Dodger Lessons

August 6, 2013

The first baseball team I played on was the Dodgers. I’ve been a Dodger fan ever since, checking their place in the National League standings almost every day of the season, year after year. It would have been difficult to learn more about sports and life from any professional sports franchise than one could learn from the Dodgers as I was growing up.

It was the Dodgers who returned integration to the Major Leagues in 1951, which from my home in central Wisconsin seemed unremarkable; and when I became old enough to think about baseball, Jackie Robinson was my most favorite player for a long while.

It was the Dodgers who led the Major League’s migration from the northeast to the west, which my young mind could not grasp. From historic Brooklyn to Los Angeles? To play in the Coliseum?

I could not know then that this leading edge of professional sports franchise mobility would become an early adopter of a new toy called “television,” and that this would solidify baseball’s place as the national pastime for two more generations.

I coped with tragedy as catcher Roy Campanella suffered a paralyzing injury. I considered religion’s place in life as Sandy Koufax declined to pitch on Jewish holy days.

The Dodgers of my youth already knew that life is not fair. How could it be after Oct. 3, 1951, when the hated Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit a ninth-inning homerun to steal the National League pennant from my Dodgers?

Sadly, the Dodgers of more recent years have been beset by the kind of ownership dramas now common among professional sports as the insipid idle rich ruin even the most stable and storied franchises.

And speaking of rich, had it not been for my dear mother’s insatiable desire to clean out every closet she found, I might be rich too. For I had collected, and kept in mint condition, the baseball card of every Dodger player of the 1950s. They were thrown out while I was away at college.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.