EDITOR’S NOTE: When Hall of Famer Frank Robinson passed away last week, I was reminded of the fire that burned within him as a player and a manager. Whether he was winning a Triple Crown or helping to turn the Orioles around as a skipper, Robby had a competitive spirit that was only cooled by his passing. Back in June of 2005, BASN Newsroom wrote about an incident with Robinson when he was managing against Mike Scioscia and the Angels that speaks to everything Robby stands for.
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
Way back in 1987 while New York Met third baseman Howard Johnson was in the midst of his first 30-30 season in the bigs, St. Louis Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog would routinely check Hojo’s bat for cork after he went deep on the Redbirds.
Johnson had hit a big early season homer against Whitey and the Cardinals the previous season in April. It was one of the defining moments of the Mets’ run to a world championship later that year.
Despite the fact that Hojo would go on to have two more 30-30 seasons (1989 and 1991), every time he went yard against the Redbirds, Ol’ Whitey would have the umpires check the bat.
The pundits said that was just Whitey being Whitey. A cagey, veteran manager just trying to get inside the head of an opposing player. All’s fair in love, war, baseball, and the whole damn thing, right?
Apparently for some, but not for others. I’m speaking of an interesting incident that happened just recently. Just a few nights ago, Washington manager Frank Robinson noticed that Angel reliever Brendan Donnelly was using an illegal substance on his glove.
Robinson, the former head of discipline in MLB, rightfully went to the umpires about what he saw. After a check of the glove in question, the umpires promptly ejected Donnelly before he was allowed to throw a pitch.
Predictably, this left Angel manager Mike Scioscia feeling embarrassed and upset. The burly ex-catcher then got in Robinson’s face and said that he would check every Washington pitcher for the rest of the game.
This would set off a mini-confrontation between the two along with the emptying of the respective benches and bullpens. Ironically, the Nationals would rally and win the game 6-3.
But of course, that’s not the point. Robinson was 100% correct about calling out Donnelly and his attempt to cheat. But after reading and hearing some of the media after the incident, you’d think that Frank was the problem.
There were some media folks in California saying Robinson is just an “old goat who should start fights someplace else”. He should just look the other way one said.
One manager points out something against the rules (Robinson) and is chastised for it while another tries to circumvent the rules (Herzog) and is praised? Is this any wonder why several folks are turned off by the pettiness of baseball?
If this had been a Tony LaRussa or a Lou Piniella making this charge, the media would be going on and on about how these guys are always in the game or they really know the rule book.
Hell, you may have gotten George Will to do another pretentious book on LaRussa’s stance on the infield fly rule and global warming. Instead, we get these old and tired ass lines about “Mean Ol’ Frank”.
Scioscia should know better than to try and flip the script on Mr. Robinson. Tell your pitcher to play by the rules and he would be walking off the field with his tail between his legs and his manager wouldn’t have a sore arm wiping the egg off his face.
Now one question to all you baseball purists who still can’t get into interleague play. If the Angels and Nationals just happen to make it to the World Series in October, will you really not watch it because they’ve already played each other?
If you said yes, you’re just lying to yourself.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.