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The Streak remembered: Frank Robinson

Game 3, June 4
Nationals 7, Marlins 3
W: Kim (1-0)
L: Leiter (2-6)

The box score would indicate this was as mundane a win as the Nationals could have. Nick Johnson went 2 for 3 and drove in two, including the go-ahead run. Vinny Castilla added three RBI. A reliever named Sun-Woo Kim took over for starter Tomo Ohka -- not a Frank Robinson favorite, someone who would be traded by the end of the streak -- in the fourth, and got the victory. The Nats took the lead in the fifth and added insurance runs in the seventh and eighth. Ho-hum. But anyone who was there remembers Marlon Byrd, an outfielder the organization acquired the previous month, tearing in from left field toward umpire Bill Miller. Byrd was upset about being called out on a check swing to end the previous inning. Another umpire, Joe Brinkman, tried to intervene. Brinkman ended up on the ground. Byrd declined to discuss it afterward. "I think the most important thing is us winning a ballgame," Robinson said.

At end of the day: 30-26, second place in NL East, 1/2 game behind

Frank Robinson didn't know it, but 2005 would be his second-to-last year as a manager, and it's one that stands out now. There was 1989 with the Orioles, he said, and the San Francisco team that contended in 1982, and his 1975 Cleveland team, when he got the opportunity to manage.

"That year in Washington was special," Robinson said. "You always remember the first half very fondly, and the possibilities that are presented. But you know when you have the good first half, and you don't follow it up, it always leaves a bitter pill. It's just the opposite when you have a poor first half and wind up like gangbusters. People have good memories then.

"But that was very hard. I was very, very disappointed for the fans. I was very, very disappointed for the players. They were trying. But things didn't work out right. It was just a very bitter pill to swallow at the end of the year."

Robinson's memories of that season are still fresh, and when I talked to him by phone last week, our conversation touched on almost every aspect of it.


* Jose Guillen: "I said a very few, short things to him in spring training. 'Hey, you're here now. What you did in the past, it doesn't come here. You have a clean slate here.' And that was it. The main thing is, Jose liked to talk, and I was a listener. But if I felt like he was off-base about something, I would tell him. He'd come into the office during the day and talk, maybe half an hour, 45 minutes. And I'd sit there, and I'd listen."

* Chad Cordero:
"Really, he was automatic. He didn't make it pretty all the time. I think that's a lot to do with his delivery. I don't think the hitters picked up the ball very well against him. I think his ball, at the end of the flight, picked up a little speed. I've hit against pitchers like that. You have a tendency, not intentionally, to relax. It wasn't like, 'Get ready buddy.' He just kind of came out, and threw, and the ball got on you a little quicker than you thought it would."

* The incident with Mike Scioscia:
"I still don't understand why Mike reacted the way he reacted after the fact. What I did, I left the dugout when Donnelly came into the ballgame. He was finishing his warmup, and I went to the umpire, without any fanfare, and said, 'I would like to have you check his glove.' He looked at me, kind of surprised, and said, 'For what?' I said, 'For pine tar.'

"He discovered it, and he threw him out of the game. And Mike went to the mound, and then the home plate umpire came back to me, and I was kind of talking to him with my back almost turned to the mound. I was just chatting with him about it, and all of a sudden, Mike appeared.

"He started in on me. 'That's [expletive]. That's [expletive]. When your guys come in, I'm going to have every one of them undressed.' To me, he was out of line. But as he finished his conversation, I didn't try to say anything to him, and he started to walk away. I'm saying to myself, 'Hey, wait a minute buddy. You don't disrespect me, then walk away.'

"I never thought about fighting. I just wanted to tell him what I thought about him, which I did. I told him, 'I'm doing my job, and I would not be doing my job if I didn't come out and fight for my team.'"

Robinson is 74 now, and he is in a stint as a special assistant to Commissioner Bud Selig. He said he focuses on whatever Selig wants at the time, but his tasks have included looking into time of game and the quality of umpiring. (Keep in mind our conversation took place before the Jim Joyce-Armando Galarraga incident.)

"The umpires are struggling a little bit in the postseason, and it carries over into the regular season," Robinson said. "He was very, very upset about that. Just like players, they go through ruts. We've talked a lot about that."

Robinson's main focus, though, is diversity in baseball -- "not just on the field, but in the front office, on the baseball side of it. That was the project I wanted to do. I go around to the ballclubs, talk to the executives about their hiring practices, about the lack of minorities. It's a very complex problem. I can't, or the commissioner can't, force them to hire people. But I can give them my thoughts on it, and I can tell them that I'll be watching them and checking on progress they've made in a year."

Robinson knows, now, that he'll never appear in an on-field role in baseball again. He broke into the majors in 1956, retired as a player 20 years later, managed three franchises, and he puts that 2005 season right next to his most precious memories.

