Throughout the years, I was fortunate enough to have had a multidimensional relationship with Frank Robinson — and learned a lot by watching, listening and sometimes debating with as fierce a competitor as I ever knew.
Because he often had a shell that was tougher to crack than any crab in the bay, I often wondered if he really was able to appreciate how he was perceived — not only in Baltimore, where he arrived with a great deal of trepidation and left with an abundance of love — but also in baseball, where he was one of the most dominant forces in the game’s history and yet one of its most underrated superstars.
If nothing else, the reaction to my tribute in the February print issue of PressBox was not only one of the best responses I’ve ever had — but reassuring testimony to the impact he had in this city … and the game itself.
Here is just a sampling of comments. Some names you’ll recognize and some you won’t.
Tremendous article — my first winter meetings as Orioles manager — Frank told me one thing — bring back the Oriole Way! A man’s man.
— Former Orioles manager Dave Trembley
I only worked with him six months in 1994 with the Orioles and still he’s one of my favorite people I ever worked with in my career
— Former Baltimore Colts and New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi
Great flashback on his career — never failed to say hello when I saw him
— Longtime MLB executive Murray Cook
Great piece on Frank — marvelous opening lede … a truly fine remembrance.
— Lee Lowenfish, former UMBC professor, baseball author, historian and fan
Great article Jim. Frank was a terrific player who went through a lot. I didn’t realize how many years he managed in PR while he was still playing.
— Former Orioles outfielder Gary Roenicke
Nice article Jim … Always liked Frank even though he chewed on my ass a few times … but he was always fair!!!!
— Former MLB umpire Jim Joyce
Thank you so much for this. … It is one of my favorite tributes to Frank.
— Noted architect Janet Marie Smith
I had the pleasure of playing for Frank in Santurce in 1974-75. I really enjoyed his professionalism and his willingness to talk the game. He later became our hitting coach with the Orioles and I learned that if you ask and you listen, with respect, he was a wealth of knowledge. I have told many before, Frank was my best hitting instructor as he taught me how to analyze pitchers.
— Former Orioles third baseman Doug DeCinces
… Well done, Jim. As always people like me know the major parts of these stories. Hearing some other parts or some other factoids makes the stories that much better.
— Bill Corrigan, longtime supporter of amateur baseball in the area
Jim, just finished reading your story on Frank. Nicely done. It also got me thinking about others who played, coached, managed and were front office execs with one team. The only name I can come up with is Red Schoendienst, who was a Special Assistant to the GM for a time with the Cardinals … although I’m not sure he had duties like Frank as Asst. GM.
— Orioles Alumni director Bill Stetka
… I’ve enjoyed your writing for years, but your article in the February PressBox about Frank really moved me emotionally. I tell people that he was my “boyhood hero” even though when he arrived in Baltimore I was 32 years old. While his history is well known and admired, your article gave me deeper insight into his personality and desire to succeed. What a Man! Thank you for sharing your experiences with your readers.
— Longtime Orioles fan Pete White
I read it a couple of times just to make sure I took everything in, but mostly because I liked how it made me daydream while reading it — thinking about all the things that were going on for a kid growing up in PGH, (and) just starting to become aware of the game, this thing called Major League Baseball … I remember being excited that “the Pirates will be on TV Saturday” — nothing like the 24/7 coverage we have today.
The O’s and Pirates share a fair amount of history during that time so I became familiar with a lot of those guys. Never thought of how hard it must have been for Frank to be “the other” Robinson on the team, especially at that time. Also, had no idea of all the things he accomplished and that he coached in winter and played in the summer. He had a great career and his commitment to the game was remarkable, and that really comes through … Thanks for the great story and the opportunity to take a couple of breaks from reality last week.
— Brad Lloyd, longtime Pirates fan
Former Orioles public relations director Rick Vaughn (we call him Arky, like the Hall of Famer he is!) probably had the most unique, and intimidating, introduction to Frank. His remembrance provides the best look yet at the side we didn’t often see — the soft side — and is a must read.
Special thanks to those who shared their stories — and apologies for those we missed.
This has been updated from its original publication. Brad Lloyd was added.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles