PDA

View Full Version : Wash. Post: After So Long, So Long



Roy Tucker
09-29-2006, 01:06 PM
A good read...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/28/AR2006092802042.html

After So Long, So Long
By Thomas Boswell
Friday, September 29, 2006; Page E10

A few hours after learning that he would not be the manager of the Washington Nationals next season, Frank Robinson entered the dugout, the place that has been his home for so much of the last 51 seasons. Every other Nat, driven away by a steady rain, had retreated to the clubhouse. But Robinson had an appointment to keep two hours before game time. He'd promised to speak with a college journalism class. For Robinson, few days in his life have been harder than yesterday, when he had separate meetings with team president Stan Kasten and General Manager Jim Bowden. "Not as hard as hitting the slider," Robinson said of those meetings, one of which included tears. "Not as hard as managing a baseball team." But, at 71, about as hard as they come.

Yet, at a time when Robinson had every right to sit in his office and argue with the walls, he made time for the George Washington University students. After being introduced to the class as "Dr. Frank Robinson," because of his honorary doctorate from GW, the manager had the whole group laughing at his stories within minutes. For a quarter of an hour in the dugout, he chatted them up, answered their questions, sold his sport, educated a new generation and fulfilled all his responsibilities.

The students left with smiles. Baseball, what a wonderful game, and that dignified Dr. Robinson, how impressive. They didn't know that he had just learned that he would probably never wear a uniform again, never hold a game in the palm of his hand, never be the boss, never feel the pulse of a pennant race and have a whole city cheer for him, as he did just one year ago.

The reason they never guessed the state of his heart is because Robinson has decided to go out with class. Or, more likely, that's just the nature of the man. Whatever conflicted feelings he no doubt has, he expressed no bitterness and harnessed his pride.

After he finished with the students, he perched on the dugout's back row, watched the rain and talked for half an hour. "I've been fortunate for 51 years," said Robinson, the National League rookie of the year in 1956. "You only get so many chances [to manage]. I felt I'd had my chances. So, I thought, 'Let someone else who's younger have a shot.' Then I got this offer to manage the Expos -- for only one year, I thought.

"And look how it's turned out," Robinson said proudly. On top of his Hall of Fame career and his status as the first black manager, he has now added a dignified and significant Last Act to his eminent résumé. He's been the face of the franchise for a team that returned baseball to Washington after 33 lost seasons. These two brief seasons at RFK now "rank very highly" in Robinson's pantheon of achievements. "Unique and special, very special memories," he said.

However, Frank doesn't want those memories, this new connection with a baseball-hungry city, to end. "If the ballclub would like to have me [next year], I would definitely consider it," he said. "It would depend on whether the position had real responsibilities. If it does, you got me."

But when he looks at the Nationals current front-office structure, what does he see? "It's pretty full," he said.

"I understand that my role would change as I get older. I may not be as sharp. Some people don't think I grasp that, but I do," Robinson said. "I may want to enjoy life more at some point.

"You have to separate yourself from the game over time. I've been lucky. It hasn't happened abruptly to me -- 51 years," he says, surprised at the number. "That's pretty amazing, especially in this game." He doesn't quite say "cutthroat" game.

"I've always told my players, when your time is over, that's it. The game doesn't owe you anything," he said. "If something is offered, that's a plus."

For Robinson, something of substance absolutely must be offered, no matter how it is carved out. The best quality of the current Nationals -- the cussedness that has allowed them to win 70 games in an injury-devastated season that easily could have produced 100 losses, is almost entirely a reflection of Robinson.

"Frank won't let you quit," catcher Brian Schneider said. "He had a meeting in Colorado [after four straight losses this month] and he talked about how the game has to be played. We came out and started winning.

"Believe me, you don't want to get called into that office."

This week, when an infielder nonchalantly missed a one-hop smash, Robinson called a mound meeting not to chastise the pitcher but to pointedly ask the infielder: "Are you okay? You didn't go after that ball very hard. Are you hurt?" Those words are code: Do it again and I'll jerk you right off the field in the middle of the inning.

"Oh, I've seen him do it," Schneider said.

