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Enshrined 1983

Considered by many as the "Babe Ruth" of stock car racing, Roberts acquired his nickname as a schoolboy baseball pitcher, not in racing as many believed. Starting with Modifieds in 1948, he competed sparingly on the NASCAR Grand National circuit through 1956, winning one race (only the 19th GN ever run) in 1950. Then he won 31 more between 1956 and 1963. He never ran for the point title, entering only the major races from 1958 on. His victories include the Rebel 300 in 1957 and ’59; the Southern 500 in 1958 and ’63; the Firecracker 250 in 1959 and ’62; the Firecracker 400 in ’63; the Dixie 300 in 1960; the Daytona 500 in 1962; and the only 500-miler ever held at Trenton, in 1958. Roberts is 13th on the all-time GN win list and he’s still tied for ninth with 10 superspeedway wins and sixth in superspeedway poles with 21. His superspeedway pole record stood until 1973 when David Pearson broke it. Roberts died of pneumonia on July 2, 1964, after having been severely burned in a three-car accident during the World 600 at Charlotte on May 24, 1964. He was 35.

List of 50 -- AARWBA 'Newsmaker of the Half-Century'
(in alphabetical order. All are drivers unless otherwise noted):
  • Bobby Allison
  • Mario Andretti
  • Michael Andretti
  • Kenny Bernstein
  • George Bignotti (Indy 500 winning chief mechanic; car builder)
  • Craig Breedlove
  • Richard Childress (NASCAR championship team owner)
  • Mark Donohue
  • Dale Earnhardt
  • Bill Elliott
  • John Force
  • A.J. Foyt
  • The France family (NASCAR and International Speedway Corp.)
  • Don Garlits
  • Jeff Gordon
  • Andy Granatelli (car owner; builder; promoter; sponsor)
  • Dan Gurney
  • Carl Haas (CART/SCCA championship team owner; sanctioning body executive; importer)
  • Jim Hall (driver; CART/SCCA championship team owner; builder; innovator)
  • Hurley Haywood
  • Rick Hendrick (NASCAR championship team owner)
  • Phil Hill
  • Al Holbert
  • The Hulman-George family (Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
  • Jim Hurtubise
  • Ned Jarrett
  • Junior Johnson (driver; NASCAR championship team owner)
  • Ted Johnson (World of Outlaws founder)
  • Parnelli Jones
  • Steve Kinser
  • Rick Mears
  • Shirley Muldowney
  • Wally Parks (NHRA founder)
  • David Pearson
  • Roger Penske (driver; winningest Indy 500 team owner; track owner; executive)
  • Richard Petty
  • Don Prudhomme
  • Fireball Roberts
  • Johnny Rutherford
  • Carroll Shelby (driver; sports car championship team owner; builder)
  • Danny Sullivan
  • Mickey Thompson (driver; builder; promoter)
  • Al Unser
  • Al Unser Jr.
  • Bobby Unser
  • Darrell Waltrip
  • Rodger Ward
  • The Wood Brothers (NASCAR team owners)
  • Cale Yarborough
  • Smokey Yunick (chief mechanic; designer; builder)
Fireball Honored: Legendary mechanic and car owner Smokey Yunick awarded the Pioneer in Racing Award to the late Fireball Roberts during a ceremony Saturday morning. Roberts’ daughter, Pamela Trivett, accepted the award for her family (11-19-2000)  
From an inauspicious start on the hard-packed sands of Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1948, Edward Glenn Roberts Jr. fashioned one of the most successful and glamorous careers in NASCAR.

     "Fireball" was a name everyone recognized. He was the epitome of the exciting, young racing star. Oddly enough, he didn't get the nickname through his on-track achievements. Rather, he earned it for his ability to throw a baseball. But baseball was never his primary interest. Racing was.

     From the time he started on the beach course at Daytona when he was 17 - he wrecked on the ninth lap of a Modified race - until his untimely death in 1964, Roberts shaped a career that saw him win 24 times in 204 races. He set more than 400 records at various tracks, including 1,644 laps led at tough, old Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, NASCAR's first superspeedway.

     Born January 20,1931 in Daytona Beach, Roberts attended the University of Florida but never graduated. He preferred racing and struck out to find his way in the sport. He found his way into NASCAR in 1949 and his career began in earnest.

     He won several times over the years, but it was on the fast, exciting new superspeedways that began to crop up in the late '50s and early '60s that he made his mark. He won the Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway in 1959 and then, in 1962, he won the Daytona 500 and the Firecracker again, thus becoming the first man to sweep the speedway's two events in a single season. In 1960, he won the Dixie 500 at Atlanta International Raceway.

