CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Frank Robinson said he never thought he would be in Cleveland for something like what happened on Saturday, May 27th, 2017. It wasn’t just Robinson in attendance, but his friends like Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former teammate Don Buford.
With the gates at Progressive Field opening at 2 PM, and the ceremony starting 15 minutes later, fans surrounded Heritage Park beyond center field to watch a pioneer and hero to so many be honored by the team that tabbed him to become the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball.
A statue of Robinson was revealed in the Indians’ garden of history, but not before friends and peers admired the man of the hour. Following the ceremony, the team also retired Robinson’s number 20, unveiling the honor in between the first African-American players in each league, Larry Doby’s number 14 and Jackie Robinson’s iconic number 42.
Robinson used his own platform on Saturday to thank his friends and the organization for fulfilling a long-time dream of his, telling stories of how he got to that point.
The former Vice President of On-Field Operations also addressed the present and the future, saying that the game has taken a step back on the trail that he and others have helped blaze.
“We are still not where we should be in the front office, in the dugouts and even now in the players’ roster,” Robinson said. “We are losing ground all the way around. All the way around. We are not asking to be given anything. I wouldn’t want anyone of color given something, I want the people that want to be in this game and father this game to earn what they get.”
As not to leave the matter on a negative note, Robinson implored those on the cusp of extending his legacy to keep pushing.
“There are people out there in the Minor Leagues, at the big league level as coaches and they have earned their way up but they just don’t seem to be able to break that barrier as often as they should,” he said. “All I can can tell them- Don’t give up. Do not give up. If you want to manage one day in the big leagues, continue to do it. Continue to do it.”
Another theme of the day was the history of integration in Cleveland, ranging from Robinson’s hiring to Doby becoming the first African-American player in the American League and beyond.
“There is something special about our city, Cleveland,” Indians owner Paul Dolan said. “We celebrated Larry Doby as the first black player in the American League just 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. Our city was the first major urban center in America to vote an African-American as Mayor when we did so in 1968 with Carl Stokes.”
“These events are part of this great city’s proud legacy. Today, we celebrate another stage of this important legacy. As Clevelanders and Americans, we are all part of this great American struggle to live up to our founding principle that all men are created equal. We have much more to go in this journey. But it is a source of pride that some big steps forward have been taken here in Cleveland.”