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Tuesday, February 19, 2008
More on the Death of Thomas T. Roberts

As noted earlier today in a post by Geoff Rapp, Thomas T. Roberts died Wednesday, February 13, at his home in Palos Verdes Peninsula, California. Roberts was 84. Roberts was the first baseball salary arbitrator to choose a $1,000,000 request when he sided with Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela in 1983. The Dodgers offered $750,000.

He was probably better known for his 1988 collusion award. Of particular importance to the subject of my blogging for the past few weeks was a quotation from a 1989 presentation at a Stetson University conference on labor and employment that appeared in the Associated Press obituary. Bruce Lowitt started his article with the following quotation:

"There is a feeling ... that arbitrators have a tendency to split things, to give one to the club and the next one to the player in the hope of not offending either party so he'll be hired again. That's an illusion. A successful arbitrator doesn't pay attention to his box score, in baseball or anywhere else. The worst thing you can do as an arbitrator is get a reputation that you're trying to please people."

You can find the complete article on one of the two major legal databases: Bruce Lowitt, "Salary Umpire: Tales of an Arbitrator," St. Petersburg Times, March 4, 1989, 1C. You should really go look at the entire article because the discussion of the Valenzuela and Raines hearings are priceless.

Roberts comments at Stetson were made while he was serving as president of the National Academy of Arbitrators.

Roberts also awarded Tim Raines a record-breaking $1,200,000 salary in 1985 instead of the Montreal Expos offer of $1,000,000. However, one year earlier, he had accepted Oakland’s figure of $950,000 instead of Rickey Henderson’s request for $1,200,000.

Roberts was a native of Chicago with a bachelor’s and a law degree from Loyola University of Los Angeles.


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