Giants pay tribute to former skipper Robinson

Giants pay tribute to former skipper Robinson

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants highlighted their annual African-American Heritage Night promotion Wednesday by honoring their first black manager, Hall of Fame slugger Frank Robinson, who was responsible for changing the clubhouse culture during his brief but eventful San Francisco tenure.

AT&T Park patrons took home bobblehead dolls with Robinson's likeness. He received a video tribute and a commendation from the city's Board of Supervisors.

None of that warmth and fuzziness was evident during Robinson's 1981-84 Giants stint. Taking over a team that finished a combined 31 games below .500 (146-177) in the previous two seasons, he knew he had to be stern to reverse the Giants' fortunes. Everybody on the 25-man roster, he believed, must be focused on baseball.

So he felt compelled to rein in the club's sizable contingent of players who, he felt, took religious worship just a little too far.

"I had to get rid of the holy rollers," he said. "They could have their services, but not in the clubhouse. They could have them in a room off the clubhouse, which was fine. But they couldn't be doing that and talking about those things in the course of getting ready to play a ballgame."

Robinson on time as a manager

Robinson's approach generated instant results. The Giants finished 56-55 in strike-shortened 1981 and went to the final weekend of the 1982 season before being eliminated from the National League West race.

The Giants were the second of five clubs Robinson managed. He became the Major Leagues' first African-American manager with Cleveland in 1975. After the Giants dismissed him in the middle of a disappointing 1984 season, he proceeded to manage Baltimore (1988-91) and Montreal/Washington (2002-06).

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.