To college baseball fans, coach Roger Cador’s success at Southern University is well known. But not Cador himself.
Cador’s just-published autobiography should change that.
“Against All Odds,” which is available at Amazon.com, does more than detail Cador’s 30 years at the helm of Jaguar baseball, producing 14 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and eight NCAA Tournament appearances. It chronicles the even greater challenges he faced to get there. His childhood in Pointe Coupee Parish in the 1960s was a world apart from his current one.
Cador’s family scraped out a living on land they didn’t own in a system that never let them get ahead. Sharecroppers’ children didn’t go to school at harvest time, falling behind until they often dropped out to work the fields full time, as Cador’s dad did after third grade.
But, at age 14, the youngest son wanted more. He told his father he wanted to go to school. After briefly arguing, his dad unexpectedly said OK.
By this time, he was already far behind others academically, and other students teased him mercilessly. But he received encouragement from the principal of the segregated Rosenwald School, and even from the white woman who ran the general store.
“She noticed I was different,” Cador said. “She said don’t let them … steal my goals, because she said education is important, and you deserve to have it, too.”
Cador was nothing if not dogged. He tried out for basketball, and when the coach cut him from the team, he refused to leave.
As a teen, he picketed New Roads businesses that wouldn’t hire blacks. When he graduated from high school in 1969, he earned a scholarship to play baseball and basketball at Southern University.
Cador said he was still academically deficient, but Southern took him under its collective wing.
“Southern, those people recognized something in me,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t my educational strength, but they recognized something in me and said, ‘We’re going to help him,’ because I was hungry. I was like that sponge trying to soak up everything that was there.
“Rather than throw me away, they nurtured me. They helped me. They gave me extra work. They didn’t give me stuff. They made me work, and they gave me the kind of work I could have success at.”
To hear Cador tell it, he wasn’t much better athletically. Yet, the baseball coach, Emery Hines, chose him to play first base ahead of two athletes who would go on to sterling pro football careers, Harold Carmichael and Isiah Robertson.
“The coach kept me over those guys! I was terrible. I was terrible!” Cador said. “Harold and I played basketball together, so he and I would laugh. He said, ‘I was better than you.’ I said, ‘I know. I don’t know why the coach kept me.’”
Cador played for 5 years for the Atlanta Braves’ minor-league teams before returning to his alma mater in 1977 to attend graduate school and work as an assistant coach in baseball and basketball. His first season as head baseball coach was 1985, taking over a program that didn’t have its own stadium. Then-Southern Chancellor Wesley McClure insisted that this would not change.
In 1987, though, Cador’s team pulled one of the greatest upsets in college baseball history, defeating second-ranked Cal State Fullerton 1-0 in the NCAA South Regional in New Orleans. It was the first time a historically black college team had won an NCAA baseball tournament game, and the wave of good will it created not only helped Cador recruit players who spurred more success, it cornered McClure. A week later, Cador brought papers for McClure to sign to start work on what is now Lee-Hines Field on Southern’s campus.
“Before, he was never going to sign them. Once we beat Cal State Fullerton, he signed the paper, never looked at me, never said anything,” Cador said. “And I said, ‘Sir, thank you so much for all you’ve done for us.’”
The book also details Cador’s championship years at Southern, the players he has sent to the major leagues, his close relationship with former LSU baseball coach Skip Bertman, his marriage to Donna Fairfax Cador, who died in 2010, and his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness.
All of it sheds light into a coach that fans only thought they knew.