Robinson: Majors must see beyond Schott?

February 05, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Frank Robinson long has been outspoken on the topic of race and baseball, and, a day after the major leagues punished Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott for racial slurs, he remained so.

Robinson, Orioles assistant general manager and the majors' first black manager, says that baseball's bigotry goes beyond Schott. He remains skeptical of the effort to increase minority hiring in front-office jobs, and says there is no shortage of black candidates for general manager spots. However, Robinson says baseball is halting further progress by keeping minorities out of minor-league managing, thus clogging a pipeline to jobs in the majors.

Robinson addressed these matters, brought back into the spotlight by the Schott decision, in an interview yesterday.

Q. Is Marge Schott the exception, or are there other owners who think this way?

A. There's no doubt in my mind there are others who think the same way and have said similar things behind closed doors. This wouldnot have come out if one of her employees had not brought it out. I've read that there have been meetings where the commissioner has tried to reason with her, that Jackie Autry (wife of California Angels owner Gene Autry) met with her in an effort to get her to stop using phrases before they became public knowledge. But she's not an exception, far from it.

Q. Have you ever personally heard an executive of a club or a major-league official use the kind of language Schott used?

A. No.

Q. What kind of multicultural training course would you recommend Schott take?

A. She should get into a sensitivity program to learn what minorities are like, how they think. She has to learn to better understand. I don't think the lady understands minorities.

Q. Is the Schott story likely to improve front-office job prospects for blacks and other minorities?

A. Yes, I think it will.

Q. What are the owners doing to promote minority hiring? What else should they do?

A. I think they are more conscious of the minority-hiring issue. They are implementing plans to where they feel a certain number minorities should be part of their work force. But numbers can be manipulated, percentages can be inflated. To say that there are, say, 10 percent [minorities] now rather than 5 percent two years ago doesn't say much, except that it's more than before. But that doesn't address the issue of hiring minorities in decision-making positions. Baseball is still a long way from really addressing that issue.

Q. What can the fans do?

A. I think if they have strong enough opinions, they can express them to the organizations. And, let's face it, they can stay away from the park -- stop buying tickets.

Q. What can players do? Why haven't they been more vocal in demanding that minorities get a fair shake in front office/coaching jobs?

A. Everyone has to do things his own way. I think active players believe they're employed to play, not get involved in political issues. If a player feels comfortable speaking out, I think he should. If he doesn't, then he shouldn't.

Q. What will it take to solve these problems?

A. The No. 1 thing is for baseball to say, 'We have a problem and have to do something about it,' which they have said. The next thing, I believe, is to sit down with minority leaders, present and former players and find out what they'd like to see corrected -- then seriously go about doing it.

Q. Would it help things if there were black owners?

A. It would help to a certain extent, because obviously a black owner would hire more blacks. But what are we talking about, one club? You'd still have 27 more. To me, for black ownership to make a difference, you'd have to have 50 percent.

But, actually, why does it have to be black ownership [to hire minorities]?

Q. Why do you want to be a general manager?

A. Because I love baseball. I've been in the game over half my life, and if I can't be involved on the field, the next thing is becoming a general manager or being part of an ownership group, where I'd have a hand in shaping an organization and hiring or not hiring minorities.

Q. Have you felt race has been an obstacle in getting a GM job?

A. To a certain extent, but to what extent, I don't know. I've seen other ex-players move from the coaching lines [to GM] who have had lesser jobs than I have.

Q. If you were an owner, could you name six candidates on your short list for GM?

A. Well, I'd certainly have to include myself. Bob Watson [assistant GM at Houston] comes to mind. And, although he might not want it, so does Joe Morgan. Willie Stargell and -- even though he'd probably scream and say, 'Don't use my name, I'm just trying to get started as a manager' -- I'd include Don Baylor. And I think you'd have to consider, not necessarily right now, Reggie Jackson as the kind of person who could grow into the position.

Q. Will there ever be a black commissioner? Could there be one now? Could you name five candidates for commissioner?

A. I'm not one to say never. I think someday there probably will be. There could be one now, but there won't be -- baseball isn't ready. As for candidates, it's hard to say because I don't really know people who want the job. I wouldn't want it. But Hank Aaron and Watson are two who come to mind right away.

Q. There are now four black managers and two Hispanic managers. Has there been an increase in minority hiring in the minors as well?

A. No. There hasn't been an increase at the minor-league level, because that's where the pipeline is built to move up for jobs at the major-league level. Baseball doesn't want that -- because then they wouldn't have the excuse [of a lack of qualified candidates] for not hiring minorities at the major-league level.

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