PHOTO INDEX: OUR "WRITE ON WEDNESDAY" LOGO AND FRANK ROBINSON BEING CONGRATULATED BY JOE LIS ON HIS OPENING DAY HOME RUN AGAINST THE YANKEES.
ROBBIE AND OPENING DAY
We can’t let the month of April go by without commemorating the 35th anniversary of the first game a black manager was involved in. On April 8th, 1975 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium another Robinson broke one more color barrier. Frank Robinson became the first black American to manage in the big leagues. To boot, Robinson hit a home run to win the game. In our “Write On Wednesday” feature, contributor to Associated Content Ralph DiMatteo wrote this column on the Tribe, Indians baseball and Opening Day 1975.
As I got older, actually attending the home opener, even before my friends and I could drive became a tradition, with the fact the opener may have fallen on a school day only a minor deterrent in most cases, as our enthusiasm for the tradition was proceeded by our own parents passion as part of their childhoods. Oh sure, there were a few parents that put a futile effort with arguments such as there are games all summer long, wait until the weather gets warmer and the ultimate threat of "I'm not signing the note excusing your absence from school", which of course was no problem, one of our girl friends could always be counted on for a female signature that could fool the eye of the school's secretary and pass as one of our mothers.Here is the part you probably won't believe, we were literally able to walk two blocks over from our front door, catch the Maple Heights Transit Bus, and ride it all the way to downtown Cleveland and get dropped off at the Tower Tower/Public Square, a short 10 minute walk from the gates of damp, dank and musty Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which for that one day, almost every year led the major leagues in attendance on opening day with crowds that regularly topped 50,000 or more. For children between the ages of 13-15, this may seem almost unheard of, but times safer then, and that is something I really miss about those much simpler times from my childhood.We never had the best seats for the opener, but most of had jobs that paid enough money to get us fairly close to the action, away from the exile that was the bleachers which offered you a seat alright, but also far enough away from the action that binoculars weren't quite strong enough, a telescope might actually have been better. These seats were fine for the summer night games later in the year, because when you combined their $1.00 ticket price with the $2.00 round trip bus fare and a few bucks for concessions and you major league baseball on a tight budget covered quite nicely. For the opener though, we always "splurged" and went for the pricey General Admission tickets, usually nestled somewhere around the left or right field foul poles, and close enough to the bullpens areas to catch glimpses of warm ups.
as we didn't have to concentrate on the actual driving and dodging that came with navigating through the maze that downtown streets became while trying to get to a parking lot on opening day that wasn't much of problem any other day of the season, as crowds in those days dwindled the very next day to as little as 5000 people, meaning traffic flow wasn't much of a problem. Indians fans in those days generally weren' treated to very much "good baseball" throughout the entire season, but the opener always afforded the opportunity to start the season "undefeated."The single best memory I have have of a Cleveland Indians home opener has to be hands down the one the one the is a historical one for major league debut as well, and that would be the debut of hall of famer, Frank Robinson as the first black manager in major league history, who also was a playing manager and the designated hitter for the Tribe in 1975. What made this memorable, magical and historical all came with swing of the bat in 1975, as Robinson homered to left field, right near us which forever gave the Cleveland Indians, and the 70,000 people+ in attendance a memory to share with generations of Tribe fans to come.
Ralph DiMatteo, is 50 years old, married and the father of two teenage children. His professional background is 25 years in the wholesale beer business.
FRANK’S FAST FACTS
Robinson managed in the winter leagues late in his playing career. By the early 1970s, he had his heart set on becoming the first black manager in the majors. In fact, the Angels traded him to the Indians midway through the 1974 season due to his open campaigning for the manager's job.
Frank Robinson's number 20 was retired by the Baltimore Orioles in 1972
In 1975, the Cleveland Indians named him player-manager, giving him distinction of being the first black manager in the Majors.
His managing career would go on to include Cleveland (1975–1977), San Francisco Giants (1981–1984, Baltimore Orioles (1988–1991) and Montreal Expos and then with the newly formed Washington Nationals (2202-2006).
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
And how about this, Robinson was the top paid Indian in 1975 and look what the top Indian players were making.
1975 Cleveland Indians Salaries
Frank Robinson $105,000.00
Gaylord Perry $68,000.00
Tommy McCraw $45,000.00
Leron Lee $37,000.00
Joe Lis $20,000.00
Rick Manning $16,000.00