Frank Robinson says he remembers a lot of things about that August night three years ago -- the Olympics on television, Atlanta's stifling heat and, finally, the message that San Francisco Giants owner Bob Lurie wanted to see him.

He knew the game was up, just as it had been up in Cleveland seven years earlier. Robinson's Giants were 42-64, and he was reasonably certain Lurie hadn't flown in to offer a contract extension.

"I didn't want it to happen," he said, "but I realize now it gave me a chance to relax for a while. I could sit back and think, recharge my batteries and freshen my outlook. But you still hate to be fired from something you've put so much into."

The third anniversary of his last day as Giants manager is Aug. 4, and since that night, Robinson has coached briefly for the Milwaukee Brewers, and for the last three seasons, the Baltimore Orioles. He has worked with outfielders and hitters, hit ground balls and filled out another manager's lineup cards.

After four seasons managing the Giants, Robinson said he is glad to have gotten work more physical than mental. Now 52, he believes his batteries are recharged, his outlook fresh again.

Frank Robinson is ready to manage again. The remaining questions are: when will the next chance come, and where?

The Oakland Athletics considered him last year, and the Philadelphia Phillies may yet interview him. If not the Phillies, maybe it will be the White Sox or Royals, Padres or Braves. He says he is ready and understands that the dynamics of blacks in the game may have changed since 1984.

"There'll probably be more pressure this time than ever," he said. "It'll be my third time around, and how many chances do you get? Also, the issue of blacks in baseball will focus a lot of attention on whoever the next black manager is."

Meantime, he waits. He makes himself available to Manager Cal Ripken Sr., he meets with players who have problems and he positions outfielders. He says he doesn't believe his current coaching job is "beneath me, but if you're asking if I'm overqualified for it, yes, I am. But I wouldn't say it's beneath me because that would imply I'm not giving 100 percent, which I am."

Recently, his profile has grown even higher because he has become one of the game's most vocal critics of its failure to give blacks meaningful management jobs.

He says if a managing job doesn't come up, he'd like to be a general manager or a player personnel man. If it's a position of responsibility, he'll consider it, and his message is that if baseball is going to continue to discriminate, it's going to have to keep overlooking one vocal and prominent candidate.

Robinson has been widely mentioned for all kinds of jobs, from an assistant to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to an executive assistant with the Orioles. Given his choice he would prefer to manage, adding, "It's not an either/or thing. If one comes up first and is the right chance for me, I'll take it." A Limit to Patience

He says he won't wait forever: "I have a timetable, but that doesn't mean it's a firm thing. I feel like if I don't get another chance by the time I'm 55 {in 1990}, I'll get out of baseball. I have no idea what I'd do, but I'll start preparing for it in advance."

Although Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams isn't commenting, it is likely that a second straight losing season will lead to some kind of internal housecleaning in Baltimore. Sources inside the front office speculate that farm director Tom Giordano probably will be fired and replaced by Doug Melvin, who was hired last winter as an executive assistant to Williams and General Manager Hank Peters.

In turn, that will lead to an overhaul in the baseball and scouting staff, and possibly the minor league coaching staff. But for now, it appears Williams still has confidence in Peters, and when Peters does retire, sources say, the job has been promised to Melvin. So unless Ripken is caught in the housecleaning -- which appears unlikely -- Robinson's best chance with the Orioles is to be promoted to an executive assistant or assistant general manager job.

So how good are Robinson's baseball judgments? He led roster overhauls of both the Giants and Indians, and in the years since, many of his judgments have looked better and better. It was Robinson who pushed the Giants to trade Larry Herndon and make Jeffrey Leonard a starting outfielder. Leonard has since become a star, but Robinson said, "I took a lot of heat for that one after Herndon went to Detroit and hit 23 homers."

It was also Robinson who kept telling the Giants that Rob Deer could be a productive major leaguer. "I said he might hit .230 or .240 and strike out a lot," Robinson said, "but he might also hit 35 home runs and drive in 80 runs. What's wrong with that? I was told, 'No, he needs to hit .270.' "

Deer got a chance with the Milwaukee Brewers last year and responded with a .232 batting average along with 33 homers and 86 RBI, figures he is well along toward improving in 1987.

"Don't get me wrong," Robinson said. "I missed on a lot of guys, too, but I think I'm as qualified to make personnel decisions as the next guy. I think I know what it takes to win, and I don't think I expect too much."

But he does realize the game has changed. He got one multiyear contract his entire career, and it was for only two years. If today's players lack September motivation, Robinson never did, because he was playing for the next year's contract.

"But with some guys, money doesn't matter," he said, pointing at Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. "He's going to play the same way no matter how much he's making. But, yes, he may be an exception because money does affect people. It has to. You don't have the control over players you once did . . . I hate to talk about the old days a lot because people think I'm living in the past. But it has changed, and it makes it tough to have discipline."

Still, dozens of baseball people say they aren't sure what kind of manager Robinson could be in a good situation. They say it's unfair to judge him on three-plus seasons in Cleveland (186-189) or four-plus seasons in San Francisco (264-277) because of the circumstances.

"The Giants organization was a total mess and Cleveland was still living in the 1930s," a friend said. "But he knew he wasn't going to get a job with a team that had just won 100 games, so he took it."

Robinson still laughs bitterly about some of his experiences, about the Giants' consistent failure to sign draft choices (including Barry Bonds) and about the Cleveland scouting reports that included a player's race.

"I looked at that and said, 'What's this?' " Robinson remembered. "I said I didn't care if a player was green, I just wanted to know if he could play."

Robinson said he found out later the blanks for race remained on the scouting reports, but were deleted in the copies that went to him.

Talk to him a couple of minutes about managing and it is clear that's his passion. He loves to talk game situations, personnel decisions, strategy, managers he has been around, especially Earl Weaver. He loves to remind people that a player who hit 586 homers can be as good a manager as the next utility infielder.

"I think I've taken a lot from Earl," Robinson said. "I liked the way he organized his roster. He didn't necessarily leave spring training with the 24 best players, but he did take the best people for the jobs he had available . . . From the first day of spring training, he made up his roster with the thought of playing certain games.

"I also liked the way he handled a club during the season. He wasn't afraid to make a move to win a game, even if it meant being second-guessed when it didn't work out. Another thing is that when you played for him, you always felt you might be in the game whether you were in the starting lineup or not. He was open and honest with players, although they might not like what he said."

If Robinson sometimes seems bored in his current job, he says he isn't. He has a contract with Miller Lite. His wife Barbara is a successful realtor in Beverly Hills, and they have season tickets to Los Angeles Lakers games. He says he could survive outside the game, but chooses not to.

"The game is in my blood," he said. ". . . I also think I have something to offer it. I'm sure I made some mistakes when I managed before, but I don't like to look back. You can second-guess yourself, but when you make a decision, you're doing it with the information you have at hand, not with hindsight. That's the way I've always been, and the way I'll be in the next one."