- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

Former Baltimore Orioles great and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson reached an agreement with the Washington baseball club yesterday to manage the team for the 2005 season.

Robinson, who has managed the team in Montreal the past three seasons, had made it clear he wanted to return, and general manager Jim Bowden had said he wanted him back. But no firm agreement was reached until yesterday.

Robinson, 69, will return to RFK Stadium, where as an Oriole he hit consecutive grand slams June26, 1970, off Washington Senators pitchers Joe Coleman and Joe Grzenda.

Robinson’s Expos went 233-253 (.479) over three seasons, including 83-win seasons in 2002 and 2003. In 2002, the Expos won 15 more games than the season before. In 2003, Montreal remained in the wild-card race into September despite enduring a split “home” schedule that included 22 games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This year’s team, however, slipped to 67-95.

“We are very pleased to have Frank back,” Bowden said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for his baseball knowledge, and I look forward to working with him. We have the same vision and want to do everything we can to make the Washington club a championship-caliber team in the very near future.”

During the final weekend of the season, Robinson said he wanted to be part of the Washington franchise, preferably in an ownership or front-office role.

“That is the one thing I would like to do before I am through with baseball,” he said. “I would like to be part of an ownership group so I could have a hand in shaping the future of the franchise, and hopefully it would be a winning and successful franchise.”

Asked if he would consider continuing as manager, Robinson said, “If the new ownership would prefer for me to manage the team, I would be willing to do it for a period of time. This is not something I want to do for the next 10 years. But I would do it for a few years if I could then move up to the front office to a position of authority.”

Major League Baseball continues to own the franchise, which it purchased from Jeffrey Loria in 2001. Commissioner Bud Selig said he hopes to have the team sold to an owner by the end of the year, but the process could drag into 2005.

Robinson became baseball’s first black manager in 1975 as Cleveland’s player-manager. In 14 seasons, including a four-year stint with the Orioles, Robinson has a record of 913-1,004. His most memorable season came in 1989, when he directed Baltimore to a 321/2-game turnaround.

Robinson, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982, is one of the icons of the Orioles franchise. He came to Baltimore from Cincinnati in 1966, when he won the Triple Crown (.316 average, 49 home runs, 122 RBI) and led the Orioles to their first American League pennant and a World Series sweep of the favored Los Angeles Dodgers. Robinson led the Orioles into three more World Series appearances, including a winning one in 1970 against Cincinnati. His No.20 uniform has been retired by the Orioles.

Robinson’s batting numbers rank among the best ever. In 21 seasons, he had 586 home runs — fifth on the all-time list — with 2,943 hits, 1,829 runs scored and 1,812 RBI.

In other club business, Bowden announced the team outrighted right-hander Shawn Hill and infielder Josh Labandeira to Class AAA New Orleans.

Hill, 23, went 1-2 with a 16.00 ERA in three starts for Montreal last season, and was 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 17 starts for Class AA Harrisburg. Labandeira, 25, batted .270 with 22 doubles, nine homers and 33 RBI for Harrisburg in 2004. He appeared in seven games in Montreal after being recalled Sept.17.

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