Dodgers' hitting guru found dead in room at Strip hotel

Bill Robinson, a 16-year veteran of the big leagues and the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor league hitting coordinator, died Sunday at age 64.

Robinson, who was in town to work with the 51s, was found dead in his hotel room at Paris Las Vegas on Sunday morning -- only hours after he threw batting practice and coached first base for the 51s in Saturday's 5-4 win over Round Rock at Cashman Field.

"We've lost a special part of our family, the Dodgers family," 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "Personally speaking, he was just a good friend and a good baseball man."

The official cause of Robinson's death was not known.

Bundy said he tried unsuccessfully to reach Robinson on his cell phone Sunday morning and learned of his death in the third inning of Sunday's 5-3 win over the Express.

"We played with some heavy hearts today, so it was nice to come out on top," he said. "I told the guys afterward he'd be very proud of the way they hung in there."

Bundy had lunch with Robinson at Big Mama's Rib Shack on Saturday and said he had no idea anything was wrong.

"None whatsoever, which makes it so much tougher to deal with," he said.

51s hitting coach Mike Easler was a close friend and former teammate of Robinson's on the 1979 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates, and he said Robinson had dealt with health issues for a while.

"I knew he wasn't well at times," Easler said. "He said he had problems with his heart or something like that, but he never really talked about it."

Easler said Robinson asked if he could replace him as first base coach in the eighth inning Saturday.

"I said, 'Fine, Bill, no problem. I love you, buddy,' " Easler said. "Earlier, before he went out there, he said, 'I've been in Vegas five days; I should've brought my family with me.' It's devastating. It is shocking. He was just here yesterday."

51s first baseman John Lindsey said Robinson looked great Saturday.

"Right now it's just a shock. I can't believe it," Lindsey said in a somber 51s locker room. "We were just joking around and talking. He was looking great and healthy. He looked in better shape than I do."

Robinson was born in Mc-Keesport, Pa., on June 26, 1943, and was an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Pirates from 1966-69 and 1972-83.

He hit .258 with 166 home runs and 1,127 hits in his major league career, including 24 homers and 75 RBIs for the 1979 world champions. His best season was in 1977, when he hit .304 with 26 homers and 104 RBIs.

Robinson also earned World Series rings with the 1986 New York Mets and 2003 Florida Marlins as a hitting instructor and first base coach.

Former Mets players Wally Backman and Kevin Mitchell affectionately called him "Uncle Bill." Easler called him his mentor on the Pirates.

"He was an elder statesman when I was coming in, and, along with Willie Stargell, he kind of coddled me and took care of me and helped me get acclimated," said Easler, who used Robinson's bat to hit his first career home run. "I learned baseball from him. I respect him, that's the bottom line.

"He was outstanding. He loved baseball and being around the game and being around the players."

Robinson served as an analyst for ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" in 1990-91 and also coached in the Yankees and Phillies farm systems. He was in his second season with the Dodgers after four years with the Marlins.

"Bill was a wonderful family man and a great baseball player, coach, manager and friend to everyone he met," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "Even though he never played for the Dodgers, it was an honor that he chose to be a part of the organization. Everyone he came into contact with was better for having known him.

"He will be missed by everyone in the game of baseball, and our deepest sympathies are with his family."

Robinson is survived by his wife, Mary Alice, son William III, daughter Kelley Ann and three grandchildren: Bret, Ty and Will.