"It became a real exciting time for me," he said. "We just did everything we had to do to win. It was exciting for me and for the fans, too. It was just a great, great time."

By Barry Svrluga  |  June 4, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
 | Tags: The Streak remembered  
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Comments

He will always be one of my favorite players in baseball for what he endured in Cincy and in the minors dealing with all the racial slights on and off the field but when he came to Baltimore my dad and uncle drove over to old Memorial stadium with my twin brother and myself and my dad said to me "son that's a real ballplayer right there,we ain't got nobody close in DC like Frank Robinson". I was so glad when F.Robby became manager of the Nats and i knew one thing; he wasn't going to tolerate a half azz effort from anyone on that team, that's why i can't stand Stan K to this day for the way he treated Robinson, in my book StanK is P.O.S. and always will be.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 4, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Seriously who freakin cares about a streak from 2005?!!

Posted by: dovelevine | June 4, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone else noticed that just as the Post starts a sseries recapping a winning streak in 2005, the 2010 Nationals start a losing streak with some odd ways to lose a game?

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | June 4, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

>Tomo Ohka

Yea remember we traded him for a 2nd baseman who broke his wrist first game and never played again. Always wise to trade a pretty good pitcher for a utility infielder. Good 1.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 4, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Lots of real Nats fan care, including me. I was at every one of those games and would pay ANYTHING to get that feeling back.

Go Nats!

Posted by: alm1000 | June 4, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I certainly care about this team's history and about Frank Robinson, and while I think Adam is doing an excellent job, it's also a great pleasure to hear from Barry again after all this time.

Posted by: Section109 | June 4, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

1) We didn't trade him, the team did. We're not on the team, we just sit here and windge about it. Some of us do, anyway. Free to do that, sure, but don't overestimate the importance of it.
2) A mediocre-at-best starter dissing the manager in public gets traded. Too bad Ohka went on to have such a great career after that. Wait, nevermind. He didn't.
3) Spivey breaking his wrist was bad luck. That was a reasonable trade under the circumstances that just didn't work out at all. Sorta like Brian Lawrence for Vinny.
4) You don't like it, don't read it. What nobody needs is the constant whining.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 4, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

@doveline

If you had been there, you would have never forgotten about it. It was magic. Besides it was and is (until the end of this season--maybe) the teams on .500 season.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | June 4, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

>>If you had been there, you would have never forgotten about it.

Wow. Are you kidding me? I was there and I've long forgotten it. It's not like youre being nostalgic about a past championship season. It was 10 stinkin games in a 162 game season in which we lost how many and finished in what place? We're now nostalgic for 10 games 5 year's ago? Seriously come on.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 4, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Lots of real Nats fan care, including me. I was at every one of those games and would pay ANYTHING to get that feeling back.
Go Nats!
Posted by: alm1000
----------------------------------------
Yes it was simply Magic with 41,000 Washington Fans cheering a winning team and hoping they would win despite the odds. Something that hasn't happened in this town with the exception of the Caps this season. Unfortunately, the odds eventually caught up with them in the second half of the year.

On a side note... Good to see Boomer Whiting doing well in CF in Syracuse after getting called up from Potomac.

Posted by: PNatsFan | June 4, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

dovelevine: A little suprised at your comments; that team of 2005 had no business winning ten anything in a row with that bunch of castoff's no direspect to Riggleman but i'd love to see what F.Robby could do with this current crop of Nats.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 4, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

What I'm more interested in is why Guzman was playing RF in the 9th inning yesterday, not five year's ago. Why wasn't Bernadina in RF? Because Riggs needs 20 double switches per game, each time he makes a piching change? And wasn't Morse a RF at Syracuse? So all the talk about his RF innings in the majors in kinda moot isn't it? This loss is squarely on Riggs. A manager is supposed to put his players in a position to succeed, not fail. Putting Guzman in RF in the 9th did just the opposite.
Enough with all the double moves already. What a horrible trip in Houston that was.
I'll be at the Paak 2night to help usher in a new era of winning ways.
You're welcome.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 4, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

This may have been thrashed around yesterday. (I'm sorry, but the loss was so really really disheartening, I couldn't look at NJ, trying to get it out of my thoughts). I don't mean this in any way other than to solicit others' thoughts: If Riggs wanted to keep Guz out there, why RF and not LF? Isn't that where you put your weakest fielding OF?

Posted by: nats24 | June 4, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Dove,

If you haven't noticed that 10 game streak and the lst half of 2005 is the highlight of the Nats existence in this town to date.

To finally have a team in the area I grew up in and have them come here and play above their heads and compete was awesome.