Robinson chuckles at that recent memory. "If I ask them for the effort, then I've got to give the effort, too, even if it's the last week of the season. All season, the effort has been there. I'm very proud of 'em."

Some players don't respond to Robinson, but those who do are fiercely loyal. "That's very, very sad for him and a lot of us," second baseman Jose Vidro said when he heard the news. "He was here in the hard times and always kept his head up. He thought, with new owners, that he'd have an opportunity to be on the same level with everybody else. . . . I'm a little bit shocked. That's business."

But now the part of it that includes wearing a uniform is over. The thought of this made Robinson feel "different" and "strange." But he described himself as "at ease," although there was moisture in his eyes when he said it.

"Well, it's time to go," he said at a pregame news conference at which no official announcement was made, but not a shred of doubt was left. Robinson raised his fists like a boxer as he spoke and shadow-punched for a second, as if with his fate. "Just got a bad call from the umpires. They didn't want to reverse it." He meant it, but spun it as a joke.

Asked by the media if he'd been "disrespected" he said, "No, no," emphatically.

In the last half-century there has been no finer baseball man than Frank Robinson. There have been others who deserve a tie with him. His distinction is not that he won MVP of both leagues or managed more than 2,200 games or any of the other standard accomplishments, mountainous though they are in his case.

Robinson's defining distinction was his glowingly upright character, his authentic, often uncompromising integrity. Like his high school basketball teammate and lifelong friend Bill Russell, Robinson always thought out his opinions, whether on baseball or social issues, then spoke them bluntly and defended them consistently.

To describe a baseball manager as "a man of character" would, in many cases, seem ludicrous. Machiavellians and pragmatists, those who hedge their words and cover their backs, often do best in the job. But Robinson chewed out players when he thought it necessary. General managers and owners knew where he stood whether they liked it or not. As Robinson sat and watched the rain in the dugout, he didn't think about himself. He kept talking about the Nats -- the newly acquired speed of Felipe Lopez, Bernie Castro and Nook Logan, the chances of re-signing Alfonso Soriano, the impressive start by rookie Beltran Perez and the unique "makeup" of Ryan Zimmerman. Next year. Robinson only wanted to talk about next year. You can't stop him. His guys are going to be a lot better than people think. Watch and see. If the Nats make Soriano an offer that's "in the ballpark," he thinks the left fielder will be back.

It's clear that, given half a chance to stay near the core of the Nats, Robinson's heart isn't going anywhere.

With a little luck, a little negotiation and common sense, the Nationals and Robinson may actually pull this off. Can the end be graceful?

"Contrary to what some people think, yes, it can," he said.

Always Red
09-29-2006, 01:30 PM
good article, thanks for posting.

Except in Cincinnati (who knew what they lost) and Baltimore, Frank Robinson is constantly underrated by national media. He had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle, but was very nearly their equal.

Baseball will miss Frank Robby.

Jr's Boy
09-29-2006, 01:33 PM
I would love to see him join the Reds coaching staff next season.He has so much knowledge of the game to teach the younger players.

RANDY IN INDY
09-29-2006, 02:16 PM
And a fire that burns within that some of the players could use.

cumberlandreds
09-29-2006, 02:48 PM
I doubt that the Nats will be able to find as good a manager as Robby. He's pulled more out his team in DC than anyone could expect. He will be missed.

RFS62
09-29-2006, 02:59 PM
And a fire that burns within that some of the players could use.



Yeah, when he took the field, he came to kill you. No quarter asked, none given.

It used to make him furious when players would fraternize before the game.

He'll always be a Red to me.

Highlifeman21
09-29-2006, 03:24 PM
I would love to see him join the Reds coaching staff next season.He has so much knowledge of the game to teach the younger players.


Narron out, Robinson in.

Let's cling to this pipe dream!

KittyDuran
09-29-2006, 03:31 PM
He'll always be a Red to me.and always be a Oriole to me...:)

paulrichjr
09-29-2006, 03:37 PM
What is really sad to me is that we traded him away before he could cement himself as a Red forever. Most would think of him as an Oriole. Bench is a Red, Rose is a Red, Morgan is a Red, Foster a Red, Larkin a Red, Robinson...for most is an Oriole. Unfortunate.

Chip R
09-29-2006, 03:39 PM
What is really sad to me is that we traded him away before he could cement himself as a Red forever. Most would think of him as an Oriole. Bench is a Red, Rose is a Red, Morgan is a Red, Foster a Red, Larkin a Red, Robinson...for most is an Oriole. Unfortunate.


At the time of the trade, most Reds fans thought it was a great deal.

Reds4Life
09-29-2006, 04:04 PM
Has Frank ever done any broadcasting work? Maybe he would be an option in the booth with Marty next season.

WVRedsFan
09-29-2006, 05:37 PM
What is really sad to me is that we traded him away before he could cement himself as a Red forever. Most would think of him as an Oriole. Bench is a Red, Rose is a Red, Morgan is a Red, Foster a Red, Larkin a Red, Robinson...for most is an Oriole. Unfortunate.

Not for us who grew up with the Reds in the late 50's and early 60's. Frank Robinson was the Reds. In 1961 and 1962 he was, if not the equal, at least the near equal of Mays, Mantle, and Maris among others. He had a horrible year in 1963, much like Adam Dunn is having this year, but he came back in 1964 as good as ever.

He'll never be an Oriole to me. He was always the Redleg in exile. Just another horrible move by a GM who didn't understand his importance. Funny, but that sounds familiar...

WVRedsFan
09-29-2006, 05:39 PM
At the time of the trade, most Reds fans thought it was a great deal.

NOt in our house. My Dad yelled and screamed about this trade for years. And if I remember correctly, it got worse after he saw Milt Pappas pitch the first time. I can remember him saying, "yep, you gotta have pitching, but you don't trade away Frank Robinsons for pitching."

As I think back, I can't remember anyone thinking it was a good deal.

RFS62
09-29-2006, 06:03 PM
As I think back, I can't remember anyone thinking it was a good deal.



Same here. He was one of the best players in baseball, and by far the best player on the Reds.

It was a terrible, devestating blow that I still shudder from.

Chip R
09-29-2006, 06:03 PM
NOt in our house. My Dad yelled and screamed about this trade for years. And if I remember correctly, it got worse after he saw Milt Pappas pitch the first time. I can remember him saying, "yep, you gotta have pitching, but you don't trade away Frank Robinsons for pitching."

As I think back, I can't remember anyone thinking it was a good deal.

You sound like you were in the minority. From Redleg Journal:

"Although this was one of the worst deals the Reds ever completed, it received almost no negative fan reaction when it was first announced. Cincinnati's first black star, Robinson never seemed to do enough to please Reds fans no matter how well he performed. During the 1965 season, letters to the editor in newspapers throughout Reds country demanded that he be traded, and in August, Robinson was booed so excessvely at Crosley Field that Dave Sisler made a public appeal for the fans to lay off of the star outfielder... By mid-season in 1966, Reds fans wanted to run Bill DeWitt out of town for generating the deal as the Reds slumped with a losing record and the Orioles - led by Robinson - were running away with the American League crown. Robinson won the American League MVP award, led the Orioles to the World Championship, and won the Triple Crown, by hitting .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBIs."

I wonder if any of the fans who booed Robinson and wrote the letters to the editor were the same ones who wanted DeWitt gone a few months later?

jimbo
09-29-2006, 06:25 PM
Narron out, Robinson in.

Let's cling to this pipe dream!

As much as I'd love to see him managing the Reds, I would have a hard to stomaching the daily Robinson bash threads.

WVRedsFan
09-29-2006, 06:53 PM
I wonder if any of the fans who booed Robinson and wrote the letters to the editor were the same ones who wanted DeWitt gone a few months later?

Nope. They were the same folks (or decendents) who have constantly ripped on Ken Griffey, Jr.

My uncle used to say that Cincinnati didn't deserve a superstar because of the way they treated Robinson. If he were alive today, he'd be saying the same thing about Griffey.

That article indicates that fans in Cincinnati didn't pan the trade. I can testify that fans in WV, VA, and other parts of Ohio ranted and raved about it--over an over.

RANDY IN INDY
09-29-2006, 11:26 PM
It made my dad and grandfather angry every time they saw Robinson in an Oriole uniform.

