Friday, April 08, 2005

Nats manager falls asleep at wheel, wins game anyway

A powerful over-the-counter cold medicine left Frank Robinson in a state of managerial repose. (Photo courtesy of

Lenny McGillicudy, Associative Press
Philadelphia, April 7

Frank Robinson has managed nearly 2000 major league ballgames. He has now managed one asleep.

"I'll admit it," Robinson said with a chuckle after the Washington Nationals game against the Philadelphia Phillies at CitizensBank Park. "I was out cold."

The funny thing? Despite Robinson's unscheduled nap, the Nationals won.

Thanks to Jose Vidro's 10th inning home run and Chad Cordero's two innings of shutout relief pitching, Washington prevailed, 5-4, to claim a series victory in its first three games as a relocated franchise. For the previous 35 years, the Nationals were known as the Montreal Expos.

Robinson's day began unpleasantly. "I woke up, and it was like, 'Wham!'," Robinson told the media after the ballgame. Pounding the media room's podium, he explained, "It was horrible. Head throbbed. I started coughing. Then my head hurt worse. It was awful."

Wednesday was a banner evening for both Robinson and the Nationals, who claimed their first ever regular season win. They won 7-3, coming from behind late in the game. In the victory, outfielder Brad Wilkerson hit for the cycle, the second time in his career he accomplished the feat. Robinson emerged from the game in an exuberant mood, but he was quick to correct any misconceptions.

"We won the game, got to the hotel, and it was off to bed for me," he said. "No more night clubs and hotel bars for me. I'm too old for that sort of thing." Robinson then smiled broadly and added, "Maybe I should have celebrated, though. Couldn't have been worse than this morning."

Immediately, Robinson relied on a trusted source. "I called up [pitching coach Randy] St. Claire and said, 'Hey I need some help.'"

St. Claire recommended Alka Seltzer Plus Cold & Sinus medicine. "Now, I asked St. Claire: 'Will this make me drowsy?' And he said, 'Nah, I use it all the time when I'm feeling bad.' "

Satisfied with St. Claire's recommendation, Robinson arranged for a package of the over-the-counter medicine to be delivered to his room. Befitting the team's shoe-string budget, though, Robinson had to make additional arrangements. "I told the travel office, 'Look, I really need this stuff. I'll front the cost,'" he explained.

Despite the reassurance from his pitching coach, though, Robinson found himself becoming drowsy during the early innings of Thursday afternoon's game. "I started slapping my face, rotating my jaw, anything to stay in the game, so to speak," Robinson said.

For awhile, it was smooth sailing for the Nationals. Starting pitcher Esteban Loiaza carried a perfect game through four innings and a shutout through five. Loaiza fell apart thereafter, however, and by this time Robinson had drifted into a cold medicine-induced nap. Strangely, no one noticed he had dosed off.

"I guess everyone thought I had this tremendous confidence in Loiaza," Robinson said afterward. "Yeah, right."

After Loiza had relinquished a three-run lead, Robinson finally awoke. He immediately made amends. "Man, I got that 'pen humming," Robinson explained. "I wasn't going to lose this game."

Then he added, with a chuckle, "And I sure as hell wasn't going to fall asleep again."

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