Bob Roesler, former Occasions-Picayune sports activities editor & columnist hailed for his function in bringing 10 Tremendous Bowls to New Orleans, dies at 93
Roesler worked as a sports columnist and senior sports editor for The Times-Picayune for 45 years and was held responsible for helping New Orleans land 10 Super Bowls.
NEW ORLEANS – Bob Roesler, who worked as a sports columnist and senior sports editor for The Times-Picayune for 45 years and played a key role in the transfer of ten Super Bowls to New Orleans, died Monday, according to his son. He was 93 years old.
Roesler retired in 1994 after 45 years with The Times-Picayune. He joined the newspaper in 1949, was appointed sports editor and senior columnist in 1964, and served as senior sports editor and columnist from 1980 until his retirement. One fondly remembers his “mailbag” pillars, in which he answered letters from readers on various sports topics.
“I always had the feeling that if Bob in New Orleans didn’t know about it from a sports point of view and even from a news point of view, then it probably hadn’t happened yet,” said long-time colleague Brian Allee-Walsh, who has been a Times-Picayune sports reporter 33 years. “He was so in tune with things and got his finger on the pulse of the city more than anyone. He really was ‘Mr. Sports’ in New Orleans.”
The news of Roesler’s resignation in 1994 was lauded by the sport’s biggest names. “He’s one of those missing sports editors / columnists / writers who represented his town and community so well and played such a huge role in its growth to major league status,” said Pete Rozelle, former NFL commissioner of New Orleans honored the Saints franchise in 1966. Rozelle died in 1996.
Roesler covered the saints from the start. His cover story in Times-Picayune on November 1, 1966 reported the birth of the team. “The National Football League invaded New Orleans on Tuesday and claimed the fertile and growing Central South,” he wrote.
Over the next decade, Roesler also became a major proponent of the idea of building a domed stadium in the city as a home for the Saints.
“It kind of changed the complexion of everything in New Orleans,” he said in 1994. “I laughed at it at first, but I soon realized that (promoter) Dave Dixon was the band’s musician. Dixon is the original saint, because he brought the team here and he and (former governor) John McKeithen built the Superdome. Without one, the other would not have existed. “
Five years before the Superdome opened, Roesler also played an important role in helping the city land its first Super Bowl in 1970. He was vice chairman of the local task force that brought Super Bowl IV to New Orleans when the Kansas City Chiefs upset were the Minnesota Vikings at Tulane Stadium.
“I was probably just as happy with the landing of this first Super Bowl as anything else,” Roesler said in a 1994 interview with Times-Picayune. “The game in those days, the late 1960s, was considered Miami’s. There were people who laughed at us for trying to land something like the Super Bowl. But we worked on it and got it.”
Roesler helped the city land the game by lobbying NFL leaders, with whom he had built close personal relationships over the years. This included Rozelle and several team owners, including Art Model of the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney and Wellington Mara of the New York Giants.
New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl, which had the most to do with Miami in the NFL, eleven times, including seven in the Superdome. In addition to these games, Roesler attended and covered 28 Super Bowls during his career.
It also covered 31 Kentucky derbies and numerous Belmont and Preakness bets. In 1998 he wrote a New Orleans Circuit History entitled “The Fair Grounds: Big Shots and Long Shots,” published by Arthur Hardy Enterprises.
Other duties over the years have included championship boxing matches, the Sugar Bowl, and other major college bowl games. When he retired, he commented on the myriad of stories and sporting events that he covered and commented on.
