North Texas Daily

Three decades later, UNT alumnus still has love for sports writing

Three decades later, UNT alumnus still has love for sports writing

April 02
22:18 2013

William A. Darnell / Staff Writer

Phil Rogers spent long nights punching the keys of a manual typewriter, editing with copy reading symbols and feeling like one of the “last people on campus” when he began his whirlwind sports writing career more than 35 years ago at UNT.

Rogers graduated from UNT in 1978 with bachelor’s degrees in both journalism and political science.

Working for the North Texas Daily helped him discover the delicate balance between work and play. Rogers – the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune for the past 17 years – said that it’s where he learned to juggle responsibilities.

“A lot of times if you are going to be in the media business, you have to work during times when a lot of your friends are out having fun,” Rogers said. “That was the first place I learned that discipline.”

He wrote for the sports section, became president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and contributed to the Denton-Record Chronicle and Lewisville News-Advertiser.

Rogers’ proclivity for writing and love for sports are rooted in his adolescence.

Former Texas Rangers broadcaster and 1979 UNT alumnus Dave Barnett said the passion for sports started very early for he and Rogers – well before the time they spent cruising the streets of Denton listening to Neil Young in their teenage years.

“We went camping for a weekend in Trevor Falls, Oklahoma,” Barnett said. “The entire time we were doing Harry Caray impressions, way before Will Ferrell was around. If people had been around, they would have thought we were insane.”

Rogers began his post-graduate career at the Shreveport Journal. He was able to immediately cover college and professional sports, and the small staff allowed him to have greater responsibility with writing and editing.

Rogers left the Shreveport Journal in 1983 to join the staff of the Dallas Times Herald, where he worked until the Dallas Morning News absorbed the paper in 1991. During his tenure he finished his first book, “The Impossible Takes a Little Longer: The Texas Rangers from Pretenders to Contenders.”

Rogers’ former colleague at the Dallas Morning News, Barry Horn, said that, despite the competitive nature of the business, Rogers was well-liked and his transition to the Dallas Morning News was easy because he knows how to get along with people and his devotion to baseball set him apart.

“With all respect, Phil is a seam-head,” Horn said. “There are baseball writers who eat, drink and sleep baseball and that’s how Phil has always been.”

In 1997, Rogers moved to Chicago with his first wife, an Illinois native, to replace legendary writer Jerome Holtzman as national baseball writer at the Chicago Tribune.

Rogers said the job is a “flying by the seat of your pants” mixture of freedom with broad responsibilities covering Major League Baseball – especially the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox.

The newspaper world has vastly changed in the last three decades due in large part to the Internet, Rogers said.

“You have a much better chance to watch a game if you’ve taken a day off,” Rogers said. “It seems like we are so focused on the output now that we don’t get to spend as much time on the input.”

Waking up at 5 a.m. to work on his other two books, “Say it’s So” and “Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub and the Summer of ’69” was an arduous but gratifying task, Rogers said.

Rogers lives in Chicago with his wife, Anne, and two children, Dylan and Shelby.

Dylan attended UNT in 2011, which brought Rogers back to the UNT campus for the first time in several years.

Rogers said much is different about his hometown, but it remains a hotbed for good music, even if the bars are no longer the 18 and up Eagle Street happy-hour fests of his college years.

Moving from the temperate climate of Texas to the harsh winters of Chicago took some adjusting, Rogers said.

“First you realize how many clothes you don’t have that you need,” Rogers said. “All long sleeves.”

Although baseball is a year-round business now, Rogers said he spends the winters listening to music and catching up on social phenomena such as “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad” while trying not to freeze.

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