O's, Robinson part company after 19 years

Sun Staff

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, andbelieves he never will be again.

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

"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 inmany roles, on the field and in the front office. As we began to lay out thefuture of the organization, we did not see a meaningful role for Frank in thebaseball operations."

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

Robinson's influence within the organization diminished this year, duringthe Orioles' disappointing 71-73 season. Manager Phil Regan was fired Oct. 19,and general manager Roland Hemond resigned the next day. About two weekslater, Robinson attempted to resign, but owner Peter Angelos encouraged him towait 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 asa possible complement to the next GM. "I think that probably if [formerMontreal GM] Kevin Malone was the general manager," Gillick said, "coming fromthe National League, they felt Frank could be very valuable to him, becauseKevin had not been around the AL."

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

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

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

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

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

"I think I'll be in baseball next year. I feel something will open up forme 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 justlisten. 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 achance Robinson could land with the Padres as some sort of assistant to CEOLarry Lucchino.

"Frank has made it clear he has to have a meaningful role in personnelmatters," Lucchino said yesterday, "and in other significant operationalaspects. 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, JohnMoores and myself. . . . This will probably accelerate the pace of ourdiscussions. Do I still think he has a meaningful contribution to make tomajor-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 thelast Oriole to touch home plate at the ceremony when that park closed at theend of the 1991 season. When ex-Orioles trotted onto the field for the finaltime, 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 myrelationship with this organization, and with the city and the fans. It's likehome to me. I just have a special feeling about the people here."

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