sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

October 1, 2006

frank robinson
posted by soe 11:29 am

I don’t normally root against the Mets, but I’d like to see them lose today. I want Nationals manager Frank Robinson to have a win for the final game of his 50-year career.

Robinson was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1956 when he came up with Cincinnati as an outfielder. He was later shifted to first base. His years with the team were marked by his hard play and his hot temper. He spent a decade with the Reds, during which time he earned a Gold Glove and was named League MVP.

He then was traded to Baltimore, where he spent the next six years of his career. He led the team to their first pennants and World Series. He became the first player to win the League MVP Award in both leagues when he was named the AL’s MVP. He also was voted MVP of the All-Star game, the World Series, and the Major League. In addition, he was presented with the Babe Ruth Award and was the penultimate winner of the Triple Crown for batting. He also was awarded the Hickok Belt for being the top athlete in any sport in 1966.

Robinson played for five more seasons, shuffling from the O’s to the Dodgers to the Angels.

In 1974, the Indians acquired him on waivers with the understanding that he would become a player-manager (and the first African American manager in Major League Baseball). He finally retired from playing in 1976 as a 41-year-old 12-time All-Star. He continued on as manager for the Indians for another year.

He returned in 1981 to coach the Giants for four years before taking another three years off.

In 1982, Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In 1988, he took over the helm for his old club, Baltimore, for four years. In 1989, he was named Manager of the Year.

In 2002, after a decade away from the game, Robinson came back one last time, to coach the Montreal Expos. He moved south with them to become the first manager of the new Washington Nationals last year, where he led them on a fairy-tale first half of the season. Injuries plagued the team, however, and the second half of 2005 and all of 2006 has seen the team not play as well as one might have hoped. The team’s lack of non-MLB ownership was also seen as a contributing factor to their lack of success because they were not able to be as competitive when pursuing free agents in the off-season.

Robinson, who won a Presidential Medal of Freedom last November, never complained, though, and was seen by many of his players as a tough, but fair and loving authority figure. A former Director of Discipline for MLB, he didn’t tolerate messing around and wasn’t afraid to yank players if he felt they were messing around or dogging it. But he was also remarkably supportive to players who needed it and players speak of him with tears in their eyes.

No, Robinson is not a fantastic manager when you look at the numbers. He is sub-.500 with each of the teams he’s coached. But he was respected by players and fans alike, and I would have liked to give him one more year with the team to prove what he could do with the independent ownership’s acquisitions in the off-season.

And if the support for him I saw at RFK Stadium Friday night is any indication, I’m not the only one who thought that.

So good luck, today, Frank. Do not hobble gentle into that dark night. I hope you beat the Mets. And saying that doesn’t come easily.

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