Former Reds Friday: Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson team up in San Francisco
Frank Robinson became the first black manager in the history of the National League when he was hired by the San Francisco Giants for the 1981. Robinson was also the first black manager Major League baseball history as a player-manager with the Cleveland Indians in 1974.
Joe Morgan the second piece in this former Reds Hall of Fame duo was signed as a free agent by the Giants after being released by the Houston Astros following the 1980 season. Morgan’s signed came just a couple of weeks prior to the beginning of spring training. Morgan went on to become the club’s starting second baseman on Opening Day.
Along with aging pitcher Vida Blue the Giants had three former MVP award winners in their clubhouse. The feat was highlighted in a 1983 Donruss baseball card. However by the time the 1983 rolled around Robinson was the only member of the trio still with the club.
During what turned out to be the 1981 strike shortened season the Giants finished 27-32 during the first half of the season, fifth in the old National League West, and 29-23 in the second half, which was third in the division. They finished fourth overall in the division with 56-55. It marked the Giants’ first winning season in two years.
For the Giants’ centennial season in 1982, Morgan and the Giants battled their rival Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves for the divisional crown. The pennant race went down to the final days of the season. The Dodgers won the second to last game of the season to break a second place tie with the Giants.
The Giants were actually 48-52 on July 30 and 14 games behind the first place Braves.
Heading into the final day of the season, the Dodgers needed a win and a Braves loss to force a one game playoff. The Giants got their revenge however when Morgan hit a three run homer in the eighth inning to propell the club to a 5-3 win.
Morgan was awarded the 1982 Willie Mac Award for his spirit and leadership.
Following the season, Morgan and pitcher Al Holland were traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitchers Mike Krukow, Charles Penigar and Mark Davis, a future Cy Young winner. The trade reunited Morgan with fellow Big Red Machiners Pete Rose and Tony Perez in the City of Brotherly Love for one season. The trio helped the Phillies reach the World Series where they lost to the Baltimore Orioles in five games.
Robinson remained the Giants’ skipper for 1983 and 84 seasons, but was fired after recording a fifth and sixth place showings during his last two seasons respectively.