     But Darlington was his favorite superspeedway and on it, Roberts became one of NASCAR's best in the fledging start of the big-track era. He won the Rebel 300 in 1957 and 1959 and the Southern 500 in 1958 and 1963.

     His 1963 victory was particularly significant. He came to the track in excellent physical shape after recovering from an injury. His plan was to start in the middle of the pack, which meant having to qualify on the second day. During practice, however, he hit the guardrail in his No.22 Holman-Moody Ford and almost washed the car out. But it was repaired in time for him to set a qualifying mark of 133.819 miles per hour that got him the ninth starting spot.

     Roberts ran a cautious race until the latter stages, when he began to charge. He took the lead with only 75 laps left and won in a cakewalk. He had run the perfect race, saving man and machine.

     A year later at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Roberts was involved in a fiery crash with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. Severely burned, he survived for 37 days before he succumbed to pneumonia.

     It was a blow to the racing world. Many have said there was no predicting how far Roberts would have progressed as a driver, since he was clearly the pathfinder of the superspeedway era. However, his niche had already been carved. When he left, he was vastly popular and vastly successful.

Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, Inducted 1990


The 50 Greatest Florida Sports Figures
This list of the top 50 greatest 20th-century athletes originally appeared in the
Dec. 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Go to: Fireball Roberts # 48
20th Century Top 50
Rank Profile
1 Deion Sanders, Fort Myers
All-state in three sports at North Fort Myers High; football All-America at Florida State; best cornerback in NFL history; 183 steals in the majors.
Emmitt Smith, Pensacola
Ran for 3,928 yards at Florida; NFL's alltime leader in rushing TDs; helped lead Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles.
3 Steve Carlton, Miami
Second-winningest lefty (329); second-most career strikeouts (4,136); four Cy Young Awards.
Chris Evert, Fort Lauderdale
Unflappable Ice Maiden used tennis's best baseline game to win 18 Grand Slam singles titles.
5 Bob Hayes, Jacksonville
At 1964 Olympics tied world record in 100 meters and anchored record-setting 4¥100 team; was in three Pro Bowls as Cowboys receiver.
Rowdy Gaines, Winter Haven
World Swimmer of the Year in 1981; won three golds at '84 Olympics; set 14 world records.
7 Deacon Jones, Eatonville
Premier defensive end with Rams coined the term sack after bashing so many quarterbacks; seven-time All-Pro.
Doris Hart, Coral Gables
Won 35 Grand Slam tennis titles and is one of two players, male or female, to pull off hat trick -- titles in singles, doubles, mixed doubles -- at all four majors.
9 Kurt Thomas, Miami
At 1978 world gymnastics championships became first U.S. male in 46 years to win floor gold; won Sullivan Award in '79.
Wade Boggs, Tampa
Batted .300 in 15 of 18 major league seasons; retired in 1999 with 3,010 hits.
11 Artis Gilmore, Chipley
Led Jacksonville to NCAA final in 1970; was 11-time All-Star in ABA and NBA; holds NBA record for career field goal shooting (59.9%).
Tim Raines, Sanford
Seven-time All-Star has 2,561 hits and is fifth alltime in steals with 807.
13 Nancy Hogshead, Jacksonville
Set national butterfly record as 14-year-old at Episcopal High; took three golds and a silver at 1984 Olympics.
Ted Hendricks, Miami
University of Miami defensive star went to eight Pro Bowls in 15 NFL seasons.
15 Mitch Richmond, Fort Lauderdale
One of four players to average 21 points in each of first 10 NBA seasons; Rookie of the Year in 1989 and six-time All-Star.
Michael Irvin, Fort Lauderdale
Rewrote Miami receiving records and won national title in 1987; Cowboys' alltime leader in catches (750) and receiving yards (11,904).
17 Jim Courier, Sanford
One of six men in Open era to reach singles finals at all four tennis majors; has two wins each at Australian and French Opens.
Andre Dawson, Maimi
Major league Rookie of the Year in 1977, MVP in '87 and eight-time All-Star; hit 438 homers.
19 Anthony Carter, Riviera Beach
Three-time All-America at Michigan from 1980 to '82 holds NCAA record for all-purpose yards; averaged 16.0 yards per catch in nine NFL seasons.
