Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The death of a Bahamian legend
Andre Rodgers' death shocks community
By SHELDON LONGLEY,NG Sports Reporter
Yesterday was a sad day for sports in The Bahamas as a local legend suddenly passed away.
Kenneth Andre Rodgers, the first Bahamian to play in the Major Leagues, passed away yesterday morning in his sleep at his residence. Achieving his "three score and ten", Rodgers died less than two weeks after his 70th birthday. He was born on December 2, 1934.
Rodgers' death shocked not only the sports world but the entire community. He had been admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital on three separate occasions this year suffering from severe respiratory problems, but the extent of his illness was generally unknown. It is known that he had a rare disease which caused poor circulation of blood in his right leg forcing it to be amputated on his last visit to the Princess Margaret Hospital.
He has four children, two girls and two boys: Gina, Ken, Ray and Debbie. He is also survived by siblings Roy, Randy, Lenora, Wendy and Adrian. Another brother Lionel, died in a car accident in 1961.
Not only was Rodgers a 'Giant' on the field, but the former shortstop was a 'Giant' of a man as well. He started his professional career with the New York Giants in 1957, and went on to play for 11 years in Major League Baseball. During his career, Rodgers played alongside Hall of Famers Willie Mays, who is regarded by many to be the greatest center fielder ever, and fellow infielder Ernie Banks, who had to shift position just to make room for Rodgers in 1962.
A hit on and off the field
Rodgers swung a 'dangerous bat', hitting at a .249 clip in 854 career games with 45 home runs and 245 career RBI's. He had many ups and downs during his professional career, but it was his off the field personality, and the stature of a man that he was, that drove a home-run in the hearts of many Bahamians, especially his loved ones.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Neville Wisdom referred to him as a 'Gentle Giant'.
Brother Adrian said that he was really a quiet person who wouldn't cause any problems, and was a real joy to be around.
"He was always willing to help all his siblings," Adrian Rodgers said yesterday. "He helped us all in learning the fundamentals of the game and he helped a lot of other ball players as well. He will be sorely missed. He was never a guy to complain and he was just a guy that was great to be around."
Andre's sister Lenora agreed that he was a very quiet person who never complained and always gave good advice.
"We were shocked this morning because we were expecting him to recuperate," she said. "He was always supportive in his own quiet way and very positive about all aspects of life. He stuck to what he believed in and usually made up his mind about what was the best thing for him."
Call of the big leagues
On the field, Rodgers played for four different professional franchises as the Bahamian pioneer in Major League baseball.
Being a talented cricket player here on New Providence, he paid his own way to a New York Giants tryout in Florida in 1954. Rodgers failed to make the team that year, but was still a teenager and so he persevered. He had to learn the rules of baseball and consequently, Rodgers adjusted.
April 16, 1957 was when the 6'3" Bahamian got the breakthrough that he was longing for. Rodgers, then 22-years-old, finally locked on with the Giants, in which organization he stayed for three years. He later altered his position between shortstop, first base and third base for the Milwaukee Braves, the Chicago Cubs (where he enjoyed his most fruitful years) and the Pittsburgh Pirates where he ended his career in 1967.
Rodgers was hospitalized in June and October this year but overcame those trips just like he did when the odds were against him to make it in the major leagues. He was re-admitted in November. Rodgers, who lived alone in an apartment on Nassau Street, was persuaded to move in with his sister Lenora for a few days after being discharged in June.
He made his mark in baseball at a time when The Bahamas was an English colony, but he was still able to make a name for himself and help put The Bahamas on the map as a native son of the soil. As a Bahamian ambassador playing professional baseball, he represented the country well.
As a tribute to his work, the baseball stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre was re-named in his honour in June of 1989 as the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium.
Rodgers made a distinguished contribution to not only baseball, but to sports in general in The Bahamas as he brought pride and a sense of achievement to himself and the entire Bahamas at large because of his excellence in his sport. The Bahamas is undoubtedly further in its development stages today in baseball because of Rodgers' significant contribution. He lives on in the hearts of Bahamians as not only a 'Giant' on the field, but a 'Giant' of a man as well.