It has become clear in the past day that Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter did not mean for the incident between Frank Robinson and 19-year-old Josh Hart to have become all that it did. Having the young man write a paper on the Hall of Famer became what is called in journalism “a story with legs.”
It was not Showalter’s intent to embarrass or give the youngster a sense of punishment for not knowing the former Orioles star. And it is not completely clear to me if Hart either did not have any idea whatsoever as to who Frank Robinson was, or if he only casually knew the name as an Oriole of the past and simply did not recognize him in person. I am thinking it was more of the latter, though it is being portrayed as the former.
This is nothing new for young players. I remember quite a few years ago that a certain player – a very tall lefty with long hair and a blazing fastball and dirty off-speed stuff (but who shall go nameless in this column) – was told that Hank Aaron was at the game one particular evening. “Aaron who?” he asked. “You know who I mean,” said the first fellow. “The great home run hitter – Henry Aaron” … to which this pitcher replied, “Well if he’s so good, then why isn’t he in the lineup tonight?”
There is a saying that for most people, history begins when they are born and with the memories they have. And unless one is a real student of the game of baseball, doing a lot of reading and researching, that is probably true of even good fans. For example, I know there was a great player named Nellie Fox. I even know that he was from the area near to where I live, because there are a few things around here named after him. But I can’t tell you the details of his career that made him famous.
On the other hand, I can remember the very day that Frank Robinson was traded from the Reds to the Orioles. Even as a 10-year-old in fifth grade, I knew this was a great trade for the Orioles and could not believe they got a triple crown winner for so little in return. I was really excited about it, and Frank gave the Orioles many years of great memories for those of us who saw him play.
To Josh Hart, Frank Robinson is what Nellie Fox is to me – a name without a lot of detail in the front of my mind.
“I feel bad now,” Showalter said. “I got a good feeling we’ll be talking about something else concerning Josh than that at some point. He’s a talented kid.”
Hart was the 37th overall pick last year and is an outfielder with a lot of upside potential. He is likely to get a taste of some playing time with the big guys this spring.