In 1961 the sports publicist at Michigan State issued this blurb extolling State's top sophomore baseball prospect:
GARY RONBERG—pitcher-throws right—bats right—fine chance to make club his first time out—weighs only 170 but is well put together—fires the ball hard—best coordinated of all Spartan hurlers—majors in journalism—from New Haven, Ind.
The assessment turned out to be conservative. Starter Ronberg won 10 games and lost three, with a career ERA of 3.03, one of the best records since the Spartans had pitchers named Dick Radatz and Ron Perranoski. Up to 1965 the MSU record for Most Games Worked read, "Robin Roberts 17, Gary Ronberg 15...."
"I was just a kid, so naturally I started getting the big head, wondering why the scouts weren't coming around," Ronberg says. "When they did, it wasn't encouraging. One scout told me to put on 10 pounds, another told me to lose 10. I got the message: I was marginal either way.
"I did go to Kitchener, Ontario, the Canadian equivalent of D league. My record there was 14-3, so I ended up at Sherbrooke, Quebec, which would be good A ball. That was just at the edge of my ability.... You don't mind when a bad pitch comes screaming back at you, but when your good pitch whizzes past your ear you feel bad. Besides, everybody in Quebec loves home runs, and all the fences seemed to be from 295 feet to 315. I once gave up three home runs in four innings. But I'm glad I had a chance to try it. Those line drives going past your ear impress on your mind that you could be doing that for a living, and then it's easy to turn to something else."
After a stint at UPI, Gary's something else was SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, where he quickly established a reputation for geniality. The first anybody noticed this Ronberg kid, he was sitting watching a difficult mechanical hockey game sometimes utilized by reporters to while away the late hours on press nights. Gary shyly volunteered to play the next winner. Wham, bang, zipzip, pass-pass-pass, ZONG. His opponent spent most of his time fishing the puck out of the goal.
"I guess I did kind of blitz those guys," Ronberg admits. "What I didn't tell them was that I had had three years practice at my fraternity house. That's how I got interested in hockey."
Now a regular on the hockey and football beats (his story on the St. Louis Blues begins on page 52), Ronberg has little need for office time-killers. Actually, his competitive zeal began to flag about the time he moved into Stew Zoo on Manhattan's swinging East Side. Stew Zoo was an apartment building named for its residents—two New York Giants, Ronberg and 300 airline stewardesses, one of whom Gary soon married. He now lives in Coram, N.Y. with Chris and a wirehaired fox terrier named Winston.
RONBERG-ALAS, NO ROBIN ROBERTS