SARASOTA, Fla. -- Frank Robinson doesn't want to get a general manager's job on the basis of race, but when and if he makes it to the next level of baseball management, he said he will be very aggressive about minority hiring.
"If I am in a position to hire, I would try to hire as many minority candidates as I could," he said. "I would try to balance things off, but I don't believe in hiring anyone who isn't qualified to do the job."
Robinson, who is close to completing his first year as Orioles assistant general manager, has made it clear that he wants to move up in the baseball ranks, if not in Baltimore, then somewhere else, but only where ownership is serious about making advances in fair employment.
It is an issue with which Robinson has been closely linked since he was hired in 1975 as the majors' first black manager. He has shied away from the issue the past few years, but he says that won't happen if he gets into a position to do something about it.
"You can blow a horn only so long and people get tired of hearing it," he said. "It's not that I got tired of crusading, it just got to the point where it was almost like crying wolf. No one was listening. That's why I backed off."
There is no telling when or if Robinson will get his chance to move up. The chances of doing so in Baltimore are limited. GM Roland Hemond is beginning the first year of the two-year contract extension he signed last season and Doug Melvin also is in line for the job.
Not that the chances elsewhere are much better. The number of black general managers in the majors (zero at last count) illustrates the long odds against a minority candidate.
The odds against Robinson might be even longer now that he has made obvious his intention to step up minority hiring, even though baseball has made that a stated objective the past several years.
"That's possible," he said. "I can't say that would happen, but somebody might say, 'If we hire him, we're going to have to take on the whole load, because he's going to take in more minorities at every level.' "
Racial bias in baseball may have become more subtle, but it still is very much a part of the corporate game. Robinson, entering his 40th year in the game, has seen progress, but he wants to see more.
"There's no doubt in my mind that baseball has been dragging its feet," he said. "Baseball used to be the front-runner. It had a head start, but now it's lagging behind some of the other sports."
The old-boy network that used to keep blacks out of the managerial ranks has been dismantled in large part, but Robinson said it has been replaced by a hiring shell game in which employers define their requirements for the job after they choose a candidate.
"They hire a young guy and say that experience isn't important," he said. "Then you hear that a minority candidate wasn't considered for another managerial opening because he didn't have minor-league experience. It seems to me that clubs are hiring people and then fitting the criteria to them."