George Mira, Key West
At Miami tied NCAA record for career completions in 1963; two-time All-America.
21 Bobby Allison, Maimi
Won 84 NASCAR races, tying him for third on alltime list; had one season title (1983).
John Pennel, Coral Gables
Two-time Olympian broke IAAF pole vault record four times between 1963 and '69; won Sullivan Award in '63.
23 Dwight Gooden, Tampa
Set rookie strikeout record as 19-year-old with Mets in 1984; won Cy Young in '85; pitched no-hitter for Yankees in '96.
Pete Pihos, Orlando
Top end of 1940s and '50s led NFL in receptions in each of his last three seasons.
25 Don (Big Daddy) Garlits, Tampa
Won more events than any other drag racer (146) and 10 AHRA world championships; first drag racer to break 180-, 200-, 240-, 250- and 260-mph barriers.
David Duval, Jacksonville
Eight wins on PGA Tour in last two years; 10th on Tour's alltime money list after just five years.
27 Alex Rodriguez, Miami
Led Westminster Christian High to 1992 national high school baseball title; led AL in average, runs and doubles in first full season ('96); set AL mark for homers by shortstop (42) in '98.
Arnold Tucker, Miami
Winner of 1946 Sullivan Award; starred in Army backfield with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.
29 Harold Carmichael, Jacksonville
With Eagles caught a pass in then NFL-record 127 straight games; four Pro Bowls.
Jose Canseco, Miami
With A's in 1988 became baseball's first 40-40 man and won MVP; 431 career homers.
31 Warren Sapp, Plymouth
Won 1994 Lombardi Trophy at Miami; now one of NFL's most feared defensive linemen with Buccaneers; went to Pro Bowl in '97 and '98.
Steve Garvey, Tampa
Holds NL record for consecutive games played (1,207); 1974 MVP won four Gold Gloves at first base.
33 Gardnar Mulloy, Miami
Won four doubles titles at U.S. tennis championships; became oldest top-ranked U.S. singles player in 1952, at 38.
Rafael Palmeiro, Miami
Underrated first baseman is among 1990s big league leaders in homers (328) and RBIs (1,068); has two Gold Gloves.
35 Ottis Anderson, West Palm Beach
From 1979 to '92 had six 1,000-yard seasons with Cardinals and Giants; 12th-leading rusher in NFL history.
Wes Chandler, New Smyrna
Deep threat in Chargers' Air Coryell offense; had three 200-yard games; played in four Pro Bowls in 13 NFL seasons.
37 Al Lopez, Tampa
Catcher hit .261 from 1928 to '47; eighth among managers with .584 winning percentage (minimum: 1,000 games).
Larry Little, Miami
Anchor of Dolphins' offensive line from 1969 to '80 was six-time All-Pro and won two Super Bowl rings with Miami.
39 Boog Powell, Lakeland
Prototype slugger and 1970 AL MVP hit 339 homers in 17-year career; four World Series with Orioles from '66 to '71.
Dot Richardson, Orlando
NCAA softball player of the decade for 1980s; shortstop hit winning homer in gold medal game at '96 Olympics.
41 Nat Moore, Miami
Set Florida season rushing record as junior in 1972; retired as owner of Dolphins' marksfor catches, yards and TDs.
Cris Collinsworth, Titusville
Sure-handed receiver on Bengals' 1981 and '88 Super Bowl teams; had four 1,000-yard seasons; three Pro Bowls.
43 Chipper Jones, Jacksonville
State's high school player of the year in 1990; emerged as game's deadliest switch-hitter during '99 MVP year with Braves.
Jack Youngblood, Monticello
All-America defensive end at Florida went to seven Pro Bowls; played in 201 straight games in 14 years with Rams.
45 Rick Casares, Tampa
Star fullback atJefferson High and Florida in 1950s; Bears' third-leading alltime rusher.
Derrick Thomas, Miami
Holds Alabama sack record (52); has made Pro Bowl in nine of 10 NFL seasons; had record seven sacks in 1990 game.
47 Herb Score, Lake Worth
Indians hurler blew away AL with 36 wins in first two seasons; wasn't the same after 1957 line drive to face.
Glenn (Fireball) Roberts, Apopka
Won Daytona 500 in 1962; had 32 victories on NASCAR circuit from '50 to '64.
49 Willie Galimore, Sarrasota
Three-time Black College All-America rusher at Florida A&M; Bears star for seven years until he died in 1957 auto accident.
Don Sutton, Pensacola
Righthander is third alltime in starts (756), fifth in strikeouts (3,574); won 324 games in 23 major league seasons with five clubs.



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