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Frank Robinson: His trials with the Cleveland Indians – Terry Pluto

CLEVELAND, Ohio – “I don’t want to speak about Cleveland.”

People have been some of first text spoken to me by Frank Robinson.

He gave me the kind of stare that would have melted the Terminal Tower. I felt myself start out to shake.

“OK,” I mumbled.

I believed about that when hearing Robinson died of bone cancer at the age of 83 on Thursday.

I achieved Robinson in the spring of 1979. I was a rookie baseball author with the Baltimore Night Sunlight. Robinson was the Orioles’ outfield coach.

This was one of the toughest periods in the baseball everyday living of the Corridor of Fame outfielder.

He broke the colour line as baseball’s first African-American manager with the Tribe in 1975. He was fired in the center of the 1977 year.

In 1978, Robinson was hired by the Orioles to regulate their Course AAA Rochester team. He had a 58-64 report and desired to return. But Robinson had a conflict with some individuals in the front place of work, and Rochester didn’t want him back.

To make guaranteed my memory was accurate, I looked it up. That was in fact the situation. Robinson was hurt, believing he did a superior career with the young gamers.

Due to the fact Robinson had this sort of a strong identity and superior profile, most significant league supervisors have been worried to employ him as a coach. Why convey a possible substitute into your very own dugout?

But not Earl Weaver, whose ego matched Robinson’s – and who was likely the finest manager of his era.

Weaver desired Robinson on his employees. The Orioles’ outfield defense had been a catastrophe in 1978. Robinson was assigned to correct it.

He was to perform just with the outfielders. Not the hitters, except if they questioned.

The 1979 Orioles had a strong coaching employees: Ray Miller (pitching coach), Cal Ripken Sr. (3rd base coach) and Jim Frey (first base and batting coach) all turned significant league supervisors. Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks was very highly regarded.

Weaver did not want his coaches to feel threatened by the presence of Robinson.

That Baltimore team finished with a 102-57 report and received the American League pennant.

Robinson was a large team man, carrying out accurately what Weaver desired. And the outfield defense did boost. But it had to be a humbling working experience for a man who’d accomplished so a lot in the recreation.


In Baltimore, no one truly seemed to treatment what happened with Robinson and the Indians. He was loved and highly regarded for his job with the Orioles, exactly where he received a Triple Crown and the 1966 MVP award.

But by 1979, no one was guaranteed if Robinson would regulate yet again.

This was an era when writers had just about endless entry in the clubhouse. People who included the team consistently have been on the similar planes and stayed as the similar motels.

Robinson knew I was from Cleveland. Slowly, he began to speak about how he considered it was the thought of Tribe owner Ted Bonda to make him manager.

At greatest, Basic Supervisor Phil Seghi had a blended response. A previous small league player and manager, Seghi was very well recognised for second-guessing just about each and every Tribe manager in the course of his tenure.

The Indians picked up Robinson late in the 1974 year. The team had a 71-71 report. It was managed by Ken Aspromonte. Star pitcher Gaylord Perry was the strongest identity in the clubhouse. His brother Jim also was a member of the commencing rotation.

The instant Robinson arrived, speculation began that Robinson would exchange Aspromonte as manager the next year.

At the age of 38, Robinson was coming to the close of his job. He had managed in winter season ball for six a long time in Puerto Rico. He often spoke to the media about his desire to be a significant league manager.

Aspromonte felt betrayed by the front place of work when Robinson was acquired.

Perry was resentful of Robinson’s identity – and Robinson’s $173,000 income. Perry explained to the media that he desired “one dollar more” than Robinson’s income.

An exceptional tale by Greg Popelka (“Waiting For Next Year”) helped spark my reminiscences of discussions with Robinson about his uncomfortable introduction to Tribe baseball in 1974.


The quick circumstance is Perry was a white Southerner from the tobacco fields of North Carolina. Robinson was a bold African-American from California’s Bay Place.

There was an factor of race.

But also the chemistry of the team was upended. They have been 6-14 immediately after Robinson came to Cleveland. Aspromonte was in fact fired. Robinson turned manager in 1975.

As Robinson began to demand extra of the gamers, Perry and other veterans resisted. Robinson not only felt disrespected, he was getting disrespected.

And Perry considered Robinson didn’t respect him. There was some reality to that.

And Seghi was not capable to aid his stars reconcile. Seghi traded Perry to Texas, together with his brother Jim. Other veterans have been delivered out in the course of the 1975 year.

The Indians had an possession group that was just about bankrupt. They had a common manager who was not fully behind the collection of Robinson.

Just one of the significant battles among Seghi and Robinson was the common manager’s demand that Robinson play a large amount.

