R.I.P. Frank Robinson
Not long after reports circulated that Frank Robinson was suffering from a life-threatening condition, the 83-year old Hall of Famer passed away. He had bone cancer. Robinson was admired and liked by almost everyone he played with or against, and his character was shaped by the struggle against racism, which was still very strong in the early part of his career.
Over the course of his career as a player, Robinson hit 586 home runs, with 1,812 RBIs, and a .294 batting average. He played his first ten years with the Cincinnati Reds and then (after the 1965 season) was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, in what is widely regarded as one of the dumbest player transactions in MLB history. The next six years in Baltimore turned out to be some of the most productive of his career, including two World Series victories. [He was the only major league player to be named Most Valuable Player in both leagues: in 1961 with the Reds (the year they won the NL pennant) and in 1966 with the Orioles (their first AL pennant, as they swept the Dodgers in the World Series), as he won the Triple Crown award. In 1976] he ended his playing career with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first African-American manager in MLB history in 1975. [He was a player-manager there for two years.] He later managed the San Francisco Giants, the Baltimore Orioles, and after a lapse during most of the 1990s, the Montreal Expos.
Robinson became manager of the Expos after Jeffrey Loria sold the struggling franchise to Major League Baseball in 2002. That transaction was a sign that the Expos were slated for relocation to Washington, D.C. and Robinson indeed became the "born-again" Washington Nationals' first manager three years later, in 2005. He remained as head of the team for two seasons, and was (rightly) a bit miffed that the Nationals' new owners, the Lerners, declined to offer him some kind of advisory position in the front office. I had the great fortune to see him up close before the next-to-last game of his career as a manager:
Braves Field minor update
Prompted by some tips from Angel Amezquita about the precise timing of the reconfigurations of the home field of the Boston Braves after they moved to Milwaukee in 1953, I made a few minor corrections and enhancments to the Braves Field diagrams. (It's now called Nickerson Field, and I was there in September 2016.) There is one new diagram, for soccer, and the two football diagrams are now labeled according to the first years in which the given configuration was in effect: 1955 and 1972. The main change was that the huge roof is not quite as big as it was before, and that the peak of the roof where the structural beams were located is now about 10-12 feet farther from the field than before. Otherwise, the only changes are trivial in nature.
Games outside the U.S.A.
I already knew that the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners are slated to play the first two official games of the 2019 season at the Tokyo Dome in Japan (on March 20-21), but I just learned that there will be four other games outside our borders this season, all of them at the Estadio Monterrey in Mexico. On April 13-14, the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds will play there, and on May 4-5, the Houston Astros and L.A. Angels will play there. I will update the text on those pages shortly. Finally, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will play in London Stadium (England, not Ontario!) on June 29-30. I'll have to make a diagram of that one, I guess. I don't mind occasional foreign series, but more than one per year is a bit problematic to me.
But wait, there'll be yet another MLB game at a "neutral" venue this year, in the United States: the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals will play at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska on June 13. That will come immediately after (or before) the College World Series, which is held there every year.
For the 28 teams other than Oakland and Seattle, Opening Day will be on March 28 -- exactly seven weeks from today!
Rangers choose fake turf
The Texas Rangers confirmed widespread rumors and announced that their new stadium ("Globe Life Park II") will have artificial turf, because of the difficulty of providing grass in retractable-roof stadiums with sufficient sunlight. It probably makes sense in economic terms, but it represents a big step backward for the sport, in terms of aesthetics and player safety. The last new MLB to open with artificial turf was Tropicana Field, 21 years ago. See dallasnews.com (hat tip to Mike Zurawski) and wfaa.com (hat tip to Bruce Orser). The renderings I have seen of the new stadium (scheduled to open in 2020) give me a mixed impression: There are at least four main decks with numerous, arbitrary quirks here and there, looking rather messy, and the dual-slanted roof (also featured in the new NFL stadiums in Minneapolis and Indianapolis) makes it look like a great big house.