Former longtime L.A. Times sportswriter Rich Roberts dies at 88
Rich Roberts, a longtime Los Angeles Times sportswriter whose passion was racing sailboats, has died at 88. Roberts retired from The Times in 1994 after a distinguished career highlighted by his coverage of the Rams and the outdoors.
Roberts was a lifelong resident of Wilmington. His grandfather started the Wilmington Press-Journal, a small daily newspaper, in the 1920s. Roberts’ father, aunt and grandmother managed the paper into the 1950s. Roberts worked there as the sports editor and photographer until 1957 while also attending USC. He left to become a sportswriter at the San Pedro News Pilot and also worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram before The Times hired him in 1973.
While serving as the Rams beat writer, Roberts continued to spend free time racing his Catalina 22 sailboat with his son, Rick. When the 1984 Olympics came to Los Angeles, there was little doubt who would cover the sailing competition.
“I covered pro football and the outdoors beat most of my newspaper career while taking up sailing on my own,” Roberts said in a 2007 interview with Arizona Boating & Watersports. “I was assigned to sailing — America’s Cup, the ’84 Olympics — as a secondary beat because nobody else on the staff knew — or cared — squat about the sport.”
Bill Dwyre, former sports editor of The Times, said Roberts’ coverage helped America’s Cup gain popularity.
“Rich made America’s Cup significant to a large number of readers,” said Dwyre, who recalled sending Roberts to Fremantle, Australia, to cover the 1987 America’s Cup, won by Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes. “Rich was in Australia so long I didn’t think he’d come back.”
After leaving The Times, Roberts handled public relations for various sailing events.
“Many complain to me that, say, the L.A. Times doesn’t run anything about sailing,” Roberts said in the 2007 interview. “I try to explain that I’m only the shill. What they need is a delegation of influential representatives ... to approach editors and publishers and explain that it’s a dynamic sport with interesting people of all ages who seldom get arrested for crashing their cars, using steroids, snorting cocaine or beating up their girlfriends.”
Roberts is survived by Frances, his wife of 68 years, daughter Lorraine, son Rick, a granddaughter, grandson and four great-grandsons.
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