Born: September 3, 1977 (Wichita, KS)
Graduated: Maize High School, 1995 / Wichita State University, 1999
Baseball is a funny game. It’s full of unwritten rules, quirky habits, and superstitions, and it has seemingly been that way since the beginning of time. Every team has their own oddity, their own magic, their own rally cry. For the Detroit Tigers in 2006, it was “Gum Time” invented by Maize native Nate Robertson.
The story goes that the Tigers were losing to the Yankees in June game during the 2006 season. Robertson, in the middle of his fifth season as a professional, pulled out a wad of bubble gum and jammed it in his mouth during an on-camera interview during the game. Almost immediately, Ivan Rodriguez hit a home run that sparked a Tiger rally. And the legend of “Gum Time” was born.
The originator of “Gum Time,” Robertson grew up around the game from a young age. Robertson grew up playing baseball with three brothers all playing at the same time and their dad coached them. In fact, it was his father that talked him out of quitting the game when he was four years old.
By the time Robertson reached high school, he had the attention of scouts and collegiate coaches throughout the country. As a sophomore, Robertson helped lead the Eagles to a state runner up finish in 1993. He also set the state career record at Maize with a 0.79 ERA. Robertson was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the fifteenth round out of high school but instead chose to play collegiately for his hometown school, and fellow Kansas Sports Hall of Fame coach Gene Stephenson, at Wichita State University.
The goal of playing for the Shockers was implanted in Robertson’s mind after watching Wichita State beat Texas in the College World Series in 1989. He knew that was where he wanted to play. He didn’t disappoint either. Robertson was a three-year letterman at Wichita State, led the team in ERA as a freshman in 1997, and had two undefeated seasons in the black and yellow. Not too bad for missing his entire sophomore campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Robertson was drafted in the fifth round of the 1999 MLB draft by the Florida Marlins following his junior campaign that saw him post an 8-0 record. He made his major league debut three year later in 2002 with the Marlins and one of his fondest memories was celebrating his call up with his fiancée in Pittsburgh. Robertson signed with the Detroit Tigers the following year and spent the next seven seasons with the Tigers before finishing his last major league season split between the Philadelphia Phillies and Marlins.
Another of Robertson’s favorite memories came in the same season he invented “Gum Time” in 2006 when he started game three of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Robertson was a key piece of the rotation for the Tigers and finished that season with a 13-13 record with a 3.84 ERA during the regular season with over 200 innings pitched. During the postseason run that year, Robertson made three starts and posted a 5.17 ERA with eight strikeouts over 15.2 innings pitched.
During his nine-year career, Robertson posted record of 57-77 in 223 career games with a 5.01 career ERA. He averaged 6.1 strike outs per nine innings and finished with 775 career strikeouts.
Baseball really is a funny game. Did the invention of “Gum Time” actually make the difference in getting the Tigers to the World Series in 2006? Maybe. Maybe not. But there is no doubting the influence of the player that invented the quirky rallying cry: Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Nate Robertson.
By: Julia Jorns