Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Jim Rooker (#222)

This is Jim Rooker's first solo card, and one of the many nice cards from the '69 and '70 sets featuring the new Royals' uniform.

Although the expansion 1969 Royals pitching staff was led by ex-Oriole veterans Wally Bunker and Moe Drabowsky, Rooker was one of several youngsters (along with Roger Nelson, Dick Drago, Bill Butler, and Tom Burgmeier) forming the foundation of a solid pitching staff.

Rooker was signed by the Tigers in 1960, and was an outfielder in their minor-league system from 1960-64. He has also pitched 10 innings in 1962, but by 1964 was pitching on a regular basis.

In 1965 he pitched 115 innings in 28 games, collecting 95 strikeouts but only compiling a 2-11 record. After another 2 1/2 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut with the Tigers in mid-1968, pitching 2 innings on June 30 and 2 more on July 6th, before returning to the minors.

The day after the season was over, he was sent to the Yankees as payment for the earlier acquisition of pitcher John Wyatt. 2 weeks later, he was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft.

Jim was the team's #5 starter the first year, then jumped to #2 in 1970. He was moved to the bullpen in 1971, and spent parts of ’71 and 72 in triple-A. Upon his return to Kansas City in 1972 he was back in the starting rotation.

After the 1972 season he was traded to the Pirates for pitcher Gene Garber. He put in 7 solid seasons (1973-79) in the Pirates' starting rotation, and for the first few years was one of their top 3 starters (along with Jerry Reuss and John Candelaria) He played in the post-season in '74, '75, and '79.

Rooker only pitched 4 games in 1980 (the last on May 2nd) and was released after the season, ending his 13-year career.

After his playing career he was a broadcaster for the Pirates from 1981-1993, and for ESPN from 1994-97.

From Wikipedia:

Rooker's most famous moment as a broadcaster came on June 8, 1989, during a Pirates' road game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium. The Pirates scored 10 runs in the top of the first inning, including three on a Barry Bonds home run. 

As the Pirates' cross-state rivals came to bat in the bottom of the first, Rooker said on the air, "If we don't win this one, I don't think I'd want to be on that plane ride home. Matter of fact, if we don't win, I'll walk back to Pittsburgh." 

Both Von Hayes and Steve Jeltz hit two home runs (the latter would hit only five during his Major League career) to trigger a Phillies comeback. In the eighth inning the Phillies, now trailing only 11–10, scored the tying run on a wild pitch, then took the lead on Darren Daulton's two-run single and went on to win 15–11. 

Rooker had to wait until after the season to make good on his "walk home" promise, conducting a 300-mile-plus (480 km) charity walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. 

He now writes childrens' books.

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