Frank Cashen, who helped build Orioles' dynasty, dies Monday at age 88

Team executive won world championships in Baltimore, with New York Mets

June 30, 2014|By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun

Frank Cashen, the Orioles executive who oversaw the team's halcyon years — when it traded for Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, hired Earl Weaver as manager and won two world championships — died Monday at 88.

A Baltimore native, Cashen died of complications from congestive heart failure surrounded by family members at Easton Memorial Hospital in Talbot County.

Cashen led the Orioles for a decade (1966-75), during which they also won four American League pennants and two division championships. He later became general manager of the New York Mets and led them to a 1986 world championship.

Cashen recently completed a book highlighting his 25 years in the game. "Winning in Both Leagues: Reflections from Baseball's Front Office" is to be published in September by the University of Nebraska Press.

"Frank served the Orioles as executive vice president ... during the team's most successful on-field era," the Orioles said in a statement. "It was during his tenure that the Orioles acquired (outfielder) Frank Robinson and named Earl Weaver manager, two of the most significant moments in club history."

The team held a moment of silence in Cashen's honor prior to Monday night's home game against the Texas Rangers. Before the game, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette talked about Cashen with reporters.

"The Orioles lost an excellent executive in Frank Cashen today. Frank was a mentor to me," Duquette said. "Andy MacPhail, myself, Dave Dombrowski, Bill Stoneman, we used to go out to dinner with Frank every year at the general managers’ meetings, Frank was a great storyteller and he regaled the audience with great stories about his times in Baltimore and how he was a part of the team."

A graduate of Mount St. Joseph, Loyola College and Maryland Law School, John Francis Cashen was 39 when tapped by Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger as his right-hand man. Hoffberger was also president of the National Brewing Co., where Cashen was director of advertising. The hireling learned quickly.

"Frank was one of the first people who came to work for a club with no experience arranging rosters — but, geez, he became general manager of both the Orioles and Mets," said Bob Brown, then Orioles traveling secretary and public relations director. "He was a very, very bright man with a lot of guts."

Years later, Hoffberger recalled, "You didn't have to look over Frank's shoulder to have him give you his best. I never had an office at Memorial Stadium because I wanted the door to lead to Frank, not to me. He was in control and I was never disappointed."

With Harry Dalton, the Orioles' savvy general manager, Cashen built a powerhouse and didn't mind boasting of it.

"I remember taking the team bus to the ballpark in Los Angeles for the first game of the 1966 World Series," Brown said. "We passed a billboard that read, 'Would you believe four straight?' Nobody said much about it. A week later we were back in Baltimore, having won the first three games — and the Dodgers' bus turned onto 33rd Street toward Memorial Stadium to see a sign that read the same thing.

"Cashen had ordered that sign without telling anyone — and damned if we didn't win."

In 1971, when Dalton left to become general manager of the California Angels, Cashen became Orioles GM as well.

"I've been around baseball all my life and hopefully I've absorbed something," he said at the time. "After all, I've been here on a day-to-day basis since 1965 and I'm not a novice."

During Cashen's run, the team acquired four 20-game winners (Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Ross Grimsley and Mike Torrez) through trades. In 1974, he dealt for Ken Singleton of the Montreal Expos, who became an Orioles mainstay for a decade and was runner-up for American League Most Valuable Player in 1979.

"[Cashen] is just a bright guy," Hoffberger once said. "He's organized, methodical, puts little slips of paper on his desk with his jobs on them and moves them around according to priority. He has a fertile mind."

Compassionate too, those who knew him said.

"Frank was a guy who'd quietly say to a secretary, 'I know your child is sick. Go home and stay there until he's well,' " said Bill Tanton, former sports editor of The Baltimore Evening Sun.

All told, Cashen earned five World Series rings.

"I gave them all away. I have five sons," he told The Baltimore Sun in 2007.

Cashen grew up in Gardenville and learned baseball watching sandlot games in Clifton Park with his father, who had emigrated from Ireland. After college, he worked as a sportswriter for the Baltimore News American for 15 years, while earning a law degree. He then became general manager of both Baltimore Raceway, a trotting track, and Bel Air Race Track before taking the brewery job.

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