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O's, Robinson part company after 19 years

Assistant GM is told his contract won't be renewed Dec. 31; 'Hoping it wouldn't end'; Player, manager, exec, he says heart with team

Sun Staff

December 5, 1995

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In his heart, Frank Robinson said yesterday, he will always be an Oriole. But in practice, he is no longer a part of the Orioles' organization, and believes he never will be again.

New general manager Pat Gillick and vice chairman of finance Joe Foss informed Robinson yesterday morning that his contract as assistant general manager will not be renewed when it expires Dec. 31. Robinson, 60, has 19 years with the club as a Hall of Fame player, manager and front-office executive.

"It's been a good run," Robinson said. "I was hoping it wouldn't end. . . . This is the end for me here."

In a prepared statement, Gillick said, "Frank has served the Orioles in many roles, on the field and in the front office. As we began to lay out the future of the organization, we did not see a meaningful role for Frank in the baseball operations."

Robinson said: "Professionally speaking, I understand that any time a new person comes in, they have the right to bring in their own people. I wish the organization well. . . . Personally, I would've liked something to have been worked out here. I was holding out hope that it might be."

Robinson's influence within the organization diminished this year, during the Orioles' disappointing 71-73 season. Manager Phil Regan was fired Oct. 19, and general manager Roland Hemond resigned the next day. About two weeks later, Robinson attempted to resign, but owner Peter Angelos encouraged him to wait for the next GM to be selected. Perhaps something could be worked out.

"They were keeping their options open, I guess," said Robinson.

Gillick believes Angelos -- who is out of the country -- kept Robinson as a possible complement to the next GM. "I think that probably if [former Montreal GM] Kevin Malone was the general manager," Gillick said, "coming from the National League, they felt Frank could be very valuable to him, because Kevin had not been around the AL."

Robinson said last week that he'd probably offer to resign again, but mentioned to friends that he was excited about the possibility of working with Gillick and new manager Davey Johnson. He arrived at the Orioles' offices early yesterday morning, in anticipation of a meeting with Gillick to discuss his future.

But at about 9:30 a.m., Robinson was called into Foss' office and given the bad news; Gillick acknowledged last night that Robinson appeared surprised and upset. Later, Robinson would struggle tearfully through interviews.

Gillick said: "I took the job with the understanding that I had the latitude to do what I thought needed to be done. Frank has done a lot of things for this organization, as a player and executive . . . but I prefer to go with somebody else."

Robinson said Angelos offered him a job in October as vice chairman of baseball operations. But Robinson was wary of taking a position without a meaningful role.

"I didn't want to be sitting here collecting my salary," Robinson said. "I didn't want it to seem like I was the eyes and ears for the owner and run to him about things. What I wanted to have done with that role is something spelled out. I wanted my duties spelled out, but they never would spell out my duties.

"I think I'll be in baseball next year. I feel something will open up for me someplace. My feeling now is that I'll get things packed up around here, and sometime in the next few days I'll go home [to California] and I'll just listen. I hope some calls will come in, and I think they will."

Robinson interviewed for the job of general manager of the San Diego Padres earlier this fall. Kevin Towers recently got that job, but there's a chance Robinson could land with the Padres as some sort of assistant to CEO Larry Lucchino.

"Frank has made it clear he has to have a meaningful role in personnel matters," Lucchino said yesterday, "and in other significant operational aspects. That's what we've got to discuss. I think there's a potential match.

"It's something we've been talking about internally, Kevin Towers, John Moores and myself. . . . This will probably accelerate the pace of our discussions. Do I still think he has a meaningful contribution to make to major-league baseball? You can be sure I do."

Gillick said he has several possible replacements for Robinson in mind, including Malone, who called Gillick last week to ask about any openings.

Robinson, the only player to hit a ball out of Memorial Stadium, was the last Oriole to touch home plate at the ceremony when that park closed at the end of the 1991 season. When ex-Orioles trotted onto the field for the final time, Brooks Robinson went first, Frank Robinson second.

"Ever since I first came here, I've been an Oriole and I always will be," said Robinson, the first Oriole to have his number retired. "I've enjoyed my relationship with this organization, and with the city and the fans. It's like home to me. I just have a special feeling about the people here."