He has been to the managerial gallows twice before, so Frank Robinson knew the feeling, regardless of the terminology.
"I wasn't reassigned, I was fired," said an emotional Robinson shortly before leaving Memorial Stadium yesterday. "Right now I'm in limbo."
In announcing their managerial change yesterday, the Orioles said Robinson was being reassigned to the front-office job he left to succeed Cal Ripken Sr. as manager after six games of the 1988 season. What his role will be, however, has not yet been defined, and Robinson has not said he will accept the position.
"The job is not defined," he said. "I don't know what the job will be."
General manager Roland Hemond indicated that Robinson would be used in various capacities, including evaluating talent and continuing with the input he has had in the planning of the new stadium. "He's been very involved in that from the beginning," said Hemond.
Club president Larry Lucchino pointed out that Robinson's contract was drawn up to assure him of a return to the front office at either his or the club's discretion. But whether Robinson moves upstairs remains to be seen.
He wasn't in the front office long enough to evaluate his position in 1988, and the Orioles already are top-heavy with executives. Doug Melvin is considered a potential successor to Hemond, or possibly a GM candidate with another club.
"The first firing was the toughest," said Robinson, who previously managed at Cleveland and San Francisco. "It doesn't get any easier -- you just learn to handle it better."
However, from the beginning the Orioles were always the team he wanted to manage, and Robinson had expressed a strong desire to remain in the job until the new stadium opened next year. So, even though he is a man who takes pride in controlling his emotions, it was difficult for Robinson to hide his feelings yesterday.
"He was wiping some 'sweat' from the corner of his eye," said Johnny Oates, who met with his predecessor for about an hour before yesterday's announcement.
"It was a cordial meeting," said Oates. "He went out of his way to let me know that if he accepts the [front-office] job he would be here to help me -- not to look over my shoulder. I appreciate that."
Robinson was available only briefly before leaving the stadium and said he would wait a few days before commenting about his situation. Presumably, by that time, he will have a better idea of what role he might play in the front office -- and whether he will accept it.