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Observations from Teny Ymota and Me On Frank Robinson and "Roma" (with correction on date of F.Robby's first MLB managing job)

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week! And if that isn't enough good news, I ran into an old dear friend, Teny Ymota, while waiting on line late last week to see on a movie theatre screen in Greenwich Village the acclaimed film "Roma".  (Netflix is streaming this film but I recommend getting the full experience on a big screen.)


Teny like me is a big Orioles fan and a lover of the game far and wide.  We shed a tear and shared our memories of the great Frank Robinson who was the final piece of the Baltimore World Series championship teams of 1966 and 1970 that also won pennants in 1969 and 1971. 


Frank was not easy to get to know but he exuded the will to win in every pore. Not many superstars who desired to manage would go to Puerto Rico to get experience but F. Robby did.  Teny Ymota saw him down there winning titles for the Santurce Crabbers and marveled at his leadership skills. 


In 1975 Frank Robinson became the first black MLB manager for the Cleveland Indians. Still active as a DH in the second year of the AL's innovation, he homered to win his first game.

Loving his Orioles experience above all others, he later went down to Rochester to manage its Triple A affiliate the Red Wings. 


He resurfaced as the SF Giants manager in the early 1980s and took over as Orioles skipper early in the 1988 season after the team under Cal Ripken Sr. lost its first 6 games.  They would lose 15 more in a row - a dubious record of 21 losses to start a season.  Yet his 1989 Birds contended for the pennant until the last weekend of the season. 


Robinson was never long without a job.  He always was in demand for his no-nonsense evaluation skills and leadership abilities. He managed the Montreal Expos in its last years and came with the franchise to skipper the Washington Nationals in its first years.    


He epitomized the baseball-rich area of Oakland, California as well as anyone.  He played baseball at McClymonds High under coach George Powles, who had served in Mississippi during World War II and had seen the deprivation of black people in the Deep South.


Frank Robinson's HS baseball teammates included future MLB standouts Vada Pinson and Tommy Harper and a basketball teammate was future basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell. He was 83 at the time of his death.



I didn't know what to expect from "Roma", but Teny Ymota and another dear friend had recommended it highly.  I wasn't disappointed because the film is really an epic view of the world as seen through the eyes of one family whose man of the house abruptly departs.


A great film or novel creates a world that the viewer/reader gets immediately swept into. So it happened for me (despite sitting in a cramped theater with excruciating knee pain and a boorish guy in front of me who sang the praises of Trump when he couldn't get to his seat as fast as he wanted). 


"Roma" is set in the Mexico City neighborhood of Roma in 1971. I found myself quickly drawn into the world of the mother, her children, and especially her servant.  Deservedly both the mother (Marina da Taviro) and servant (Yalitza Aparicio, a newcomer to film who I don't think is related to Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio) are both nominated for Oscars.


So is director Alfonso Cuaron who directed Oscar-winner"Gravity". Guaron's camera is far-ranging. You viscerally gasp at the crowded streets of Mexico City and get soothed by the ocean waters outside the city. Nominated for 10 Oscars, "Roma" deserves a lot of them. The music from the car radios deserves kudos and adds to the film's relentless forward motion.  


After we shared our exhilaration at the movie, I asked Teny Ymota for his baseball views.  Unlike me, he has seen a lot of the world, especially Latin America.  He's glad that after years of indifference to the international market the Birds are making more of a commitment to scouting regions outside the United States. 


Like me, though, he isn't optimistic that Baltimore can become a contender any time soon. 

It will take time to develop the contacts and commitment to the local Latin American areas that give them a better chance of landing promising talent. 


Teny Ymota is a fairly elusive fellow and when i asked when we might meet again and inquired if that was his real name, he was non-committal. He shrugged his shoulders to both questions. 


Well, I'll keep asking and you keep reading because I hope to get the answers real soon.

 In the meantime always remember:  Take it easy but take it!  

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"Stronger Than Hate": Julian Edelman's Message + Notes on Opera and Film As We Await Spring Training

A cousin of mine just sent me an inspiring story about Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, a rare openly Jewish member of the NFL (though technically only his father is Jewish not his mother). After the slaughter of defenseless Jews at a Pittsburgh Squirrel Hill neighborhood synagogue this past fall, the Patriots wide receiver Edelman showed his solidarity with his co-religionists by inking on his football shoes, "Stronger Than Hate". 


It's a wonderful reminder that human compassion can win out over the forces of hate and bigotry that have been let loose in this country and implicitly encouraged from the top down.  I ran across tonight another inspirational quote from an emeritus archivist at Illinois Wesleyan University:  "The past is immutable, but history is up to us." 


I didn't know until researching a talk I'm giving at the NINE magazine baseball conference in Phoenix in early March that Illinois Wesleyan U. as well as Branch Rickey's beloved alma mater Ohio Wesleyan took a stand against racial segregation. In 1966 they refused to allow its baseball team play against still-segregated Mississippi universities. Instead they competed against other northern schools Illinois State, Xavier of Ohio, and Parsons of Iowa  at the Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi. 


Turning to baseball news, many sportswriters and fans are increasingly agitated that star free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still unsigned. Now even Aaron Judge is getting into the act. He's been quoted that the Yankees could find room for Harper in right field and he'd be willing to move to center field.


Aaron, calm down please.  Last spring training you put in a pitch for Machado to join the Yankees.  You are a very likable fellow and a budding great player, even Yankee haters admire you.  But let Brian Cashman general manage and you just get ready for another stellar season.


It's bad enough when fans in too many cities have little hope to contend. 


With the Knicks and Rangers pretty hopeless winter teams in NYC and only the Brooklyn Nets giving glimmers of basketball hope, I've been enjoying the arts much more than winter pro sports. For those who love the work of Milos Forman - the Czech exile who came to the USA after the failed "socialism with a human face"1968 revolution in his home country - Forman's first American film, "Taking Off", is playing two more times at the Film Forum on Houston Street.  This Thursday Feb 7 at 220 and 620p. 


I saw it on Saturday and the 1971 film holds up well. It is a realistic farce about the panicked efforts of a suburban couple (Buck Henry and Lynn Carlin) to find their teenaged daughter who in the later years of the hippie craze has run away to the East Village. 


They discover that other parents are in the same boat so they join the SPFC - the Society for Parents of Fugitive Children.  The scenes where they are instructed in smoking dope and the aftermath are as hilarious as I remembered. 


For opera buffs, you still have a chance to see a rare double-bill at the Met Opera, Tchaikovsky's last opera "Iolanta" (1892) and Bartok's only opera "Bluebeard's Castle".  Both were inspired by Grimm and other fairy tales of the mid-19th century. 


The Met Opera orchestra remains one of the treasures of our town, and this time the inventive staging matched the music.   (You can hear "Iolanta" and "Bluebeard's Castle" live on the Met's long-running radio broadcast this Sat Feb 9 at 1230P EST.)


"Without music life would be a mistake," Friedrich Nietzsche said on one of his better days.  


That's all for now - in the meantime always remember:  "Take it easy but take it." 

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