Indians owner who hired Frank Robinson dies

Updated: October 23, 2005, 1:46 PM ET
Associated Press

LYNDHURST, Ohio -- Ted Bonda, the former Cleveland Indians owner who hired Frank Robinson as baseball's first black manager, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 88.

Bonda died Saturday and since June had been in an assisted living facility in Chagrin Falls outside Cleveland.

"He was just the consummate gentleman to the end," nursing director Barbara Marsh told The Associated Press.

Bonda hired Robinson, now the Washington Nationals manager, in 1974, calling it "the right thing to do." Robinson said Sunday he was indebted to Bonda for providing the opportunity to manage.

"After I was let go, a few years later, he said he never would have fired me," Robinson told the AP. "I appreciated that because he didn't have to say that."

When Cleveland was in danger of losing the Indians in the 1970s, Bonda led a coalition of business owners who bought the club. The group lost revenue each year, but Bonda used his own money to keep the team in town. He sold the Indians in 1979 but remained a minority holder and continued to attend games.

"He was a fair man. He was a listener," Robinson said. "He was always open and honest with me. ... He was a very low-key man, a very honest man and a very compassionate person."

Bonda also is credited with helping bring the NBA's Cavaliers and minor league franchises in soccer, hockey and tennis to northeast Ohio.

His family was hit hard by the Depression and he couldn't afford college, but he went on to serve as chairman of both the Ohio Board of Regents and Cleveland school board.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press