By: Jimmy Hope
Over the course of our lives, we are sometimes impacted by people who have profound effect on who we are to become and what we value in life. We don’t always recognize the experience as such at the time, but reflection can bring about understanding and appreciation that makes us very thankful for special people who made a difference in our lives.
For many boys growing up in Plateau and surrounding communities in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, that special person was James Robertson, affectionately called “Fat”. James was a kind and generous man, though of modest means, who happened to be the owner and manager of the legendary Plateau Bears Baseball Team. James was a family man who worked hard to take care of his wife and children. You would often see him riding through the neighborhood in his station wagon filled with his children, seven of them. Yet, he always made room for other people’s children, teaching them the game of baseball and important lessons about life.
Many of the boys who James provided an opportunity to practice and eventually play with the Plateau Bears developed into outstanding baseball players. From the grounds of Mobile County Training School (MCTS), where the Plateau Bears practiced, came Hall of Famer Billy Williams and New York Mets 1969 World Series stars Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones. There were many other who played professionally, received college scholarships, starred on outstanding MCTS teams. For an even greater number of players, baseball was a stepping stone for achieving career and other life goals. The list of players who made significant contributions to their communities and places beyond is long.
James died in 1975, devoting most of his adult life helping others pursue their dreams at great sacrifice to himself and his family. The Plateau Bears continued to exist and played inspired baseball into the next decade but the games would not be the same. Without James, a void existed, not only because our coach and mentor had passed but also because there had not been an opportunity to collectively say “good bye” and “thank you” to this giant of a man.