Bates: What we talk about when we talk about Frank Robinson

From Mike Bates at SB Nation on February 28, 2014:

Orioles Manager Buck Showalter was appalled to learn earlier this week that 19 year old Josh Hart, the Orioles pick in the supplemental round between rounds one and two of the amateur draft, didn’t know who Frank Robinson was. Showalter hit upon an unusual solution (via’s Brittany Ghiroli):

Robinson visited Orioles camp and spoke to the team… and was walking with Showalter past Hart before the Orioles skipper decided to test the youngster. When Hart didn’t know who Robinson was, Showalter assigned him a one-page paper on the Hall of Famer.

Josh Hart is only 19 years old and probably didn’t go out and buy a book on the history of the Orioles franchise the second he was drafted. Robinson retired 18 years before Hart was even born and hasn’t managed since the youngster was 12. So lay off the kid. He doesn’t deserve to be a punchline. Thankfully, Showalter realizes this too. “I called [director of player development Brian Graham, and] I said, ‘This kid’s not ruined for life or embarrassed?’… I actually feel bad now. I do. I got a good feeling we will be talking about something else concerning Josh Hart than that at some point. He’s a talented kid.”


The history of Frank Robinson, and of African-Americans in baseball, isn’t just for black players, and thinking that it should be appreciated is not just about some snobbish notion of baseball cultural literacy. Knowing who Frank Robinson was will probably not help Hart or any other prospect hit one more home run, steal an extra base, or get a single strike on a batter. And yet, every player in the game should be aware of the struggles of Robinson and his contemporaries because organizations are not just molding athletes but constructing constantly-evolving communities in their clubhouses, which is another way of saying teams.

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Originally published: February 28, 2014. Last Updated: February 28, 2014.