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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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When I was a kid I wasn't rebellious, but I had problems with people close to me. When I wanted more attention than they were giving me, I'd get under their skin. People have accused me of being a troublesome player, but I was easy to manage as long as I wasn't lied to or crossed up. When I was a young player I was actually very quiet and withdrawn. In those days rookies were seen and not heard. I never had any real trouble with the Reds' organization until Bill DeWitt took over the front office. When Gabe Paul was in charge, a player could talk to him any time without an appointment, if he wasn't busy. One day I was standing by the switchboard and I saw DeWitt for the first time. I said I'd like to talk to him about my contract. He said, "I'm going to Chicago for two weeks. If you're around when I get back you can come to see me then." He didn't say it in a way that indicated he wanted to get to know me. When he finally called me in to talk, the first words out of his mouth were, "I hear you don't always put out." And he was going to cut my salary $2,500. It was just a running battle from then on. I didn't take to having things rammed down my throat. Neither do most players today.

A manager shouldn't cut himself off from his players. I don't like for a manager to sit down at one end of the bench with his coaches. I'm going to move around on the bench, sit in the middle of everybody. Why should the manager always sit in the front of the bus by himself or with a coach? I'm going to sit in the back of the bus with the boys when I feel like it. I won't be back there to snoop, but if I hear talk I'll say, "Hey, let me in on that."

Since I'll be playing next year, I'm going to take batting practice with the boys, be buddy-buddy with them. Up to a point. Fred Hutchinson was rough, tough. Players were afraid of him. I don't want anybody to be afraid of me. But they'll have to know I'm the manager. It'll be a thin line. A very thin line, in fact.

There's some sadness and resignation about becoming a manager. You can't have a couple of friends in particular among the players. I might say, "Hey, Buddy Bell, Oscar Gamble, George Hendrick, let's go have a drink," but when I get together with players like that now it won't be shooting the breeze; it'll be a discussion. There are places around the league I've found that I enjoy, places where the players go. I'll miss those places. I'm not going to check my players' beds, and if I walk into a place where they are I don't want them to gulp their drinks and run, but we cannot drink together all night. I've never been in a situation before where I was not one of the boys. Even managing in Puerto Rico—it was more relaxed down there—I could socialize with the players. I'll miss that. I don't know just how I will handle it, but I will.

I do know I can separate "the way I would have done it" on the field from what my players can do. I may see someone make a play on a ground ball and think, "I would've gotten in front of that ball, not backhanded it." But I cannot move their hands for them. I can't make contact for them. All I ask is that they look me in the eye and tell me they are giving 100%. Managers tend to think they're putting themselves in a player's place, when actually they're romanticizing themselves as players. There's a saying in baseball that a .250 hitter becomes an ex-.300 hitter when he starts managing. I'm not going to do that. For one thing, I was a .300 hitter. But I'll never be talking about what I could do.

Sometimes I'll wish I were still doing it, though. You don't get the physical exhilaration from managing that you get from playing. You don't get the release. You do get the tension, a lot more of it. Sometimes after a loss you feel like you've gone 0 for 50. You carry the game with you all through the night and get up still thinking about it. I never did that as a player.

It's hard for a manager to let off steam. I'll try not to get too violent and tear up the clubhouse. I don't believe in damaging equipment. I don't want to have any more publicized shouting matches like the one with Gaylord. Gaylord and I had a talk the day I was named manager and he said he knew I was under pressure when I came up to him raising my voice. That was why he never came off his stool. He said he would have no problem playing for me. If he's traded it won't be because we can't do our jobs together.

Gaylord said, "Listen, it's good for me when you come here with your salary. It means I can ask for more."

I think one of the reasons basketball had black coaches so much earlier than baseball had a black manager is that basketball players band together more and have more power. If it had been left up to the ballplayers they would have been ready for a black manager long ago. The reason it came so slow is that the front offices dominate baseball, and they are worried about what fans and investors, rather than players, have to say. I'm part of management now, but I still say that the best thing that ever happened to ballplayers was when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale held out together.

There's nobody for a manager to band together with. And so much builds up inside him. He can kick the water cooler, chew gum, walk around in the dugout and yell. But he has to mind what he is doing. Sometimes a manager yells something in the dugout he doesn't really mean about a player who's done something wrong. He doesn't even think about saying it. But then the player's buddy has to pull the player off to one side and say, "Hey, you should've heard what the manager said about you." And the player says, "He didn't even have the guts to say it to my face."

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