, Florida and played in several recreational leagues. "I left my ego at the door a long time ago."
I created Robert Person's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Kyle's Sportscards on November 20, 2011.