The Cleveland Indians, ending months of speculation and internal turmoil, fired Frank Robinson today and replaced major league baseball's only black manager with bullpen coach Jeff Torborg.
The announcement was made jointly by team president Ted Bonda and general manager Phil Seghi, who had fought a fierce running battle over Robinson since season when Seghi first recommended the manager be fired.
"There seemed to be some divisiveness down in the clubhouse," Bonda explained. "The time had come for a change in the best interests of the ballclub."
Seighi added, "The climate in the clubhouse and the hallclub dictated a change had to be made."
I haven't really had a chance to think about much of anything," Robinson said. "Surprised? Yes and no. This thing has been hanging for quite some time.
"The sad thing about it is the ball club has won these last two games (against Detroit) and was starting to come back and play the way it is capable of doing," he added. "The injured players are coming back to full-strength and I left things were turning around.
"I tried to make the situation workable and I have no animosity toward anyone here," Robinson said. "In fact, I want to thank the players, the press and the fans for the way they've treated me here.
"The way I feel about it now, if they (another team) offer me a job tomorrow, I'd take it yesterday.
"I definitely want to stay in baseball, and the sooner I get another job the better. And it doesn't have to be as a manager."
A spectacular player throughout his 21 seasons as a major leaguer, Robinson lasted a game-winning homer in his first at bat as a player-manager.
After a slow start, his first Cleverland team, (in 1975, came on with a to finish fourth in the American league's East Division with a 97-80 record. Last season, Robinson's club fell one game short of third place but finished at 81-78, the first over 500 record by the Indians since 1968.
Torborg, 35, becomes the youngest manager currently in the major leagues.
The Rutgers University graduate, a close friend of Robinson, appeared stunned and confused after the announcement was made.
"I have mixed emotions, to be honest," he said. "Having been brought in as a coach by Frank, starting a program together. I find this difficult.
"I've always wanted to be a manager, but not at the expense of a friend. I was offered the job yesterday and I thought about it quite a while before I accepted."
Toborg, who was a journeyman catcher with the major leagues for 10 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and California Angels, was given a contract through the 1978 season.
Torborg said his former job as bullpen coach would, for the present at least, be handled by Ray Fosse or Fred Kendall, whichever of his veteran catchers is not in the ball game.
In a related move, Bonda announced today that first base coach Rocky Colavito, who has been working part-time as a television sports-caster, must make an immediate choice between coaching and television.