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An Ernie Banks quote

You might know that 32 years ago today, Frank Robinson was hired by the Cleveland Indians as their new manager. He became the first black manager in baseball history.

Well, sort of.

In 1973 — Tuesday, May 8 if you want to be precise about it — Ernie Banks actually became the first black man to manage in a Major League Baseball game. It was in San Diego. The Cubs were playing the Padres. Chicago trailed 2-0 going into the eighth but then Rick Monday hit a two-run homer to tie it up. The game went into extra innings.

In the 11th inning Cubs manager Whitey Lockman was tossed out of the game. And Banks, who was coaching for the Cubs replaced him as interim manager.

It wasn’t just that — Banks was an active manager in his two innings. In the 12th, Cubs catcher Ken Rudolph led off with a double. Banks then had Don Kessinger bunt him to third. He then pinch hit Joe Pepitone (who had not started because of an upset stomach — uh, yeah). Pepitone promptly doubled in the go-ahead run. In the ninth, Banks put Bill Bonham into the game, and he retired the Padres 1-2-3, and the Cubs won.

Banks’ big moment was hardly reported at all. I’m sure there’s a story out there that mentioned the fact that Banks was the first black man to manage even an inning of a Major League game, but I can’t find one. I do find a couple of stories stories that mention how much Banks enjoyed his brief managerial experience. “It’s a combination of a lot of feelings,” he said. “Feeling great that I was there. Feeling good about the win. Feeling good for the players.”

But the real find is an interview with the Long Beach Press Telegram sports editor one day before Banks quietly made a small bit of history. Dixon pointedly asked Banks if he wanted to become baseball’s first black manager.

“I defintiely want to be a major league manager,” Banks said. “It’s not necessarily that I want to be the FIRST black manager, though. … I don’t think being black or white makes a difference, either. It’s the rapport a manager has with his players that counts today. … I’ve learned that the complete athlete respects his boss no matter what the boss’ color.

“My main mistake might be that I’d be too easy-going. But a few losses probably would change that attitude.”

Wonderful stuff. But my favorite Banks quote, for so many reasons, is this one:

“I don’t think a bad black manager would be any worse than a bad white manager.”

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16 Responses to An Ernie Banks quote

  1. Douglas Bisson says:

    Frank Robinson became the manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. Nine years later he became the first black National League manager.

  2. SDG says:

    Technically, the first black manager in the MLB was Roy Campanella. For three innings in a Class B league (like with Banks, when the real manager was ejected from a game) but it still counts.

    The second black manager in the majors? Larry Doby. Being second was kind of his thing. What’s weird is Veeck, who was managing the ChiSox fired him after a few months (he went back to being a coach) and Veeck never explained why he hired him in the first place only to dump him at the end of the season. Especially when the team had a losing record before Doby’s tenure and he was hired in the middle of the season and couldn’t exactly get new players. Veeck was patient enough to give Doby all of the 1947 season to adjust to being a player but not as manager. Veeck burned through managers for that team.

    Also, Doby was a coach on the Indians team that hired Frank Robinson to manage. Robinson got rid of Doby because he thought Doby wanted the prestige of being the first and wouldn’t respect Robinson’s authority. I have no idea if that’s true of if Frank Robinson had his own issues, but that’s what he said. Why don’t baseball figures write books where they’re honest and give up the real dirt, any more? Have you read any of the books by or about the Core Four era Yankees? Boring.

    • Douglas Bisson says:

      Class B is not “Major League Baseball.” Robinson was the manager of Cleveland in 1975; Doby was the White Sox manager in 1978. Robinson was the first black manager in the American League *and* the first black manager in the National League.

  3. Gordon Hewetson says:

    I remember a Yankees game with my dad. Frank Robinson, was coaching the Cleveland Indians. The Indians wore an all red uniform-pants, shirt and shoes. Thought Robinson started as a player/manager. He pinch hit himself late in the game.
    Robinson was great as a Cincinnati Red. Had triple crown in ’66 – a year before the great Yazstremski in ’67. Frank Robinson distinguished himself as an Oriole – who inexplicably lost to the juggernaut Mets in ’69 and to Clemente’s Pirates in ’71

  4. Dan-0 says:

    Banks put Bill Bonham in the 13th, not the 9th, right?

  5. Two trivial tidbits.

    –In an autobiography, Tommy Lasorda said that when he learned Walter Alston was retiring, he hoped that he would get the chance to manage the Dodgers. But he also said that Jim Gilliam had been a coach for a long time and he might get a shot. I thought it was nice of Lasorda to say that because everybody saw him as the heir apparent, not Gilliam.

    –Fred Claire said that in 1983, Lasorda was ready to leave the Dodgers for a multi-year deal with the Yankees (I would have paid to see the team of Steinbrenner and Lasorda in action. That one might have lasted 18 seconds.). In the discussion of what to do, Peter O’Malley agreed that they would make an offer to Joe Morgan. The point proved moot. But THAT would have been interesting.

  6. Robert says:

    and Cito Gaston of the Blue Jays was the first black manager to win a World Series (twice) and manage an All-Star game (twice). That was 1992 and 1993.

    • Gordon Hewetson says:

      First Latino managers? Alou was with Expos. Tony Pena had a brief stint. Ozzie Guillen won ’05 World Series with White Sox. There must be others

      • Brent says:

        I don’t know, is Al Lopez considered Latino? His parents were from Spain, but they lived in Cuba before they came to Florida in the early 20th century.

        • Robert says:

          Cito wasn’t Latino. He was an African-American born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas of African-American parents.

        • invitro says:

          Lopez is probably Hispanic, but not Latino. Wikipedia said his parents lived “briefly” in Cuba. His heritage is similar to that of Jose Canseco, I think… Canseco’s parents lived in Cuba for several years, though. Only one of Canseco’s parents may have been from Spain. Sorry, I read Juiced a month ago and this is from memory. Anyway, and for what it’s worth, Canseco proclaims himself a Latino, very loudly, and constantly complains that he was the victim of anti-Latino racism, throughout his book.

      • invitro says:

        The first Latino manager was Ted Williams, of course. 😉

        • Gordon Hewetson says:

          I had no idea about Ted Williams. Sad he felt it necessary to hide his maternal Mexican heritage. He did manage the Washington Senators for a short stint. I’d forgotten CIto Gaston who managed two Blue Jay World Series champs.

        • Pat says:

          I love that bit of trivia about Williams. Martin Sheen coulda done a great job playing him.

  7. Brent says:

    And actually the first Latino manager was Miguel Gonzalez, who was interim manager for the Cards in the 30s on a couple occasions (and he was Cuban-Cuban, not Spanish-Cuban like Lopez, but it is immaterial because his stints as manager predated Lopez anyway)

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