New Dodger manager Dave Roberts trying on a LA cap for size at his introductory press conference. Photo courtesy of koreatimesus.com
Somewhere, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey are celebrating.
As for me, one word came to mind when I heard of the Dodgers’ hiring of Dave Roberts as their new manager:
I know that it shouldn’t matter in this day and age, but the fact that the Dodgers hired a person of color to manage their ballclub 69 years (this upcoming April 15th) after the single greatest moment in all of sports was engineered by Robinson and Rickey induced a big feeling of “YAY!” in me.
As well as another thought that ran through my mind…
“It’s about time!”
As was said, the fact that Dave Roberts is African-American and part Japanese shouldn’t matter; the only issue that should be on the table going forward is whether or not he can lead a team as this is his first managing job after a solid career as a player, highlighted by his steal of second base in the fourth game of the 2004 ALCS for the Boston Red Sox, which ultimately helped that team break an 86-year old curse and win their first World Series since 1918.
As well as whether the Dodgers can not only reach their first World Series in 28 years, but win it under Roberts’ – who was a Dodger from 2002-2004 – watch.
What with but two African-Americans currently managing major league teams – Dusty Baker, who was just hired by the Washington Nationals, is the other,
The fact that the percentage of Blacks playing in the majors has been hovering at around eight percent for several years after reaching the upper teens in the 1970s, although in fairness it’s just as much due to a lack of interest in young African-Americans who prefer football and basketball as any blatant “Color Line” racism,
And what with the racial animosities currently going on in this country, ranging from young black men continuing to be murdered by police across America to the various racist incidents at the University of Missouri and other campuses,
That Roberts is African-American and managing one of baseball’s elite franchises can only be seen as a positive thing.
A sign that things are not all bad with regards to race in sports and racial issues in general.
As for what he faces on the field and in the dugout at Chavez Ravine…
What with Zack Greinke gone to the Arizona Diamondbacks via a six-year, over $200 million contract that the Dodgers were reluctant to give him,
With a trade that would bring badly needed fireball throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman possibly falling through due to some off-field issues with the Cincinnati Reds hurler who regularly reaches 100 MPH on the radar gun,
With the outfield still in a logjam,
Second base a question mark with the probable departure of Howie Kendrick,
And especially with the question of how Yasiel Puig, who is mired in another off-field incident in Miami, will get along under Roberts,
This new Dodger skipper – who incidentally is a SoCal native who played his college ball at UCLA and became the Bruins’ all-time stolen base leader while in Westwood – has some work to do and issues to sort out by the time his pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch for Spring Training in mid-February.
Dave Roberts as a UCLA Bruin in the 1990s. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com
In the meantime…
That doesn’t change the gladness I feel upon hearing of his hiring.
It’s even cool that the number he will wear, #30, was the number worn by base stealing legend Maury Wills, who was best known for helping to Christianize Dodger Stadium by breaking none other than Ty Cobb’s single season record for stolen bases in 1962.
And of course it goes without saying that I wish this former Dodger and Bruin the best of luck.
Roberts during his playing days as a Dodger center fielder. Photo courtesy of insdesocal.com