The walls in Eddie Robinson’s home office in east Fort Worth are filled with so many iconic photographs and pieces of baseball history that it could double as a wing in Cooperstown.
Robinson — a former All-Star first baseman, a member of the Cleveland Indians’ 1948 World Series championship team, a former Rangers general manager, and, at 95, the oldest living New York Yankee — is headed to the Bronx this weekend for the Yankees’ 70th annual Old-Timers’ Day.
It’s a chance for Robinson and his wife Bette to see old friends, including Dr. Bobby Brown, another Fort Worth resident and former American League president.
A couple times I thought, ‘why the hell don’t they invite me?’ But it wasn’t really that bothersome. I was pleased this year they did invite me. Probably the last time I’d go. If they invite me next year I probably won’t go.
Older living Yankee Eddie Robinson
The Robinsons have lived at their east For Worth home for almost 40 years. He retired from the game about 10 years ago after evaluating players as a consultant.
“I loved it. I was my own boss. Paid my own expenses. I’d travel, when Betty would let me leave town,” he joked. “I loved to evaluate players, to this day I’m evaluating these Rangers players.”
They watch the Rangers every night and attend games every once in a while. Two seats from the old Arlington Stadium sit on their back porch. The same two seats he used when he was evaluating players as a consultant.
In his book, Lucky Me: My Sixty-Five Years in Baseball, Robinson goes into detail about his career in the game, which began in Paris, Texas, when he played country ball once a week.
Eddie and wife Bette have been married for 61 years and have lived in Fort Worth the past 38 years.
“Eddie, along with a handful of other people, Bobby Brown being one of them, is one of my all-time favorites that I’ve met in baseball,” said Rangers broadcaster Tom Grieve, who first met Robinson in 1967 when he was one of the top prospects in the country. Robinson was then in charge of the Kansas City Athletics’ farm system. “He’s a wonderful gentleman. He had a tremendous career as a player, as a front office person and as a scout. I don’t think anybody has a career in any profession that long and that successful with the variety of roles he’s played without being a straight shooter.”
Robinson was with the Indians on June 12, 1948, for a series against the Yankees, who where celebrating the 25th anniversary of their stadium.
Babe Ruth was on hand, even though he was dying of cancer. He dressed one last time in his Yankees pinstripes and walked through the tunnel toward the field.
“He had his doctor with him,” Robinson recalled. “ He talked in a very raspy voice. I could tell he needed some help. He was going to walk out to home plate without any crutches. I just reached into the bat rack and pulled out a bat and gave it to him.
95 Age of Eddie Robinson, who was born Dec. 15, 1920 in Paris, Texas. He’s the oldest living former Yankees player.
“He carried that bat up to home plate. And that famous picture of him facing out with him standing with that bat — I got the bat and had him autograph it.”
Robinson held onto the bat for 40 years until he called a collector in the 1980s.
“I figured I’m going to offer him $10,000 for it — I know he won’t pay that — but it’ll give me some idea how much it’s worth,” Robinson recalled. “So I called him and he asked how much I wanted for it.”
Robinson told him $10,000.
The collector responded: “I’ll have the money to you tomorrow.”
Since then, it has sold for more than $100,000 twice.
Rangers’ one-game manager
As general manager for the Rangers from 1976-82, Robinson was in charge when Eddie Stanky managed the club for less than 24 hours in 1977.
Stanky, who had managed the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox, was coaching at South Alabama when the struggling Rangers fired Frank Lucchesi.
Stanky won his first game at Minnesota and everything seemed fine on the bus back to the team hotel. But Robinson got a call the next morning from a homesick Stanky, who had realized he didn’t want to be on the road again.
“I just called to tell you I can’t take the job,” Stanky said.
Ten minutes later Yogi Berra was calling Robinson.
“Yogi, what are you calling me for?” Robinson asked him.
Turns out, Berra was trying to reach Stanky to congratulate him on the new job. In classic Yogi fashion, he had dialed the wrong Eddie.
“Yogi, you won’t believe this, but Stanky just quit,” Robinson told him. “You want the job?”
Yogi didn’t mince words: “Hell no.”
Robinson regrets he didn’t manage the team while the staff regrouped and searched for a manager.
“Then I would have done it all: player, farm director, general manager, manager,” he said.
The Yankees had won five consecutive World Series when Robinson joined them in 1954. He played for two seasons before being traded to last-place Kansas City.
He played with all the greats of that era, including Mickey Mantle, Berra, Billy Martin, Hank Bauer and Whitey Ford under legendary Casey Stengel.
“They had good scouting and they developed some good young players in their organization. They always had a good pitching staff. They were so proud to be Yankees and they didn’t make mistakes,” Robinson said. “If you made a mistake, like not hustling to first base or going after a ball nonchalantly they’d let you know about. They prided themselves on not making mistakes and other teams knew that and respect it. The Yankees thought they were going to win every game. When they lost it was as if that shouldn’t have happened.”
Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST
Fort Worth Yankees
Here’s the list of former Yankees scheduled to attend Sunday’s 70th annual Old-Timers’ Day ay Yankee Stadium, including Fort Worth residents Dr. Bobby Brown and Eddie Robinson, who at 95, is the oldest living former Yankees player:
Jesse Barfield; Brian Boehringer; Scott Bradley; Dr. Bobby Brown; Homer Bush; David Cone; Bubba Crosby; Bucky Dent; Al Downing; Brian Doyle; Mariano Duncan; John Flaherty; Whitey Ford; Oscar Gamble; Joe Girardi; Rich "Goose" Gossage; Ron Guidry; Charlie Hayes; Rickey Henderson; Arlene Howard (widow); Helen Hunter (widow); Reggie Jackson; Scott Kamieniecki; Pat Kelly; Don Larsen; Graeme Lloyd; Hector Lopez; Jill Martin (widow); Hideki Matsui; Lee Mazzilli; Ramiro Mendoza; Stump Merrill; Gene "Stick" Michael; Gene Monahan (trainer); Diana Munson (widow); Kay Murcer (widow); Jeff Nelson; Paul O'Neill; Joe Pepitone; Lou Piniella; Willie Randolph; Mickey Rivers; Eddie Robinson; Tanyon Sturtze; Ralph Terry; Marcus Thames; Joe Torre; John Wetteland; Roy White; Bernie Williams.