Mike Krukow on Frank Robinson: 'He made you better. He made you tougher.'

Mike Krukow on Frank Robinson: 'He made you better. He made you tougher.'

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Opening Day of the 1983 season, Mike Krukow took the ball knowing that he was already in a hole with his manager. Frank Robinson wasn’t a fan of the trade that brought Krukow over from the Phillies, and he wasn’t shy about it, particularly when Krukow had a rough spring. 

Before Krukow could begin his work that day, he watched as actor Yul Brynner threw out the first pitch in front of more than 50,000 fans at Candlestick Park. 

“He comes trotting out and grabs the ball and it looks like it’s the first time he’s had a baseball in his hand,” Krukow recalled Thursday. “He goes into his imaginary windup that I think he thought he was nailing and he throws a three-hopper to the plate.”

A short while later, Robinson met Krukow on that same mound. The debut hadn’t gone well. Krukow’s elbow was barking and he allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings. 

“Frank comes out there and takes the ball and says, ‘Yul Brynner’ had better (stuff) than you did,’” Krukow said.

Robinson was intense and unapologetic, but on Thursday, a few hours after the news of his passing, a couple of his former Giants players remembered him as someone who, above all, made them better. 

“If you were a guy that needed a rah-rah speech, he wasn’t your guy. If you went out and pitched a shutout with 10 strikeouts, that’s your job. That’s your job,” Krukow said. “But if you didn’t do your work or you were lazy, that’s when you’d hear from him. He made you better. He made you tougher. He toughened up a bunch of guys that had him here.”

Bill Laskey, who also pitched for Robinson’s Giants teams, said the Hall of Fame hitter taught him how to be a more effective pitcher. Robinson led the league in hit-by-pitches seven times and he forced his pitchers to learn how to throw strikes on the inside part of the plate. 

“He was very aggressive with his pitchers, very aggressive with his hitters,” Laskey said. “He forced me to pitch inside. That was one of his biggest pet peeves for all of his young pitchers. He said that if you don’t learn how to pitch inside, you won’t last in the big leagues.”

Robinson managed the Giants from 1981-84. He became the first African American to manage in the National League, and despite the fact that the vast majority of his legendary career was spent elsewhere, he remained an occasional presence at Giants games. In 2017, the organization honored Robinson during a pregame ceremony that included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds. 

Krukow and broadcast partner Duane Kuiper often spoke fondly of Robinson during broadcasts. They both played for him, and that left a lasting impact. 

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“He was very professional,” Krukow said. “No matter what, at the end of the year he would be there and he would reach out and shake your hand.”

Giants' Tyler Beede showing signs of hope despite continued struggles

Giants' Tyler Beede showing signs of hope despite continued struggles

ATLANTA -- There were some close calls in the second half, some postgame media sessions where manager Bruce Bochy indicated that Tyler Beede's rotation spot was in jeopardy. 

But the Giants stuck with their young right-hander, who now is poised to finish the season in the rotation. Two parts of Friday's 6-0 loss to the Braves, who clinched the NL East title, showed why it's so important that they continue to be patient. 

Beede ended the second inning by freezing his college teammate, Dansby Swanson, with a 98 mph fastball. It was the fastest pitch of Beede's season and comes at the end of a long and often trying year -- and it's the kind of pitch that only a select group of right-handed starters have in their arsenal. 

Mike Foltynewicz is one of them, and he's an example of what the Giants hope Beede can become. Foltynewicz has similar stuff and a similar background as a high-end prospect, and he had a very strong 2018 season. 

But Foltynewicz has also struggled with inconsistency, so much so that the Braves optioned him back to Triple-A for six weeks this summer. Since returning, he has a 6-0 record and a sparkling 2.35 ERA. On Friday, he threw eight shutout innings. 

Beede is 26. Foltynewicz turns 28 in a month. There are still plenty of reasons for hope as the Giants move forward. 

This night was a representation of much of Beede's season. His fastball averaged 95.4 mph, his slider hit 88 mph, his changeup darted at times, and he had so much movement on his curveball that at one point Josh Donaldson swung at an 0-2 bender and ended up whipping his bat towards first base. 

But Beede also allowed seven hits, two of which cleared the fence. Ronald Acuña Jr. got a hanging curveball in the fifth and hit a no-doubter to right-center. An inning later, Brian McCann hit a two-run shot on a fastball that was low but center-cut. 

"It's one of those games where you wonder how he gave up six, but (there were) a couple of long balls," Bochy said. "Really good at times, but he just didn't get away with any mistakes."

[RELATED: Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade]

The highlight of the night was that tantalizing pitch to Swanson, a friend of Beede's since their Vanderbilt days. 

"I feel great. I'll just continue to learn, learn a lot," Beede said. "I'll go out there and try to compete, fill the zone and go after guys. I hate losing, man. I'm not going to be happy about a start like this, but at the same time I thought it might be better than the results showed."

Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade

Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade

ATLANTA -- As the Braves' relief pitchers finished their sprints in right field Friday afternoon, a pack of Giants relievers started a jog around the warning track. Mark Melancon walked over and met his former teammates, but the hugs lost a little steam as he made his way through. Eventually, Melancon was standing around with just Will Smith, catching up a few hours before they faced each other. 

"The first half (of the group) I knew all the guys," Melancon said, smiling. "The second half it was all new guys."

The Giants just about have a completely new bullpen since Melancon's last appearance. Melancon has a new situation, too. As the Giants limp to the finish, their former marquee free-agent addition will try to close out a National League East title with the Braves. 

Melancon, mostly a mid-innings man for the Giants this season, is the closer for one of the National League's powerhouses. He's perfect in 11 save opportunities in Atlanta. That may come as a surprise to fans who watched him for two and a half seasons in San Francisco. It does not at all seem out of place for Melancon. 

"That's where I think I'm best," he said of the ninth inning. "I knew that. That was easy for me to see."

Melancon never lost that confidence in San Francisco, even as an arm injury that popped up in his first week with the Giants robbed him of much of his old effectiveness. He had a 3.67 ERA with the Giants but totaled just 15 saves. 

The Giants got out of the final year-plus of a $62 million deal and acquiring two pitching prospects in the minutes before the trade deadline. Melancon ended up being the real winner in the deal. He has found himself closing for a team that can clinch the division Friday night. 

"I'm so impressed with these guys," he said of the Braves. "They're 22-year-olds acting like they're 35 as far as maturity level. It's really impressive."

[RELATED: Giants' Madison Bumgarner's road struggles continue ahead of free agency]

Melancon is excited about heading back to the postseason, although he credited his former team for never losing sight of that goal. He said he appreciated that the Giants never went full rebuild, and he looks back on his time in San Francisco fondly. 

"I had a great time. It's always about the people," he said. "It was a great two and a half years with great people ... that was our home for two and a half years and it was awesome."