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Former Sun dies in car crash

March 01, 1999

Ken RobinsonBy BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Ken Robinson was always known as a small man with a big heart, and even bigger aspirations.

That will be the memory that will remain with the Hagerstown Suns family and fans of Robinson, who died early Sunday in a one-car auto accident in Tucson, Ariz., near the Arizona Diamondbacks' training site.

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Robinson, who pitched for the Suns in 1993 and 1994, was the passenger in a car driven by minor league teammate John Rosengren, 26. Rosengren has been charged with second-degree murder in the alcohol-related accident, according to Pima County police.

Police said Rosengren's car went off the road and overturned. Paramedics arrived at 1:40 a.m. to find both men in the vehicle. Rosengren showed signs of impairment, and a blood sample was taken, police said.

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Robinson, 29, was pronounced dead at the scene of a severe head injury, police said. Rosengren was not injured. Neither player was wearing a seat belt. He is survived by his wife, Lorrie, and a 22-month-old son, Chase. The family lives in Jacksonville, Fla.

It took a tragic auto accident to stop Robinson's quest to become a major league pitcher.

"He was one of the nicest guys you'd ever wanted to meet," said Hagerstown general manager David Blenckstone. "He overcame all kinds of obstacles in his major and minor league career, starting with his height. It's too bad. It's so refreshing to see a kid like him make it."

The diminutive Robinson was listed as 5-foot-9 in Toronto media guides, but actually stood three inches shorter. Although he didn't have the prototype body of a major league pitcher, no one questioned his desire.

"He was a big little guy," said Hagerstown Fan Club president Gary Deweerd. "We always teased him because his card said he was 5-10 when he was probably 5-6. He always stretched his height. He always tried to stand tall."

Robinson overcame radical reconstructive surgery of his right shoulder in 1991 to start a steady climb through the Toronto system which culminated in a promotion to the Blue Jays in 1995. He went on to pitch for Kansas City in 1996 before returning to the Toronto organization in '97. He was picked up by the expansion Diamondbacks before the 1998 season.

Robinson had been a part of the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster in spring training a year ago, but missed the season because of shoulder surgery. He and Rosengren, who also missed all of last season after arm surgery, were awaiting the opening of the Diamondbacks' minor league training camp.

''This is a sad and tragic day for me personally,'' said Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter. ''The organization will miss Ken Robinson, both as a person and as a player. He was a competitor in every sense of the word.''

Neither height or a surgically repaired arm stopped Robinson from his quest.

The Akron, Ohio, native came to the Suns in 1993 to test his arm in the first full year after rehabilitation. He went 4-7 in 40 appearances with at 4.65 ERA with 65 strikeouts.

A disappointed Robinson returned to Hagerstown in '94, but he took the assignment with maturity.

"It's a challenge," Robinson said. "When people look at me and look at (former Suns 6-7 first baseman) D.J. Boston, who's going to be considered the better major-league prospect? That's because of my height and I have to do it 10 times better because of it."

He made 10 appearances with Hagerstown in 1994, going 4-1 with a 3.20 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 20 innings. He also played at Single-A Dunedin and Triple-A Syracuse that season.

"It didn't take long for him to move up once he was healthy," Blenckstone said. "When he was healthy, he blew batters away."

He made his major-league debut with Toronto on July 20, 1995 and won his first big league game on Aug. 1 in Baltimore.

After a brief stint with the Royals in 1996, he returned to Toronto. During his three games with Toronto in 1997, he allowed just one hit, Cecil Fielder's 300th career home run in Yankee Stadium. He made 29 appearances in his career, going 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA.

"It was great to see him make it to the majors," Blenckstone said. "His size always jumped out at you, but he didn't use that as an excuse ... it was a motivator. In the majors, they measure everyone in size and with radar guns, but the can't measure a kid's heart."

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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