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Frank Robinson sat looking pensive in the Cleveland Indians' dugout at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson as a multitude of cameramen, broadcasters, newspaper reporters and assorted functionaries stood at a respectful distance. It was the moment of silence before Robinson would carry a lineup card to home plate as the first black man to manage a major league baseball team. Not one of the media persons seemed disposed to interrupt his historic ruminations; no one, that is, save Joe Garagiola, the television luminary, resplendent this bright day in pink slacks, sweater and scalp.
"Just think about it, Frank Robinson," said Garagiola, addressing the solitary figure with mock solemnity. "Managing is a lonely job."
Robinson's mobile face exploded into laughter. He had found managing anything but a lonely job, and, in fact, he seemed to revel in the tumult thrust upon him, answering endlessly repetitive questions with courtesy and restraint, posing graciously for photographs, signing autographs with dogged good cheer.
He had done his level best to make his managerial debut an occasion more joyous than solemn. All that morning he had exchanged japes with players, clubhouse attendants, reporters, even the television technicians who were wiring him for sound so that his every utterance during this epochal game might be preserved for posterity on a Garagiola sports special. Robinson was setting the style for his day, and he wanted to keep it light.
"Has anybody asked you a new question?" Russell Schneider of the Cleveland Plain Dealer had inquired of him.
"That's it," answered Robinson.
The Robinson good humor was infectious. Gags abounded, many of which, in a less buoyant atmosphere, might have been considered in questionable taste.
Robinson was as prepared for his day as a previous Robinson was for his nearly three decades ago. But there was no one to relieve the pressure for Jackie Robinson; Frank Robinson took much of it off himself.