Robinson gets sympathy --and blame--from fans

May 24, 1991|By Jerry Bembry

Back in the days when Frank Robinson was tearing up the National League while playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Elaine Barney would go to Crosley Field and marvel at the feats of one of her favorite baseball players.

"I love Frank Robinson," Barney, now a Crofton resident, said yesterday.

So one could expect a little sympathy from Barney on Robinson's reassignment to the front office of the Baltimore Orioles, right?


"I think it's time he went," said Barney, who was at Memorial Stadium buying tickets when she heard about the announcement. "Look at the team. How long has it been since they won?"

Actually, the last win was in Detroit on Tuesday, but despite what Barney said -- and the fact that the Orioles have the second-worst record in the majors entering tonight's game against the New York Yankees -- the fan reaction to Robinson's departure was mixed.

From radio talk shows to ticket buyers at Memorial Stadium to the Downtown Athletic Club, there was as much blame for Robinson's role in the team's poor start as there was regret about his being forced out as manager.

"He was really smart two years ago. What did he do, get dumb all of a sudden?" asked Bob Feldman of Baltimore, referring to 1989, when Robinson was named Manager of the Year after leading the Orioles to a second-place finish in the American League East. "Look at Ben McDonald. He looks good Friday, but [Wednesday] he can't get anybody out in two innings.

"I'm surprised he's out, because he's smart. I just hope he stays in the organization, because he'd make a good general manager."

Karen Lurito, who also learned of the change while purchasing tickets, said Robinson was ousted because of his "poor job with the pitching staff.

"I think he's a great manager, but the pitchers can't stop anybody from scoring," Lurito said. "They score five or six runs, and the other teams are scoring nine. I think when Glenn Davis was in, they had a great lineup. The team just needs to start spending money on decent pitching."

Bob Giloth of Waverly was one of many fans who said the Orioles' problems were not Robinson's fault, but the team needed to make a change.

"It was just time to do something, because they were playing so poorly," Giloth said. "Maybe, instead of investing all that money into the new stadium, they should have invested in some players.

Steve Yeager of Baltimore said Robinson had to know that a move was coming.

"I thought, and I'm sure he knew, that it was inevitable," Yeager said. "I'm not sure it was his fault, but nobody was performing. Somebody has to be held accountable for it and, even though he's not to blame, he knew he would have to be the one.

Whether they liked Robinson or not, there was a common thread in most of the comments from the fans: To be competitive, the Orioles, whose payroll is 25th of 26 major-league teams, need to spend more money.

"I think the Orioles are the K mart of baseball," Barney said. "What incentive do the players have to play their hearts out? You need money players."

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