Frank Robinson called Magic Johnson on Friday, the day after the NBA star revealed he had tested positive for the AIDS virus. As a friend, not to mention a Los Angeles Lakers season-ticket holder, Robinson figured it was the least he could do.
"I wanted to convey to him that I'm there if he needs me," the Orioles' assistant general manager said yesterday. "I'll always be there. Nothing changes as far as our friendship is concerned. I want to do what I can to help him in this battle."
Robinson said he is not as close with Johnson as his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Nichelle, southern California real-estate agents who sold Johnson his home in Los Angeles last year and were preparing to sell him a beach house in Malibu as well.
Still, Robinson remains shaken by the news, and he grew visibly upset yesterday just talking about it. He attended the Washington-Golden State NBA game at the Capital Centre Saturday night, and even though the Lakers weren't playing, he said he "couldn't concentrate."
Robinson, a member of baseball's Hall of Fame, considers Johnson one of his favorite athletes. Like the rest of us, he was stunned by the poise Johnson displayed during his news conference in Los Angeles last Thursday.
"I would have gone and hid," Robinson said, "for a period of time anyway, until I collected myself and my thoughts. But that's Magic. That was him. I'm very proud he saw fit to do it. It just shows you what type of person he is.
"The thing that saddens me is that he's been taken away from us as an entertainer. It's affecting the person that I know. He's a guy who always has been giving to others. He's as outgoing and accommodating as a person in his position can be.
"Now his life is completely changed. Now he's in a battle."