Highlifeman21
09-30-2006, 12:06 AM
As much as I'd love to see him managing the Reds, I would have a hard to stomaching the daily Robinson bash threads.

The Robinson bashing threads would pale in comparison to the current number of Narron bashing threads.

Robinson > Narron.

Simple equation.

Phhhl
09-30-2006, 12:10 AM
What an incredible figure in the history of this game. How many more World Championships might the Reds have won if he had remained here? How much more revered would he be if he had spent his entire career with one team? None of that can be fixed now. But, I would also love to see the relationship between the Reds and Robinson mended before he retires. Some kind of role with the organization would be great.

jimbo
09-30-2006, 12:28 AM
The Robinson bashing threads would pale in comparison to the current number of Narron bashing threads.

Robinson > Narron.

Simple equation.

I agree as far as Robinson > Narron, but I have little doubt that as soon as the team would start struggling the Robinson bash threads will come out in full force.

Wheelhouse
09-30-2006, 01:52 AM
I wonder if Fleepy was the infielder he was taking to task for dogging it in the article? Odds anyone?

Ron Madden
09-30-2006, 06:07 AM
You sound like you were in the minority. From Redleg Journal:

"Although this was one of the worst deals the Reds ever completed, it received almost no negative fan reaction when it was first announced. Cincinnati's first black star, Robinson never seemed to do enough to please Reds fans no matter how well he performed. During the 1965 season, letters to the editor in newspapers throughout Reds country demanded that he be traded, and in August, Robinson was booed so excessvely at Crosley Field that Dave Sisler made a public appeal for the fans to lay off of the star outfielder... By mid-season in 1966, Reds fans wanted to run Bill DeWitt out of town for generating the deal as the Reds slumped with a losing record and the Orioles - led by Robinson - were running away with the American League crown. Robinson won the American League MVP award, led the Orioles to the World Championship, and won the Triple Crown, by hitting .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBIs."

I wonder if any of the fans who booed Robinson and wrote the letters to the editor were the same ones who wanted DeWitt gone a few months later?

I remember some fans being down on Robby and Vada Pinson during the 1961 WS. much like some fans of today.

I don't remember ever knowing anyone wanting to see him traded and never met anyone who liked the deal.

Dick Sisler.

RedsBaron
09-30-2006, 07:14 AM
Nope. They were the same folks (or decendents) who have constantly ripped on Ken Griffey, Jr.

My uncle used to say that Cincinnati didn't deserve a superstar because of the way they treated Robinson. If he were alive today, he'd be saying the same thing about Griffey.

That article indicates that fans in Cincinnati didn't pan the trade. I can testify that fans in WV, VA, and other parts of Ohio ranted and raved about it--over an over.
Through diligent research I have found some old RedsZone posts made during the 1965 season:;)

"Robinson strikes out too much" (he had seasons where he ranked 2nd, 3rd and 5th in the NL in strikeouts). "Robinson has a bad attitude." "The Reds need pitching, that's what wins championships."
"Would you trade Robinson for Pappas? Sure, but the Orioles would never do that deal."
"Robinson is an old thirty."
"The Reds need to trade Robinson and hope to get value.";)

RedsBaron
09-30-2006, 07:22 AM
good article, thanks for posting.

Except in Cincinnati (who knew what they lost) and Baltimore, Frank Robinson is constantly underrated by national media. He had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle, but was very nearly their equal.

Baseball will miss Frank Robby.

Frank Robinson was not named as a member of the All Century Team. The outfielder whose omission from the All Century Team created the greatest controversy, with family members denouncing the omission, was Roberto Clemente. Clemente received the most votes from fans of any outfielder not chosen to the team, and his family was vocal in their condemnation of major league baseball in adding Stan Musial, who also fell short in fan voting, to the team rather than Clemente.
Stan Musial was a much greater player than Roberto Clemente, and the complaints of the Clemente family, which exhibiting family pride, also exhibited a lack of baseball knowledge and, yes, a lack of grace and class. However, Frank Robinson was also a greater player than Clemente. I never read of Robinson ever complaining about his omission from the All Century Team, even though he had a much greater justification to complain.

RedsBaron
09-30-2006, 07:24 AM
Yeah, when he took the field, he came to kill you. No quarter asked, none given.

