Major League Baseball owners have lacked an enthusiasm for hiring Black and Brown managers to lead teams.
However, if any brother deserved a shot at running the dugout for one of MLB’s 30 squads it’s Cleveland bench coach DeMarlo Hale.
The 60, year-old baseball lifer is finally getting that shot after being named interim manager, replacing future Hall of Famer Terry Francona.
The man affectionately known as “Tito” and the skipper who broke Boston’s 86-year World Series drought, announced that he is stepping away from the club for the remainder of the season to address multiple medical issues.
Francona, who, recently moved into second place on the Indians’ all-time managerial wins list with 723 victories, passing Mike Hargrove (721), stands just six shy of eclipsing Lou Boudreau (728).
He will undergo surgery Monday to replace his left hip at Cleveland Clinic, followed by another procedure to put a rod in his left foot 5-6 weeks later.
While the baseball community certainly wishes the two-time World Series-wining coach all the best, the real story is Hale ascending through the ranks after more than four decades of service and finally becoming the third Black manager currently in MLB, joining Houston’s Dusty Baker and Los Angeles Dodgers WS manager Dave Roberts.
Regardless of who you speak to around the game of baseball, Hale’s name is good money. He’s the consummate professional.
At the age of 60, he’s has certainly paid his dues.
“I know him well,” said Bo Porter, a former MLB player, executive, analyst and one of the few Black men with MLB managerial experience in the history of the game (Houston Astros). “I’m so excited for him. DeMarlo Hale is one of the most well-respected Coaches in MLB. He’s earned his opportunity to manage in the Major Leagues. I wish him tremendous success.”
Hale, a Chicago native, served as bench coach for Francona in Boston for six seasons from 2006-11, a stint that included a World Series title in 2007.
He joined Cleveland this season after two years in Atlanta’s player development department and as an interim first base coach for the Braves.
Francona is high on Hale, who he has entrusted with leadership in the past.
“DeMarlo is tremendous at what he does,” Francona said. “He will be just fine.”
Hale is more than ready for the opportunity. The Tribe is 50-49 and just 5.5 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot with 62 games to go.
The club has talent and this change of energy might be the spark the Guardians need to go on a tear and elevate back into contention.
“I know what he brings, how he prepares,” Hale said of Francona. “This staff, we know what we need to do in helping prepare for this season and the games.”
In addition to the Indians and Red Sox, Hale has served as an assistant coach for four other teams — Rangers (2002-05), Orioles (2012), Blue Jays (2013-18) and Braves (2020).
His coaching career began after managing in the minors from 1993-2001 for the Boston and Texas franchises.
While supporting the manager is a role he’s thrived in, Hale isn’t a one trick pony.
He never made it the majors after being drafted in the 17th round by Boston in 1983, but Hale played six seasons in the minors for the Red Sox and A’s. So he’s highly efficient in understanding players and executing the duties of a manager.
When given the opportunity, he’s been able to excel as the head guy, being named Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America, The Sporting News and Baseball Weekly.
Hale got a taste of the top spot at the MLB level when he managed three games for the Blue Jays in 2015-16.
His role as bench coach has evolved over the years.
“It is a little bit more involved because we have a lot more information, resources,” Hale said. “I’ve found as my years started to count up as a bench coach, I started to carry a little bit more information and resources. We have a lot of information. We have to kinda pick which one is right. Does it fit in this time where players are in their careers?
An HBCU graduate of Southern University, the 19-year big league coach has excelled everywhere he’s been.
Cleveland, which recently changed its infamous name and Chief Wahoo logo, has been historically progressive in providing managerial and playing opportunities for Black players.
Frank Robinson began managing the Indians in 1975, the first African American to manage a major league team.
In 1989, his second of four seasons as skipper of the B-More Orioles, Robinson won the AL Manager of the Year Award and convincingly and officially shattered the outdated and bigoted stereotypes about black men in baseball positions that require leadership, communication, intelligence and strategy.
30 Black managers later, the diversity numbers are still thin, but a win is a win and DeMarlo Hale is proof that slow and steady wins the race.