“I was there for Joe Namath’s guaranteed Super Bowl III win and the Secretariat’s 32-length win at Belmont. I interviewed Casey Stengel once over breakfast in California,” he recalled. “Saturday nights at Tiger Stadium were always special. The hair on my neck always rose when the LSU band walked on the field. People like (former LSU trainer) Charlie McClendon (the late Tulane trainer) Jim Pittman were special . Ex-Greenie Trainers) Andy Pilney and Buddy DeMonstebert, Sports Managers at Green Wave, and AD’s Rix Yard and Hindman Wall. There were so many that I was blessed. “
Roesler is from Hammond, Louisiana and grew up in Lakeview. He was orphaned at a young age when tuberculosis claimed both his parents and his eldest sister. He sold peanuts at Tulane Stadium and delivered newspapers as a young boy. He attended Warren Easton High School but left at the age of 16 to join the Merchant Marine and then the US Navy at the end of World War II. He served as an electrician’s comrade on submarines in the Pacific, although the war ended before he saw any action. However, the opportunity to write for the newspaper at his naval base in San Diego gave him his first taste of journalism.
“The bug bit me,” he recalled in 1994. “I’ve got ink in my blood and I’m not sure anyone will ever get over it.”
After returning home in 1946, he took political science classes at Tulane University and found work with a small newspaper in Algiers. Hoping to become a police reporter, he heard of a job posting on The Times-Picayune on the sports copier. He applied, got the job, and his future was determined.
His early years at the newspaper were interrupted by serving in the Korean Conflict, but he soon returned to the sports desk. In a Times Picayune interview in 1994, he recalled the first story he wrote for the newspaper.
“I was working at my desk, but I really wanted to write. The boss asked me if I could go out and cover a soccer game. So I went out there and wrote about 10 or 15 paragraphs. They cut it down to about three paragraphs. That is really all it was worth starting out with. It taught me that I can learn better how to evaluate a story and stick to what is important, ”he said.
Allee-Walsh recalled that Roesler could be a demanding editor, tough but fair to his reporters and columnists.
“He’s been tough, there’s no doubt about that, and there have been several occasions that I’ve considered moving, but when I say this it’s out of true love because there was no better friend or mentor than Bob,” he said .
In his last Times Picayune column, Roesler reflected on his four decades in local sports journalism and how much the sports scene has changed during this time.
“In 1949 New Orleans was a sleepy sports city. The pelicans played in the Southern Association and made headlines from spring to early fall, ”he wrote. “During our sizzling summers there were a few additional attractions. The Pan-American regatta for motorboats drew thousands of spectators to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain every year. Sailing at the Southern Yacht Club was a hot topic. So did the large fleet of yachts that steamed to Grand Isle for the Tarpon Rodeo. “
He went on to explain how sports reporters like him covered boxing, horse racing, and college football, but the city was years away from a professional sports franchise.
“We were slowly coming out of our half-sleep sport,” he wrote. “New Orleans would be a big league metropolis. The Saints probably wouldn’t have come here without the dome on the drawing board. Not to mention seven Super Bowls, three NCAA Final Four championships and several world championship battles, ”wrote Roesler.
Upon retirement, Roesler worked as a sports coordinator for the Greater New Orleans Tourist Convention Commission, later known as the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. He represented the group at NFL owners meetings and on the Super Bowl Task Force, where City and New Orleans Saints officials made their Super Bowl offers.
Also retired, he became a civilian volunteer for the US Navy Recruiting Department and regularly taught a media relations course for Navy employees at Pensacola Naval Air Station.
In 2004 the Saints Hall of Fame presented Roesler with the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award for his contributions to the coverage of the team and professional football. In 2005, a plaque with Roesler’s resemblance was unveiled by the saints in the Superdome press compartment.
The New Orleans Touchdown Club awards an annual sports journalism award bearing Roesler’s name. He was the first recipient.
Warren Easton inducted him into the Hall of Fame and was a member of the New Orleans Hall of Fame at the Sugar Bowl, the Louisiana Sports Writers Hall of Fame, and the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1997, Roesler was honored with the Dick McCann Memorial Award in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
As a member of the National Turf Writers Association and a past president of the Professional Football Writers Association, Roesler was also a founding member of the Press Club of New Orleans. He was president of the group in 1961 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
He is survived by his 65-year-old wife, Cloe, and three children, Kim Spencer, Bob Roesler and Toby Roesler, and three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Instead of flowers, the family is soliciting donations to friends at Warren Easton Charter High School, 3019 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70119.
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