It used to make him furious when players would fraternize before the game.

He'll always be a Red to me.

Sport magazine polled players after the 1970 season, asking them to select "baseball's greatest competitor." Robinson finished third, Bob Gibson was second, and Pete Rose was first.

RedsBaron
09-30-2006, 07:27 AM
What is really sad to me is that we traded him away before he could cement himself as a Red forever. Most would think of him as an Oriole. Bench is a Red, Rose is a Red, Morgan is a Red, Foster a Red, Larkin a Red, Robinson...for most is an Oriole. Unfortunate.

That's true, even though Robinson played more major league seasons as a Red than anywhere else (ten seasons as a Red, six seasons as an Oriole). Robinson also had the majority of his hits, HRs and RBI as a Red. His Reds number was justly retired.

RedsBaron
09-30-2006, 07:45 AM
What an incredible figure in the history of this game. How many more World Championships might the Reds have won if he had remained here? How much more revered would he be if he had spent his entire career with one team? None of that can be fixed now. But, I would also love to see the relationship between the Reds and Robinson mended before he retires. Some kind of role with the organization would be great.

I absolutely agree that I would like to see a better relationship between Robinson and the Reds.
As for the loss of Robinson costing the Reds World Championships, Rob Neyer has an article on that subject in his "Big Book Of Baseball Blunders" at pages 139-142.
In 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1971 the Reds finished so far behind the NL pennant winner (-18, -14 1/2, -14 and -11) that Neyer doesn't believe that the presence of Robinson would've been enough to produce a title.
The loss of Robinson may have cost the Reds the 1969 NL West title, as the Reds only finished 4 games behind and Robinson was still near his peak, finishing 3rd in the AL MVP voting. He had 32 Win Shares that season. However the guys who played the outfield and firstbase for the 1969 Reds in 1969 weren't bad: Pete Rose had 37 Win Shares, Lee May had 26 and Alex Johnson had 19. Johnson had come to the Reds in exchange for Dick Simpson, whom the Reds had acquired in the Pappas deal. The Reds shortstop in 1969 was Woody Woodward, whom the Reds had acquired in 1968 in a trade with Atalanta, giving the Braves Pappas. The Reds also acquired Tony Cloninger (they would've been better without him) and Clay Carroll in the 1968 deal with the Braves. In short, without having had Pappas and Simpson as trading chips, the 1969 Reds would not have had Johnson, Carroll and Woodward, so having Robinson instead might not have brought a title to Cincinnati.
If Robinson had been a Red in 1970, he would've been in leftfield rather than the platoon of Bernie Carbo and Hal MacRae. Perhaps that would have made a difference in the World Series, especially since Robinson's presence in the Reds lineup would've meant he would not have been in the lineup of the Orioles, or whoever replaced the O's as AL champs because of their lack of Robinson's services. But again the Reds would not have Carroll, who won the Reds only game in the actual Series, or Woodward, and they could not have traded Alex Johnson to acquire Jim McGlothlin.
Likewise, maybe Robinson could have been a difference maker in the 1972 World Series, but he was 36 years old by then. To have played him regularly at that stage of his career, the Reds probably would have had to play him at firstbase and leave Tony Perez at thirdbase. Under this scenario, Clay Carroll, who lead the NL in saves in 1972, would not have been a Red.
The Robinson for Pappas, Baldshun and Simpson trade made by Bill DeWittwas a disaster, but Bob Howsam later salvaged much from the trade, and it may not have cost the Reds any titles.

Chip R
09-30-2006, 08:24 AM
But, I would also love to see the relationship between the Reds and Robinson mended before he retires. Some kind of role with the organization would be great.

It already has been mended. There are no problems now between Robinson and the Reds.

RANDY IN INDY
09-30-2006, 08:50 AM
Frank would make one heck of a bench coach for somebody, if he wanted to stay in uniform. For sentimental reasons, I would love to see him in a Reds uniform before he totally hangs it up. It would be the final sign that all is well between Frank and the Reds and I really feel he could add something to the team. I would much rather see Bucky Dent coaching third than Mark Berry. I have never thought he was much of a third base coach.