I was surprised by how hard Frank Robinson’s death struck me. I’m sure that many of you, even those casual sports fans, are aware of the news given that Frank had a 21-year Hall of Fame career, and was baseball’s first African-American manager.
Baseball players have life-cycles. They begin as rookies, then reach their peak. Eventually, their skills deteriorate, and they are replaced by the next generation of players. They go into coaching or the television booth, where the home runs get longer and the stories get funnier, and eventually, the inevitable end that befalls us all, befalls them.
I know this as an adult, but it was not the adult in me that received the news.
The reports on Robinson featured various clips and photos. There were Frank and Brooks Robinson joking with one another, both young and in their prime. In the background of one photo stood Mark Belanger, who died at age 54. There was Paul Blair, whom I saw hit a homer for the only run of the third game of the 1966 World Series, and who died the day after Christmas in 2013. Curt Blefary, whose 22 home runs netted him the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1965—his ashes were scattered in Memorial Stadium before they tore it down. Curt Motten, Elrod Hendricks, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Earl Weaver—all gone. And Dave McNally: I never think of him, but what I think of his 1964 baseball card, looking so young and just a little lost, like a kid.
It was my 9-year old self who pushed his way through all the adults that I had ever been, and stared at the television, which was tantamount to looking down on Frank’s casket, wherein a little piece of himself lay.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote in this blog about Satchell Paige’s famous line, “Don’t
look back: Something might be gaining on you.” We know what that is, and it has now overtaken Frank Robinson, but the children who we were, and who remain in us don’t understand it. That’s why they mourn so sincerely, and so deeply, untainted as they are by social conventions. At 9 years old, almost all of life is in front of us. At almost 62, a large chunk of life is behind me, and now, so too, is Frank Robinson.
Great piece Austin. Best, Skip
Thanks. I’ve been following the news about Nashville baseball–very exciting! You’ll be in the big leagues soon.
Let’s promise to never give up our 9 year old self.
There are so many layers to our individual Orioles memories cake. Frank and Roland Hemond were in charge when I covered the O’s for WBAL in the early 90’s. Frank seemed to avoid the postgame locker room. On a mundane night of canned quotes, Frank seemed to notice that we in the press would always turn the mic to him for better stories, or ask a dopey, fawning question. He had gravitas. Even his old teammate Johnny Oates, the manager at that time would yield the floor to Frank, likely hoping that a current Oriole could grab just a tiny tid bit to use. He was a baseball legend on and off the field. We thank the Cincinnati Reds General Manager for his lapse in judgment.
I hope the view from “Baseball Heaven” is great for Frank. He will probably hit one out of their ballpark too.
Thanks for sharing that personal tid bit, Dave.
What will you do with your summer evenings now that you’ve retired from the Turks’ booth?!
Lots of fun things. My wife and I began a Big Brother/mentor relationship with a local disadvantaged boy in 2017. Last summer I was nailed down far more than made sense on the weekends to do things with him. His upbringing has been a bumpy road to say the least. More freedom will allow us to do enriching things with him that he has not been exposed to. The Mid-Atlantic is so full of outdoor and historical things to do.
I will miss being with the Turks, but now I get to be a Turks Fan and see it from that perspective. As you did with New Market, I handled many things for the Turks (and Valley League) to help Bob and Teresa grow the fan experience. Pulling away is tough, but the right decision…..for now.
Can’t imagine a better reason for giving it up. Good for you two!
When you wrote the blog about Brooks turning 80, I didn’t think you could top that. Well, guess what, this one about Frank is right there with it. Let’s pray that you won’t have to write another about Brooks anytime soon.
Thanks, Don. Al and I have been talking about what a sad day that will be. I hope it’s not soo, too.