And honestly, I think as fans we had a little part in that because we created an atmosphere that team never had in hockey town Montreal. Sellouts and near sellouts and bouncing stands ever night. I think it picked those guys up.

Posted by: Section505203 | June 4, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm also enjoying the retrospective posts. That was a special year and I'll always treasure the memories.

Re. the pine tar incident, kinda looked to me like Frank thought about fighting (not that there's anything wrong with that ;-)).

On a somewhat related note, good luck to Chief after his call-up to the bigs. (cue Hail to the Chief)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 4, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

RE: The 2005 run.

I guess you (anyone discounting the significance) have to put it in perspective. It’s much more than just a streak of Ws or being in 1st place at the break. That was the first season for MLB baseball back in this town in 34 years and it was just so damn inspiring. Having the Nats here was enough for me, but the first half run made it all the more magical. Yeah, maybe playing the nostalgia card just 5 years later is pushing it, but I never get tired on reliving it.

And with that, I count the hours until I can blow this joint and get to Nats Park this evening. Maybe some home cooking will do the trick?

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | June 4, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I was there too, and it was great! Those "fans" who say that it doesn't mean anything don't sound like real Nats fans to me. I'm glad the post revisited the 2005 season. They were the best Nats team to date.

Posted by: stormtrooper | June 4, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

dovelevine probably deserves the benefit on the doubt on this one, maybe it's just a bad day. Not one of our usual trollers, you know?

I'd like to take a moment to reflect on how great the internet is that we can read something that wouldn't have made the paper for free. And we can read the things that did make the paper on the internet for free. What a great invention. Unless you publish newspapers for a living.

Posted by: Section506 | June 4, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

... or work for a newspaper, 506.

Buy, heck, it's great to read Barry's stuff about those first place Nats. I cut out the standing the day they were 5 games up in early July. It's something the expansion Nats or the Griffith Nats of the '50s never did, so it deserves remembering.

Posted by: nats24 | June 4, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I think that the trend is to aim for more ad revenue online vs. in print, and I don't think that print subscribers factor into that much.

Another great thing about the Internet is that we can share our joy (or our bitter disappointment) with other Nats fans, some of them across the country, or across the world.

Speaking of saving newspaper stuff, I'm holding onto Barry's print piece re. the anniversary so that 1b can read it when she's in town later this summer.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 4, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

The internet also enables people to respond immediately to other peoples inquiries regarding BA with RISP. Thanks, Bethesdangit!

Posted by: lowcountry | June 4, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Are you kidding me? I was there and I've long forgotten it. It's not like youre being nostalgic about a past championship season. It was 10 stinkin games in a 162 game season in which we lost how many and finished in what place? We're now nostalgic for 10 games 5 year's ago? Seriously come on.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 4, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

_______________________________________

Yes it WAS "just 10 stinkin games."

It was also something that occurred in the first year baseball was played in our Nation's Capitol in 33 "stinkin" years.

Posted by: TimDz | June 4, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

How can you not love Frank Robinson? I don't mind reading about 2005 occasionally. Especially when we have hit bottom for this season (at least, I hope this is the bottom) it is nice to reminisce.

It will be great when June of '05 won't be the highlight of Nats' history.

And let's all check our meds. . . .

Posted by: paulkp | June 4, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The best game I ever saw was on 6/2/05 when the Nats were down 6-3 to the Braves in the bottom of the 8th. Normally, that would have been game over. But something happened in the bottom of the 8th. The crowd came alive with spontaneous and unconnected cheering. People were standing and yelling for what seemed like the first time that year. The team responded by not giving up and coming from behind to win it 8-6. It felt like baseball was really back in DC.
The streak was nice but it didn't really matter to me. It was great just having them here. Period.
This year, we see some improvement but let's not get carried away. A stretch goal for this year's team is 4th place and .500.

Posted by: plptba | June 4, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

@dovelevine:
Guzman was in RF because Riggleman brought in Desmond off the bench to play SS. In retrospect, Guzman could have been moved to 2B, but Riggleman decided to move him to RF. Hitting-wise, Desmond for Bernadina was a bigger upgrade than Desmond for Kennedy, and remember, the Nats were trailing at the time and Guzman did knock in the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th.
Fielding-wise, Guzman to 2B would have been less of downgrade than Guzman to RF, but Riggleman still cold have put Morse in RF after he pinch-hit (and started the 2 out rally, finished off by Guz) in the 9th.

Posted by: bertbkatz | June 4, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

About 2005: don't forget that the Nats went 13-5 after the streak to reach 50-31 at the halfway point.

Posted by: bertbkatz | June 4, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Good point, bertb. I think that Barry has some more writing to do after he's done rehashing the streak. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 4, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Frank Robinson managed FOUR franchises, not three: Cleveland, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Montreal/Washington.

Posted by: smcclem | June 5, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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