Outfielder Frank Robinson is one of the Orioles' most important players ever, and a historically significant trailblazer in the annals of Major League Baseball. Which is probably why O's manager Buck Showalter told prospect Josh Hart to write a one-page report on him on Monday after finding out the 19-year-old was unfamiliar with the Hall of Famer, as per the tweet sent by Baltimore Sun baseball writer, Eduardo Encina.
Entering his fourth full season with the club after becoming manager in July of 2010, Showalter is a historian of the game and was a widely praised analyst during his time between managerial stints after parting ways with the Rangers in 2006. Buck has a special place in his heart for O's lore: his uniform number (26) is a reference to former O's manager Johnny Oates. So it's no surprise he's not particularly happy with a part of the team's future not having an appropriate grasp of the its past.
Robinson, for his part, is one of the sport's all-time greats, is still the only player to win MVPs in both leagues -- one each as a member of the O's and the Cincinnati Reds. He was also a Triple Crown winner -- doing so as a member of the organization during his 1966 AL MVP season -- a Rookie of the Year, and has his number #20 retired with both organizations. And perhaps, most importantly, he was the first African-American manager in the history of baseball.
His managerial career -- during which he won the 1989 Manager of the Year award, also with the Orioles -- began in 1975, as part of a radically retro experiment involving Robinson as player-manager for the Cleveland Indians. Reminiscent of the very beginnings of the sport, Robinson was in fact traded by his previous organization, the Angels, in order to accommodate his requests to become a manager.
After leaving the Indians in 1977, he was named a manager of the San Francisco Giants following a brief stint as a coach on the Angels and three seasons out of baseball, becoming the first African-American manager in the NL to go along with his many other accomplishments.But it wasn't always smooth sailing for Robinson, who along with (ironically enough) Showalter, was named Worst Manager according to players in a 2006 survey by Sports Illustrated when he was the skipper for the Nationals.
This -- or more specifically, his team's miserable play that resulted in him being called the sport's worst manager -- would lead to the organization not renewing his contract, moving the all-time great off the bench for what seems like good. That all of this happened before the time Josh Hart was likely in high school seems irrelevant as more and more players appear disconnected to the rich history of the game and the people that paved the way for the league to be where it is today.
Though Hart shouldn't feel too bad, this probably isn't the first time a player didn't know who Frank was: according to legend, and Bryant Gumbel, Robinson once managed a player in Washington who asked him if he ever played in the majors.