Lung cancer from asbestos exposure brought down former World Series pitcher Dave Roberts at the age of 64. The culmination of his 13-year career in the major leagues was when he played for the 1979 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He began in 1969 playing for the San Diego Padres. Over the next 13 seasons, he would pitch 103-125 with an ERA of 3.75 over his career with eight different teams. He retired from baseball after playing in 1981 for the New York Mets, but his problems arose from his work in the off seasons.
When not playing baseball, Roberts was a boilermaker. This exposed him to asbestos dust at a time when its dangers were just being introduced to the public. Exposure to asbestos is a known cause of lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
Roberts’ work as a boilermaker resulted in his daily inhaling asbestos dust that settled in his lungs and led to his ultimate demise. Roberts is fondly remembered by his former teammates from the eight teams with whom he played. These teams included ball clubs in Houston, San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and New York Mets. President of baseball operations for the Houston Astros Tal Smith remembered Roberts: “Dave was the consummate pro…. He averaged 35 starts and 12 wins a year for the club during his four years as an Astro, but he’ll really be remembered and missed for the leadership he provided and for being such a good guy.” When he played with the Houston Astros in 1973, Roberts had a career high of 17 wins and six shutouts. Just two years before when he was playing for the San Diego Padres, in 1971, Roberts finished second in the National League (NL) to Tom Seaver with a season ERA of 2.10. Dave Roberts passed away January 9, 2009, at his home in Stop Gap, West Virginia. He is survived by his wife Carol and step-daughter Kristy Rogan.