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Frank Robinson
October 21, 1974
So says major league baseball's first black manager, speaking out here on race, player discipline, the Perry affair, job security—and the managers he himself has served
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October 21, 1974

I'll Always Be Outspoken

So says major league baseball's first black manager, speaking out here on race, player discipline, the Perry affair, job security—and the managers he himself has served

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Players are less insecure now. They make more money than they used to. They are not so dependent on their baseball income. They know they can hit .270 and still get a $10,000 raise. In some ways that's bad. They don't have the same incentive they had when I came along. But it's a new age. You have to be open, and you have to make players trust you, know that they can talk to you honestly.

You've got to avoid backing yourself into a corner. Once when I was in Baltimore, Hank Bauer, who was basically a good manager, called a meeting and told us to shape up. "I'll be here," he said, "when a lot of you guys are gone."

We looked at each other. "Hey, who's he kidding?" The next year he was gone. You've got to avoid saying something that will cause you later to say, "Well, I didn't mean that."

Which doesn't mean that you can't chew people out, and call names, as long as it's within the family. You've got to know how to rip into people. Sometimes a manager will give a pep talk, trying to fire the team up, and afterwards they're more disappointed than before. They're sitting there thinking, "Come on, we want it, we need it, really get on our backs." Then the manager turns out to be almost apologizing. That's worse than if he didn't talk to you at all. This is no rap on Walter Alston, but in '72 the Dodgers were drifting around, getting nowhere, and we were waiting for him to really tie into us. He never did. I guess it's just not in his nature. It is in mine.

You should never rip a player in print, at least not without talking to him first. Managers often did that to me, and I resented it every time. When I was with the Reds and hurt my arm in spring training, Fred Hutchinson told the press that I ought to know enough to get my arm into shape, and that every game I had to sit out was going to cost me a day's pay. To me he said nothing. It's easy to say that kind of thing to reporters. They're sitting there anxious to hear it, it makes good copy. What's harder is to tell the player face to face. But that's what you have to do.

A player will test a manager. He'll try to push him, to see how far he can go, to see what the manager's made of. I did it when I was a player. It's a way to get to know people. Sometimes it's childish, but the manager has to be willing to take it and dish it out—personally, and not through reporters.

We have some good young players on the Indians and some of them acted like they didn't care about playing during the last 2� weeks of the season, while I was with the team. George Hendrick, the outfielder who has great talent, went home before the last game. We're going to start fresh next year.

You have to be fatherly with young players; that's what they want. That means knowing when and how to be easy and when and how to be hard. Birdie Tebbetts, my first manager when I came up with the Reds, was always talking with his players. When I went into a slump my first year he said, "I'm sitting you out tonight. I've seen too many young players ruined by a slump like this. But don't worry about it. You'll play tomorrow." If it hadn't been for Tebbetts I might not have made it through my first season. Earl Weaver was always pushing you. If you'd scored 20 runs he wanted that 21st. If you had five hits he wanted that sixth. That worked too, because he always kept in touch with you, with every man on the ball club. Weaver's the first man I'm going to talk to about how to set up spring training next year.

I never really knew my own father. I never saw him after I was eight. But it didn't bother me because I had other people keeping after me. My mother, my 10 older brothers and sisters. I was always right in the middle of a bunch of bigger boys, and they'd rough me up and give me information. They were always keeping my feet on the ground, making me see the outlook from other sides. That made me want to help other people, too, to pass on advice.

After Reggie Jackson had his disastrous year in 1970, following his great season the year before, I worked with him in Puerto Rico. One of the things I told him was that whatever problems he had with his owner, Charles Finley, he had to look at things from Finley's side. Right or wrong. I think I got myself together in that way earlier than most young players. I always tried to see things from the general manager's side. Although the general managers might not think so. Maybe I saw their side differently from the way they saw it.

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