Former Orioles P Ben McDonald fondly remembers Frank Robinson, his first MLB manager

The former Orioles first-round selection looks back on his relationship with his first manager in the big leagues.

Bob Haynie
February 08, 2019 - 11:40 am

(Photo Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / AP)

By: Kyle J. Andrews

Frank Robinson was an integral part of former Orioles pitcher Ben McDonald’s career. The Hall of Famer and Orioles legend became McDonald’s first Major League manager in September 1989.

However, Robinson showed his trademark tough love that many players and coaches remembered about him. Not long after McDonald was drafted in the first round of the 1989 MLB June Amateur Draft, he had his first run-in with the former Baltimore outfield and then-manager.

“Frank was an ‘in your face’ kind of guy, which I appreciated,” McDonald reminisced about his former manager on 105.7 The Fan's Vinny and Haynie Show. “I remember a time down there with Frank in the bullpen at old Memorial Stadium and I threw like five or six pitches and then he goes ‘You can’t pitch in the big leagues, you can’t pitch here’.

“I went ‘Come on Skip! I’ve thrown six pitches in the bullpen, what do you mean I can’t pitch?’ ‘Well, you’re tipping your pitches. You’re not going to last up here.’ That was my first real experience with Frank.”

Hailing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, McDonald wasn’t as familiar with the Orioles as someone from the East Coast would be. Much of his time was spent watching the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs on their  respective networks. With that being said, McDonald would come to have an appreciation for Baltimore baseball that has lasted his entire adult life.

“I didn’t know a lot about the history of the Baltimore Orioles to be honest with you,” McDonald said. “We didn’t have CableVision until I got into high school where I live. On CableVision, the only thing that we ever got was TBS and WGN. I grew up as a National League  -- Braves, Cubs fan. It was very rare on Sunday Night Baseball, that you ever see the American League teams and the Baltimore Orioles.

“When I first signed with the Orioles, I did not know a whole lot about the history. But it didn’t take long with Jim Palmer around the clubhouse and Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson managing, with Boog Powell coming along – you started to grasp a lot of the history. I had to do a little bit of research and talk to people to really figure – I knew Frank was a good player, I knew he was in the Hall of Fame, but I didn’t realize how good he was.

“He was the only guy to win MVP in two different leagues and was the Triple Crown [winner] in ’66 and when he came to the Orioles, he really was that piece of the puzzle that they needed to get them over the top and he would be a big part of why they would go on to win two World Series when he arrived in Baltimore.”

Robinson would go onto win the American League Manager of the Year award in 1989. Though he would be relieved of his duties during the 1991 season, being replaced by Johnny Oates, the profound impact of Robinson’s tutelage has stuck with McDonald to this day.

At the age of 83, Robinson passed away on Thursday of bone cancer. 

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleJAndrews_