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Blue Jays' Gaston Vs. Orioles' Robinson : Major League First: Opposing Black Managers

June 26, 1989|From Associated Press

Baseball fans in Baltimore will see history Tuesday night, although many may not notice.

For the first time in the major leagues, two black managers will oppose each other.

Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays and Frank Robinson of the Orioles will be in the dugouts, but neither is making a big deal of the occasion.

"I didn't even think about it until now," Gaston said.

"It won't be me managing against Cito, it's Baltimore vs. Toronto," Robinson said.

The black-and-white issue is more than a footnote to appear in the black-and-white print of the record books. For several years, minority hiring has been a goal of the game, and Tuesday night's meeting marks another small step on the path of progress.

Robinson, however, did not attach much significance to the upcoming game.

"You are foreseeing an angle I just don't care to discuss," he said.

Surprising, because in his recent book, Robinson chided the media for not giving more attention to a spring-training game in 1981 with two black managers--when he was with San Francisco and Maury Wills with Seattle.

Reminded of that, Robinson reconsidered.

"Things change, times change," he said. "Now, it's a totally different situation."

Back then, Robinson, Wills and Larry Doby had been the only black managers in a sport in which there were virtually no blacks in front-office or leadership positions.

There had not been any more black managers in the majors since then until Toronto fired Jimy Williams last month and promoted Gaston, but more minorities are getting opportunities in other positions.

"With Cito being hired, it will help the situation as far as black managers," Robinson said a few weeks ago. "There will be more blacks hired and more blacks fired, and maybe it won't be such a big thing any more."

Black managers have met in the minor leagues. The first time was in 1987 when Derrel Thomas of Boise went against Mel Roberts of Bend, Ore., in a Class A Northwest League game.

The number of minority managers and coaches in the minors has increased, and the meeting of Robinson and Gaston on the major-league level is another visible sign of improvement.

Gaston, meanwhile, is thinking in terms of Blue Jays, not in terms of black managers.

"We won't be out there playing," he said.

This will be the first game of the season between the teams. Gaston sees the managers discussing the race--the pennant race.

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