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From outside, Frank Robinson still sees plenty of locked doors

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Fifty years after Jackie Robinson, you need only four fingers to countthe number of minority managers in major-league baseball. Not embarrassingenough?

Fifty years after Jackie Robinson, you also can count the number ofminority general managers, farm directors and scouting directors on one hand.

If baseball truly wants to honor Robinson's memory, it should state itssins before President Clinton tonight at Shea Stadium, and confess to theminority-hiring "achievements" of its 30 major-league clubs.

One general manager.

Three farm directors.

One scouting director.

If baseball wants to talk about Jackie's legacy, let's talk about Jackie'slegacy.

Let's talk about the doors that are still closed.

Fifty years later, six of the game's eight highest-paid players areminorities. But another Robinson sits home in Los Angeles, unable to find ameaningful job in baseball.

If Jackie Robinson is a symbol of the game's progress, then Frank Robinsonhas become a symbol of its failures.

He was a Hall of Fame player who became the first black manager and wantedto be the first black GM. But he hasn't worked in baseball since the Oriolesfired him as their assistant GM in December 1995.

Maybe it's his age - Robinson is 61.

Maybe it's his strong personality.

Maybe he just wasn't in the right place at the right time.

None of the above, all of the above, it really doesn't matter.

When you're a minority aspiring to a decision-making position in baseball,it's almost always something.

"On the field, I have no quarrels about that, as far as the players,"Frank Robinson said. "But they're still dragging their feet as far as themanagers and coaches. And let's not even go to the front office, my goodness.

"It's awful. It's terrible. It's the way it used to be on the field, asfar as coaches and managers."

Even in those positions, the numbers are leveling off - 22 percent ofmajor-league managers, trainers, scouts, coaches and instructors areminorities, compared with 20 percent in 1989, according to the 1995-96 reportof the Major-League Baseball Equal Opportunity Committee.

Narrowing it down to just managers, the number has dropped from 19 percentto 14 percent since 1992. That's a difference of one job, but the percentagecould drop further if the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays hire a white, as theArizona Diamondbacks already have.

And the front offices?

Frank Robinson is right.

They're even worse.

The 1995-96 report said that minorities comprise 18 percent of allfront-office employees, but Robinson recalls discussing such figures withformer commissioner Peter Ueberroth and telling him they lied.

"The percentages, they're misleading," Robinson said. "I told them, 'Don'tgive me percentages. Give me numbers, titles people hold in the organizationsthey're in. Let me know if the Baltimore Orioles general manager is aminority, if the Angels have three or four minorities in their front office.'

"But the percentages, they include people working in the front office whoare not in decision-making positions. They count switchboard operators,mailroom people. They count everyone and say, 'We have this percentage ofminorities.' Don't give me that. There aren't a significant number ofminorities in decision-making positions."

Baseball would respond that 11 percent of all executives and departmentheads are minorities - up from 7 percent in 1990. But again, here are therelevant facts:

One general manager.

Three farm directors.

And one scouting director.

Oh, Hank Aaron is a senior vice president in Atlanta, and Kirby Puckett isan executive vice president in Minnesota. Doc Rodgers is assistant GM inCincinnati, Willie Stargell is assistant to the GM in Pittsburgh and DaveStewart holds the same position in San Diego.

Still, none is a decision maker.

And Frank Robinson is sitting in Los Angeles.

He's so eager to return to baseball, he spoke with Anaheim and Boston lastwinter about their managerial openings - even though he has been fired threetimes as a manager.

"Really, it would be just to get back in the game," he said. "It doesn'tlook like anything is going to happen on the front-office end of it."

But what if he had been a white player who had hit 586 home runs?

Would he have fulfilled his goal of becoming a GM then?

"Yes," Robinson said. "There's no doubt in my mind."

Heck, it has all but happened for others.

"I'm not taking a shot at this individual when I bring up his name,"Robinson said. "But George Brett steps out of playing, right? What did KansasCity make him? Vice president of baseball, right? OK. This is what I'msaying."

These are not simply the words of a man who is bitter over losing a joband frustrated that he can't find another one. Robinson said much the samethings when he held a front-office position. He said them in response to AlCampanis and Marge Schott. He has been saying them for years.

"Know what I'd like to see baseball do? Acknowledge the problem and dosomething about it before there's a crisis," he said. "Baseball seems torespond to a crisis. When something happens, when something is blown up, theysay, 'We've got to do something about it.' As soon as it dies down, it'sbusiness as usual.

"Understand something is there, and do something about it. Baseball says,'We are. We are.' But where is it? It's not there. And there are two moreclubs coming in. They've already got their general managers in place, andthey're not minorities."

He sits in Los Angeles, one of baseball's all-time greats, unable to findwork in the sport he loves. If you want to talk about Jackie Robinson, let'stalk about Frank Robinson. Let's talk about minority hiring. Let's talk aboutall that is still wrong.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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