McClendon: Frank Robinson 'opened up doors' 40 years ago

Seattle manager reflects on Robinson's impact in big leagues

McClendon: Frank Robinson 'opened up doors' 40 years ago

SEATTLE -- Forty years ago on Wednesday, the Cleveland Indians hired Frank Robinson as the first African-American manager in the Major Leagues. And that fact wasn't lost on Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon, the only African-American currently managing an MLB team.

"I was thinking about that today," McClendon said prior to his team's game with the Angels at Safeco Field. "I was a snotty-nosed kid when he became the first African-American manager in baseball. At the age of 16, I really didn't appreciate the significance of it. Sitting here today, I realize how important it really was.

"Along with Frank and guys like Jackie Robinson, they opened up doors that probably wouldn't have been available to guys like me if they hadn't done it first. So I'm very appreciative of that fact. ... Young men that play this game, play Little League and fall in love with this game and continue to have fun with it, hopefully they can be rewarded at this level. There's some hope."

The legacy of Frank Robinson

McClendon, 56, is in his second year as Seattle's manager and led the team to an 87-75 finish in 2014, a 16-win improvement. He previously managed the Pirates from 2001-05 and then was a coach on Jim Leyland's staff in Detroit from 2006-13.

Major League Baseball had three African-American managers in 2014, but Ron Washington resigned near the end of the season in Texas and Bo Porter was dismissed by the Astros.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.