Roberts left favorable impression during his time in Jamestown
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first ran in The Post-Journal in December 2015 after the Los Angeles Dodgers named Dave Roberts their new manager. Tonight, the Dodgers will meet Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the 2020 World Series.
Little did I know at the time, but the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers — Dave Roberts — was once a neighbor of mine right here in good, old Jamestown.
Roberts, who was hired by the Dodgers on Monday to replace Don Mattingly, lived at 160 Hotchkiss St., in the summer of 1994 when he played for the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Pennsylvania League.
Of course, I had no idea that Roberts lived up the street for three months that summer — my former home was at 194 Hotchkiss — but my mailman, Doug Berlin, certainly did. Heck, he delivered mail to both houses.
“He stayed with Flo Wick,” said Berlin in an email while vacationing in Florida. “Anybody attending Jammer games back then would remember Flo. … She was the lady always ringing the cowbell.”
On a couple of occasions that summer, Roberts found his way to Doug and Maureen’s home on Price Street and a personal connection was made.
“Dave was a very nice guy,” Berlin said. “He was always good to my kids and all the others.”
Roberts also had a season to remember, one in which the Jammers won the Stedler Division of the NY-P League with a 42-32 record, two games ahead of second-place Batavia. Roberts, then 22 years old, played a big role in the team’s success. In 54 games, he batted .292 (52 for 178) with seven doubles, two triples, 12 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and a .392 on-base percentage.
Roberts spent 10 years in the Major Leagues, including stops in Cleveland, Boston, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, compiling a .266 batting average with a 243 steals and playing in the postseason four times.
As a New York Yankees’ fan, I remember what Roberts did in the 2004 American League Championship Series all too well. Three outs away from being swept by the Yanks, Roberts pinch ran after Kevin Millar drew a leadoff walk from Mariano Rivera. Then Roberts stole second base and scored on Bill Mueller’s single. Boston won, 6-4, in 12 innings and then became the first team in Major League history to be down three games to none and go on to win a postseason series. The Red Sox went on to sweep St. Louis in the World Series for their first championship since 1918.
“His stolen base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS means he will never have to buy a meal in Boston for the rest of his life,” said Berlin, a diehard Red Sox fan.
Before his dash into Boston lore, though, Roberts had already found a place in Berlin’s heart.
“He was playing for Cleveland in ’99 and my brother (Jim) and I wanted to go to Tiger Stadium before they tore it down. The Tigers were hosting Cleveland late in the season so Jim got in touch with Mac White, who was a teammate and good friend of Dave’s when he was in Jamestown.”
Roberts hooked up the Berlins with tickets and the brothers, upon the completion of the Indians’ pregame warmups, made their way just behind the Indians’ dugout where they caught Roberts’ eye.
“He waved to us and we thanked him,” Berlin recalled. “He said it was his pleasure.”
Roberts joined the San Diego Padres’ front office in 2010, prompting Berlin to send a congratulatory letter and, of course, Roberts responded.
“I also got in touch with him when one of my childhood friends was visiting her parents in San Diego with her son,” Berlin said. “They wanted to see a Padres game and, specifically, (pitcher) Jake Peavy. Dave was able to get them tickets on the day Peavy pitched. My friend, Jan, said she and Max were able to speak with Dave before the game and he couldn’t have been kinder.”
That same year, Roberts was diagnosed with lymphoma, and Berlin wrote to wish him well. Not surprisingly, Roberts wrote back, expressing his appreciation for the concern.
After spending a year as the Padres’ first-base coach, he eventually became the team’s bench coach for two seasons before landing the managerial job with the Dodgers.
“In an ironic twist,” Berlin said, “Dave, who has never managed, beat out Gabe Kapler, who also played for the Jammers (in the 1995 season) and a guy we knew pretty well. My brother and I took our boys to Fenway Park in 2003 and had seats up on the Green Monster. Kapler got traded to the Sox that very day and none of the Sox fans knew anything about him. When I started rattling off stats and scouting reports on him they all thought I was the Oracle.”
Based on Berlin’s relationship with Roberts dating back decades, he didn’t need to be prophetic to predict his longtime friend’s successes.
“Dave Roberts … great guy,” Berlin said.