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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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Orioles Honor 1966 Champs + Musings at All-Star Game Break

On Friday July 8th the 1966 World Series champion Baltimore Orioles were honored at a luncheon sponsored by the Oriole Advocates, a longtime charitable organization in Charm City. There was also an evening pre-game ceremony at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. More than a dozen players and coaches from Baltimore’s first World Series champion gathered for the events.

Of course, Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson attended - both have established roots in Baltimore since their playing days, Palmer as an excellent TV analyst and Robinson as a truly beloved year-round resident.

No surprise that slugging first baseman Boog Powell was also on hand – his barbecue stand is a popular feature at Camden Yards.

Unfortunately, Frank Robinson did not come, citing a previous commitment.
His arrival in a pre-1966 season trade from the Cincinnati Reds was the catalyst that put the Orioles over the top in 1966. He went on to win the Triple Crown and American League MVP, the only season incidentally that he ever led the league in batting average, home runs, and RBI.

Though not there to hear the plaudits, Frank Robinson’s role on the 1966 team was universally praised. His intense desire to win was infectious. Some teammates even thought that the moment he hit a home run in his first batting practice was the moment the whole team knew they would win it all.

The most amusing speaker was knuckleballing relief pitcher Eddie Fisher (no relation to the pop singer who married Debbie Reynolds and then Elizabeth Taylor).
A retired golf director for the Oklahoma tourism department, Fisher said he developed the knuckle ball because "my spitter was so slow that it dried up before it reached home plate."

After the late Moe Drabowsky pitched over six innings in relief and won the first game of the 1966 Series over the favored Los Angeles Dodgers, the bullpen was not needed. Fisher said that he warmed up a couple of times just to get on television. He added that he thought about applying for unemployment because he hadn’t worked at all in the Birds' stunning four-game sweep.

Sadly, Friday's day of celebration ended on a sour note when Ubaldo Jimenez imploded again in a starting role for the 2016 Orioles. Baltimore fans are generally not savage – they are more likely to cheer sacrifice bunts and the animated ketchup-mustard-relish race on the ballpark scoreboard than boo the home team.

But after being knocked again in the second inning, Jimenez heard the catcalls. He is
still owed $27 million through 2017 so an outright release is not likely yet. But there is much speculation that his place in a very suspect starting rotation may have been irretrievably lost.

The happier news is that the Orioles bounced back to win two close games on Saturday and Sunday. The also-ran Los Angeles Angels were in a giving mood and the Orioles were gracious hosts and accepted the breaks.

On Saturday former Mets reliever Joe Smith dropped the ball before he started to pitch. A balk was called, allowing the O’s to tie the score at 2-2. Emerging star second baseman Jonathan Schoop gave the O’s the lead with a RBI single in the 8th inning.

On Sunday shortstop Andrelton Simmons, like Schoop a native of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, let an easy popup fall in short left field. It set up a big insurance run in an eventual 4-2 Orioles win.

The O’s enter the All-Star Game break with a two game lead over Boston with Toronto right behind. The Yankees pulled to .500 with a 3-1 series win at Cleveland.
They are only 8 back of the Birds in the lost column. The Birds make their first trip to NYC July 17-20 and they will be crucial for both teams, especially the Yankees.

Lots of baseball still to be played. Even teams totally out of the playoff races like the Braves in the NL and the Twins in the AL are playing better.

As always the team that wins will not necessarily be the best team but the team that plays best down the stretch. After their sizzling start, the Cubs have looked mortal and what was once a 14 game lead over the Pirates has been cut in half. The Cardinals are even a little closer than Pittsburgh.

So as always in baseball as in life the advice is the same: Take it easy but take it!
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