Dave Roberts Fights Against Racism
There have been four major league baseball players with the name Dave Roberts. The one that everybody knows is the only one that never played for Houston. That said, all three that did play for Houston had amazing careers for very different reasons.
This article will focus on the first Dave Roberts to play for Houston when they were still called the Colt .45s. He found himself playing for Houston towards the end of a very impressive career that was filled with perseverance and tenacity. Growing up in Panama, he was surrounded by baseball. During this era, many teams would visit Panama and his first baseball experience was watching Joe DiMaggio hit a home run.
His semi-professional career began in high school when he joined an All-Star team in the Southwest International League in 1952. Only one player that started their career in 1952 had a longer career than Roberts and that man was named Hank Aaron. This in no way implies that Roberts was the same caliber player as Aaron, but he was a great player in his own right.
Roberts was immediately given a contract with the San Diego Padres and sent to the Pacific Coast League where he would face some of the toughest trials of his life. He was a great player but he was coming up through a period of time where black baseball players were not treated well. His managers rarely gave him much opportunity, but he took advantage of every chance he was given. After three years, he was promoted to AA with the San Antonio Missions where he played with the legendary Brooks Robinson. Robinson would get called up to the majors despite having worse numbers than Roberts.
One year later, he would be sent back to single-A ball because he was black. His numbers were great but the Missions were facing the Shreveport Sports when a terrible thing happened: the Sports refused to play against a team that had a black player. He would spend several more years being bounced from club to club and constantly fighting against managers that simply did not want to have black players. He was so frustrated that he decided to retire in 1961 having never made a major league team.
Judge Roy Hofheinz had other ideas for Roberts. He was starting a new baseball club in Houston and he had seen Roberts tearing up the minor leagues. He was offered a contract with the Houston Colt .45s and finally found himself playing in the major leagues. He immediately impacted the team, hitting a game-winning double for his first major league hit. Unfortunately, the Colt .45s were a pretty terrible team. He would play for one more season with the Colt .45s and then was sold to the Pirates. Finding himself playing backup to one of the greatest outfields of all time, he stepped away from American baseball and went to Japan after a conversation with Sy Berger, an executive with the baseball card manufacturer Topps. Roberts became a legend in Japan and long held the home run record for a gaijin.
He eventually moved back to the US and decided that it was time to start giving back to the community. His original attempts at post-baseball work all seemed to flounder until he started working with emotionally disturbed children. He had found his calling. He has since retired from all work, though he does occasionally appear in charity golf tournaments.
He may not have made a series of impressive and game-winning base running plays but he is still a very notable Dave Roberts. Two other former Astros players shared his name and they had equally noteworthy careers.