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Frank Robinson - The First Black Manager

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While playing with the Orioles, Robinson had set his sights on becoming a major league manager. He knew the odds were against him. Despite integration of players, there was still a de facto color barrier at the management level in the majors. No black or Hispanic had ever managed a big league team, much less made it into the executive ranks. Knowing of Robinson's ambition, Baltimore manager Earl Weaver helped him obtain an entry level managing job with the Santurce Cangrejeros in the Puerto Rican winter leagues, a job he held from 1968 to 1975. The team won the pennant in 1968 and Robinson was named Manager of the Year.

Career Statistics

Yr Team AVG GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB E
BAL: Baltimore Orioles; CAL: California Angels; CIN: Cincinnati Reds; CLE: Cleveland Indians; LAD: Los Angeles Dodgers.
1956 CIN .290 152 572 122 166 38 83 64 95 8 8
1957 CIN .322 150 611 97 197 29 75 44 92 10 6
1958 CIN .269 148 554 90 149 31 83 62 80 10 6
1959 CIN .311 146 540 106 168 36 125 69 93 18 18
1960 CIN .297 139 464 86 138 31 83 82 67 13 10
1961 CIN .323 153 545 117 176 37 124 71 64 22 3
1962 CIN .342 162 609 134 208 39 136 76 62 18 2
1963 CIN .259 140 482 79 126 21 91 81 69 26 4
1964 CIN .306 156 569 103 174 29 96 79 67 23 3
1965 CIN .296 156 582 109 172 33 113 70 100 13 5
1966 BAL .316 155 576 122 182 49 122 87 90 8 1
1967 BAL .311 129 479 83 149 30 94 71 84 2 2
1968 BAL .268 130 421 69 113 15 52 73 84 11 7
1969 BAL .308 148 539 111 166 32 100 88 62 9 5
1970 BAL .306 132 471 88 144 25 78 69 70 2 4
1971 BAL .281 133 456 82 128 28 99 72 62 3 11
1972 LAD .251 103 342 41 86 19 59 55 76 2 6
1973 CAL .266 147 534 85 142 30 97 82 93 1 1
1974 CAL .251 129 427 75 107 20 63 75 85 5 0
1974 CLE .200 16 50 6 10 2 5 10 10 0 1
1975 CLE .237 49 118 19 28 9 24 29 15 0 0
1976 CLE .224 36 67 5 15 3 10 11 12 0 0
TOTALS .294 2808 10006 1829 2943 586 1812 1420 1523 204 103

In 1975, in a historic move, he was named the Cleveland Indians' player-manager. The appointment came with a hitch, however: Much to Robinson's displeasure, the Indians refused to give him even a token raise over his player's salary. "If they were to release me right now, I would get $180,000 over the next year," he relates telling his agent. "If I take the job to manage the ball-club, and also play, I get the same amount. But they've put me in a position where they know I almost can't refuse their offer. If I refuse, there's no telling when I will ever get another chance to manage in the major leagues—or if I will. If I turn the job down, that would just give other owners an excuse not to hire me or other blacks." Robinson ultimately took the Cleveland job, becoming the first African-American manager in baseball. He kept the job a little over a year.

In 1980 Robinson became the first black manager in the National League when he took over the San Francisco Giants. The team played so well in 1982, going 87-75, that Robinson was named the National League's Manager of the Year. However, conflict on the Giants bench, combined with Robinson's impatience with some young players, and an uncooperative front office led to his being fired in 1984. He returned to his old home, the Baltimore Orioles, as a coach in 1985, and in 1988 was appointed manager there. In 1989 he led the team, which had come in last the previous year, to an 87-75 record and surprising second-place finish, just two games behind pennant-winning Toronto. At the season's end, he was the unanimous choice for the American League's Manager of the Year. He was the first manager to win the award in both leagues. When the team faltered in 1990, Robinson was replaced, but not fired. He was promoted to assistant general manager of the Orioles.

In 2000 Robinson became one of the highest-placed blacks in organized baseball when Commissioner Bud Selig created a position for him, the vice president for on-field operations. A large part of Robinson's responsibility was disciplining players involved in on-field altercations. His hard-line approach thrust him back into the public eye. After one brawl between the Dodgers and Cubs, Robinson levied fines totaling $72,000 and suspended 16 players and three coaches for a total of 84 games, a major league record. Once one of the fiercest, most unrelenting players in the major leagues, Robinson was determined to put an end to the disturbing trend of violence on major league baseball diamonds.

Frank Robinson's life in baseball has been one of unremitting commitment to excellence, as witnessed by his Rookie of the Year, two MVP, and two manager of the Year awards, his presence on 12 All-Star teams in both major leagues, and his first ballot induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. His outspoken courage in criticizing baseball's discrimination against people of color and his own success in overcoming racial barriers have earned him an equally important place in the sport's history.

Frank Robinson - Career Statistics [next] [back] Frank Robinson - Awards And Accomplishments

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