Did you know that Outside of Seattle, nobody knows of Leon Roberts? Baseball Almanac likes to take a look "beyond the stats" and we hope you enjoy the following informative Ellensburg Daily Record newspaper story (UPI, 09/01/1978, "Outside of Seattle, nobody knows of Leon Roberts", Today's Sports Parade):
Outside of Seattle, nobody knows of Leon Roberts
NEW YORK (UPI) - Any ballplayer who tries telling you it doesn't matter to him whether or not he gets any publicity is flat out lying. Mostly, the one he's lying too is himself.
With publicity comes recognition. With recognition comes reputation., money and a comforting sense of accomplishment as well as the assurance others are taking notice also.
Leon Roberts isn't only have a good year for Seattle's last-place Mariners, he's have a great one, but from the amount of publicity he's getting, he might as well be playing for the Poza Rica Petroleros of the Mexican League.
On the surface, it doesn't seem to bother Roberts, the American League's fifth best hitter with his .308 average and the Mariners' leading longballer with his 20 home runs and 76 RBI. He isn't disturbed over the lack of personal publicity. Not outwardly anyway. Inside, the six-foot-three, 200-point right fielder from Kalamazoo, Mich., can't help wondering what he has to do to keep people from saying to him, "Oh, I know you, you play basketball," whenever he tells them his name.
Tom Paciorek, one of the Mariners' other outfielders, says, "He's having a phenomenal year and nobody even knows about it."
Darrell Johnson, the Seattle manager, knows about it, though.
"Leon just goes out there and does a tremendous job every day and never changes his expression or says two words," Johnson offers. "I saw him when he was with Detroit three years ago and he couldn't hit a breaking ball with a paddle. But he kept working on it and made himself a good hitter."
All the Seattle players agree with Johnson's appraisal of Roberts as a hitter but disagree with his assessment as a player-
"Once Leon gets going, you can't stop him," laughs Paciorek. "He can talk about himself all day and never get tired. Most guys will bore you to death that way, but not Leon. He makes you laugh the way he talks about himself. With him, all you have to do is pick a topic, any topic, and then just sit back and listen. He'll tell you how he killed two bears one day when he was out deer hunting; how Bo Schembechler begged him to come out and play football when he was at Michigan and how he decided he was going to be a punter with the Houston Oilers while he was playing for the Astros."
Lou Gorman, director of baseball operations for the Mariners, saw Roberts with Evansville four years ago when he still was Detroit property and remembered the big 27-year-old right-handed hitter last December when he felt Seattle was top-heavy with left-handed hitters.
At the time, Roberts was with the Houston Astros to whom he had been traded by Detroit in 1975. Gormon got him from the Astros for shortstop Jimmy Sexton.
Shortly after last July's All-Star game, at a get-together for Seattle baseball writers, Roberts was asked by one of them how he felt about some of the trades the Mariners had made.
"I think they made some good trades," he said. "The best one of all was when they got me."
In one respect, Roberts is like Ted Williams. He's always thinking about hitting. He studies it and talks about it constantly.
Reynolds, his roomate, tells about the time the Twins were playing a game in Seattle earlier this season. The Mariners were taking batting practice and five of them, including Roberts, were in deep conversation with Rod Carew out in right field.
"A few of us in left field were watching what was going on in right field and one of our players said, "Look, Rod's giving a lecture on hitting and Leon's listening," Reynolds laughingly relates. "Someone else said, "No, you got it wrong. Leon's lecturing and Rod is the one doing all the listening."
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