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Your Random D-Back: Mike Robertson

The #51 you forgot.

Mike Robertson

#51

When in 2015 the Diamondbacks announced they would retire Randy Johnson’s #51 jersey, only few, and thanks to Jim McLennan, knew that the club would automatically retire Mike Robertson’s jersey as well.

Mike Robertson formed part of the Diamondbacks’ inaugural season in 1998 and, as you might not remember, hardly contributed to the 65-97 win-loss record of the Diamondbacks that season as he played only in the month of June, in 11 games, getting just 2 hits. He didn’t even field a position for the D-Backs, appearing 10 times as a pinch hitter and one time as the designated hitter. Jim McLennan once wrapped up an article mentioning him as the worst DH the Diamondbacks had had.

But, the fun fact is that he was the only one to wear jersey #51 for the Diamondbacks before Randy Johnson made it legendary. Another fun fact is that he was a lefty, just like Randy Johnson. Yet another fun fact is that his batting line for the Diamondbacks was .154/.154/.154 (notice the consistency and how the numbers 1 and 5 return) and pretty close to Randy Johnson’s lifetime .125/.153/.152 (notice how the numbers 1 and 5 return). And how funny is it that both players went to the University of Southern California.

Less funny is that his baseball career was over after his time with the Diamondbacks. But this isn’t where the fun stops in this article.

He played with Michael Jordan

Mike Robertson grew up in Anaheim where he loved to play ball with his dad, a pro ball player who made it up to Triple A in the Washington Senators’ organisation. It was not a demanding family situation, as Robertson would recall:

“Baseball was always No. 1, but I could do anything else I wanted,” Robertson said. “We always went hunting and fishing as something to fall back on when we weren’t playing baseball. - Mike Robertson in a 1991 interview published on LA Times

The goal was to have fun playing baseball, get as far as possible but without losing the importance of an education out of sight. Robertson gets drafted in 1988 in the 13th round by the Anaheim Angels, but after consultation with his parents rejects the $100,000 check that came with the draft.

Three years later he signs with the Chicago White Sox as the 97th pick in the overall 1991 draft. Robertson is an exemplary riser in the White Sox’ minors system and shares in 1994 a locker with former NBA Star Michael Jordan who’d play his lone season in professional baseball. When Robertson gets promoted to Triple A, Michael Jordan has his private jet fly Robertson to Nashville.

“He just wanted to help out,” Robertson said. “He’s a good guy. It was a special blessing to get to know him. It was cool. [...] (Jordan) was just very generous and very kind with everybody.” - Mike Robertson on playing with Michael Jordan in a 2020 interview with Twin Cities Pioneer Press

He became the first DH in Phillies’ history to swipe a bag

Robertson hits Triple A at the age of 24, but gets stuck there for 3 seasons although in his third year he earns a call-up to the big leagues. At the end of the 1996 season the White Sox’ #43 is traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where Terry Francona starts his first season as a manager in the major leagues. He has a good season for the Phillies AAA afilliate and gets called up to the major league in the final month of the season. There the #34 earns a 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. - Storytelling by blogger Matt Veasey

By the end of the season he is released by the Phillies and signs a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks in January 1998.

After his time with the Diamondbacks he tries to return to the major leagues several times with minor league contracts at the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves but is not successful in his quest. After the 2001 season and at 30 years of age he apparently decides to retire from baseball altogether.

Nowadays Mike Robertson is a preacher at the Calvary Chapel in West Houston, spreading God’s word to anyone who wants to hear it or see it.

Unfortunately, I could not find out how he got the #51 jersey in Arizona. I sent an inquiry to the Chapel if our dear Father would be prepared to answer two very basic questions about that, but without any success. I guess the way he got the number was as random as the players who appear in this stream.