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Robinson Is Fired; Royals Hire McRae : Baseball: Orioles say 1989 AL manager of the year was reassigned. Kansas City brings back one of its most popular players.

From Staff and Wire Reports

Baseball’s recent revolving-door policy on managers continued Thursday when Frank Robinson went out and Hal McRae entered.

Robinson became the third major league manager to lose his job in three days when the Baltimore Orioles reassigned him to the front office Thursday and replaced him with first base coach Johnny Oates.

And late Thursday night, the Kansas City Royals, according to a club executive, hired McRae as the replacement for John Wathan, who was fired on Wednesday.

McRae will be formally presented in a news conference today in Minneapolis, where the Royals open a three-game series against the Twins.

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Kansas City General Manager Herk Robinson and McRae reached agreement late Thursday night in a meeting at a downtown hotel in Chicago, where Montreal, the team for which McRae had been the hitting coach, was opening a series against the Cubs.

McRae, the fifth black manager in major league history, accepted a two-year contract for the rest of this year and next. The contract is believed to call for a salary in the $175,000 range the first year and about $225,000 for 1992.

“Hal signed,” McRae’s wife, Johncyna, told the Kansas City Star. “It’s official. It’ll be like going back home.”

McRae, 45, one of the most popular and productive players in Royals’ history, played for them from 1973 to 1987. He turned down the managing job before Wathan was hired in 1987. He had been serving as a batting instructor for the Montreal Expos.

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Robinson also had a productive career with the club that let him go Thursday.

“I wasn’t reassigned, I was fired,” Robinson said. The club offered him a job that would include the evaluation of player talent, but Robinson said he would wait until the job become clearer before deciding whether to accept.

Robinson, 55, was baseball’s first black manager when he took over the Cleveland Indians in 1975. He managed the Indians from 1975-77 and the San Francisco Giants from 1981-84 before joining the Orioles’ organization.

He replaced Cal Ripken Sr. as manager in April 1988, six games into what developed into a record 21-game losing streak at the start of the season. The Orioles finished 54-107 that year, but in 1989 Robinson was named American League manager of the year for leading Baltimore to an 87-75 record and a second-place finish.

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The Orioles sagged to 76-85 last year, however, and this season were in last place with a 13-24 record when General Manager Roland Hemond dismissed Robinson.

“He has done a tremendous job for our ballclub,” Hemond said. “We will forever remember and enjoy and cherish the memories of the 1989 season--the why-not season.”

Robinson was given the news after a workout at Memorial Stadium Thursday morning. Hemond told a news conference that he had made the decision during Sunday’s 10-2 loss to the Angels.

“I think that day made my decision,” said Hemond, who delayed making the move in hope that the Orioles would turn things around in Detroit. But Baltimore lost two of three.

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“Things have not been going well and all of us share some responsibility for that,” Hemond said. “We are hopeful that a change of managers will lead to improvement in the way our team in performing.”

Oates, 45, has been an Orioles coach since 1989. He coached for the Cubs from 1984-87 and managed in the minors for three years. He was chosen as the International League’s manager of the year with Rochester in 1988.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Oates said. “We cannot come back to be a .500-level team in one inning or one game. We’re going to have to go one game at a time.”

Robinson has a 738-815 record as a manager, including 230-279 with Baltimore.

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Times staff writer Bob Nightengale contributed to this story.


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