GARY | To talk with former Roosevelt baseball coach Benny Dorsey, you could almost sense a beautiful spring day with green grass despite December temperatures barely in double digits.
Dorsey was an a student-athlete at Roosevelt High School in the 1950s. He still looks as if he could go out and hit a jumper or stretch a single into a double on the diamond.
"I have enjoyed every minute of my teaching and coaching career," Dorsey said. "I was very fortunate to teach in the Gary school system and to play for and coach with some great coaches at Roosevelt and to coach some great athletes."
Dorsey coached three major league players in the late Joe "Moose" Gates, Wallace Johnson and Lloyd McClendon during their prep careers.
Dorsey is paying close attention to the Seattle Mariners, where McClendon is the new manager.
"I think he will do well and their getting Robinson Cano, that is going to help," Dorsey said. " I know Seattle is not that good, but I think if Lloyd gets the support, he can do well.
"That first job (with Pittsburgh), he really didn't have have a chance. They had got rid of most of their good players."
Dorsey played basketball at Roosevelt for the legendary Louis "Bo" Mallard and was a 1954 graduate. He went on to play at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas and graduated in 1958.
Roosevelt did not have a baseball program at that time, but he played summer ball in what is the equivalent to Little League. Dorsey also played for various teams including the AFL-CIO Local 81.
"I graduated in 1954 and all the good stuff came next year," Dorsey said of the 1955 Dick Barnett-led Panthers falling to the Oscar Robertson-led Indianapolis Crispus Attucks team in the state basketball finals. "I was part of Roosevelt's first sectional championship team."
He returned to Gary to teach at the now-closed Garnett Elementary School and then at Jefferson Elementary.
His coaching career got started by accident.
"I would work coaching at the Campbell Friendship House and one of the coaches there was Ron Broome, who was later Ron Heflin's assistant (in basketball)," Dorsey said. "He got me to be the freshman basketball coach and I became the baseball coach in 1973."
Dorsey recalls his days of playing for Bo Mallard.
"If he called me a 'sap sucker,' I went home feeling like it was a compliment," Dorsey said. "Nowadays, kids get upset if you tell them something. Back then, you didn't speak out of line to your parents, elders, teachers or coaches.
"I learned a lot from Coach Mallard, (football coach Leonard) Douglas, (J.D.) Smith. They preached the family atmosphere. Coach Douglas would have us over to his house and those guys were like second fathers to us."
Dorsey and his wife of 51 years, Delores, have two children and four grandchildren.
"I loved working with the younger kids because you can still can make a difference in them," Dorsey said. "I was fortunate, especially at Jefferson, that I taught kids from various ethnic backgrounds.
"The one thing in common was their parents were involved and wanted them to get an education."