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Robinson's farewell ceremony delays another Nats loss

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Frank Robinson emerged from the dugout more
than 10 minutes after his final game as a major league manager and
walked across the grass behind home plate.

Thousands of spectators stood, applauded and shouted good
wishes, including yells of, "We love you!" The Hall of Famer
smiled and waved, then doffed his cap and put his large right hand
over his heart.

Sunday's farewell was the sort Robinson wanted when he asked the
Washington Nationals to let him know before season's end whether
he'd be back in 2007. Instead of the usual day-after-the-last-game
announcement, the Nationals made what seemed clear would happen
completely official before Saturday's game, allowing Robinson, his
players and his fans to treat his last weekend as a tribute.

"I'm numb right now," Robinson said, shortly after stepping
off the field. "Just soaked it in. I wasn't thinking about any one
particular thing. Just trying to absorb the moment."

And what stood out the most?

"What a lousy game," Robinson growled.

And then he smiled, making sure everyone in the room realized he
was kidding.

A 20-minute pregame ceremony in his honor delayed the first
pitch of what would turn out to be a 6-2 loss by his last-place
Nationals (71-91) to the NL East champion New York Mets (96-66).

"Nothing takes anything away from the moment," Robinson said.
"In about 10, 15, 20 years, my memory will be we won the game,
anyway. No-hitter. Home run in the bottom of the ninth to win a
nothing-nothing ballgame."

Well, for the record: David Wright and Shawn Green each had two
hits in the second inning, when the playoff-bound Mets scored six
runs on nine hits, New York's season high for an inning. Guillermo Mota (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth and was credited with the win.

"It's nice to finish up strong and get a nice little streak
over the weekend," said Mets manager Willie Randolph, whose team
has won four consecutive games.

"We're going into the real season, and I'm excited about it,
looking forward to it. It's what you play for."

Ramon Ortiz (11-16) left what might have been his final
appearance for the Nationals after getting only four outs -- his
shortest start of the season. That meant Robinson made one last
deliberate walk to the mound to yank an ineffective pitcher.

There were plenty of "lasts" for Robinson, who said he'd like
to stay in baseball after more than half a century. He hit 586
homers as a player and was the first black manager in the majors.

"I can leave baseball as far as this is concerned," Robinson
said, tugging at his red jersey, "but I feel I have something to
offer as far as baseball itself."

Earlier in the day, he told reporters: "I'm not going to
manage, but I'm not retiring."

And during his 10-minute pregame address, Robinson said:
"There's a lot of things I want to try to accomplish for others
that are going to come after me. There's a lot of other things in
baseball, I think, that can be done much more politically correct.
I'm looking for opportunities for people that are qualified to fill
positions in different organizations in baseball."

As the speech went on, Robinson kept using the phrase "In
closing ..." -- then kept right on speaking. Who could blame him?

"I've never done anything harder than I have to do right now,"
Robinson said, his voice cracking, "and that's to say,
'Goodbye."

When he relinquished the microphone, he was engulfed by players
and staff from his Nationals, of course, but also from the Mets,
who all left their dugout to greet Robinson with hugs and slaps on
the back.

"Frank has been a great ambassador for baseball, a great
individual, a great superstar in the game," New York's Julio
Franco said. "Baseball's going to miss him."

The game might also have marked free-agent-to-be Alfonso Soriano's last game in a Washington uniform. After he trotted out
to left field in the top of the fourth, Robinson sent out a sub, so
the fourth member of baseball's 40-40 club could jog off to a
standing ovation -- quite a contrast from the spring training days
of "Will he or won't he switch from second base to left field?"

As usual, Robinson watched the game while perched against the
green dugout railing, his arms crossed on a white towel. There was
a point when everyone else moved away, perhaps a collective effort
to give the man a few moments alone.

"I have a lot of respect for him," Soriano said, "as a
manager and person, too."

Game notes
Mets OF Cliff Floyd (left Achilles' heel) played for the
first time since Tuesday and hit leadoff to get extra at-bats. ...
Randolph said he'll decide Monday on a lineup for Game 1 of the
playoffs.