Robinson belted the historic homer in his Tribe debut off Doc Medich. It continues to be one of baseball’s traditional moments – the first black manager also actively playing…and hitting a homer.

Robinson was 39 when he was named manager. He knew his job was coming to an close. He considered taking care of was a entire-time career. He performed only 85 online games in two a long time with the Tribe.

The Indians desired him to play, not only to aid the team – but to promote some tickets.

On top rated of that, he desired a two-12 months contract to be player/manager. They only would give him a one-12 months offer. Not accurately an enthusiastic vote of assurance.

“They had no income,” Robinson explained to me. “They desired a 2-for-1, me as a player and manager.”

The underlying concept was how the Indians did zero to get ready the team for Robinson taking above – and how bringing him to the Tribe late in 1974 led to the resentment he knowledgeable from lots of of the more mature gamers.

“It was just messed up,” reported Robinson, despite the fact that he utilised far extra colourful language to explain it.


Seghi often wore a fit and tie, often with white footwear and a white belt. He smoked a pipe. He rarely yelled. He had superior instincts in conditions of earning trades.

All through road online games, he’d sit in the back of the push box. When factors went badly for the Tribe, he’d smile and say, “Who place this team collectively?”

He knew the response was the man hunting at him in the mirror.

But Seghi also considered his supervisors didn’t squeeze the most out of the expertise. That went for Aspromonte, Robinson, Jeff Torborg and Dave Garcia.

“I knew he was sitting up there (in the push box), puffing that pipe and second-guessing the (bleep) out of me,” Robinson explained to me.

Robinson loved the Orioles, exactly where he invested a lot of his actively playing job. The front place of work was sensible and steady. The gamers came up as a result of the farm method in a system they named “the Oriole Way.” Not a lot nonsense in Baltimore.

The occasionally chaos of the Tribe was a shock to him immediately after he turned manager. He enable individuals in power know that, which was not very well-been given.

He knew he wouldn’t final extended with the Tribe.


Robinson fought with the front place of work, umpires and some gamers.

He often utilised his rage to drive him as a player. And he seemed to be dropped in the galaxy of superstars, behind Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. I believe that also bothered him.

He strike 586 homers. He was a 14-time All-Star, a .294 hitter (.926 OPS). He was a intense base runner, breaking up double performs with indignant spikes up superior.

The Indians performed a small league exhibition recreation from their Course AAA Toledo team. The Mud Hens had a pitcher named Bob Reynolds, who was slash in spring training. Robinson was batting in the recreation in Toledo.

Believe about that, the Indians desired Robinson to play in a Course AAA exhibition in Toledo to aid convey in lovers.

Reynolds threw at Robinson. Robinson flied out on the next pitch. Then he rushed the mound and decked the pitcher with one punch.

I questioned him about that.

“Bullet Bob Reynolds,” he reported.

Then he laughed. He reported no extra. He just saved laughing.

Robinson was not annoyed by gamers who didn’t have his similar expertise. He was upset simply because they lacked his drive and perform ethic. He couldn’t comprehend why winning and the recreation didn’t mean as a lot to them as it did him.

He had a player named Larvell “Sugar Bear” Blanks who one working day was mad about not actively playing enough.

“He place his uniform in the garbage can and burned it!” reported Robinson, shaking his head.

That things never happened in Baltimore.

Robinson was refreshed in 1975 when the Indians promoted Dennis Eckersley, Rick Manning and Duane Kuiper from the minors.

And Robinson could regulate when he had a receptive group of gamers.

He had information of 79-80 and 81-78 in his first two a long time as the Tribe manager. He was fired immediately after a 26-31 start out in 1977.

There have been some with the Indians who believed Robinson had too a lot and lacked any feeling of getting grateful for the team willing to split the managerial colour line with him.

Robinson considered he was extra than capable for the career.

“I didn’t owe any individual anything at all,” he explained to me.


Robinson rebuilt his job immediately after that 1979 year as a coach in Baltimore. He stayed on the Orioles employees in 1980, then was hired to regulate San Francisco in 1981.

He finished up taking care of for 16 a long time. Quite a few periods, he took above terrible groups and manufactured them respectable – as he did in Cleveland.

His 81-78 report 1976 was the Tribe’s first winning year considering that 1968.

Robinson mellowed a bit as he grew more mature. He managed until eventually he was 70.

I keep in mind how I went from getting intimidated by him to finding he was willing to embrace a rookie author who desired to master the recreation.

And in some means, make clear his aspect of what happened with the Tribe.

Of course, he did want to speak about Cleveland, and he deserved much better from the team.

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