Bobby Tolan is a retired Major League baseball player who had an outstanding career in the 1960s and 1970s. His son Robbie Tolan, was carrying on the family tradition until the night police shot him in his parents’ driveway. See photos, video and a biography here.
Both father and son, Robert Tolan, whose nicknames Bobby and Robbie differentiate them, are in the news today because ‘HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ has brought the events that unfolded on December 31, 2008 to a wider audience.
That night at around 2 a.m. Robbie Tolan was driving back to the home he lives in with his parents in Bellaire, an exclusive, predominately white suburb of Houston, where he and his parents are part of the suburb’s mere 1 percent African-American population. Tolan had been out to eat with his cousin at the fast food restaurant, Jack-in-the-Box. Bellaire police began following the car because they believed, erroneously, that it was stolen.
A blazing fast confrontation took place in the driveway of Tolan’s parents’ home.
The officers ordered both men to lie down on the ground. Tolan’s parents heard the commotion and came outside. Police will only say an “altercation” took place. Tolan’s family say it involved his mother.
“The cop pushed her against the wall,” said Tolan’s uncle, Mike Morris.
Relatives say Tolan started to lean up from the ground to ask the officer what he was doing to his mother. That’s when the family says Tolan was shot in the chest, the bullet piercing his lung and then lodging in his liver.
Tolan was critically injured and still has a bullet lodged in his liver. He was recently released from the hospital. He might never play baseball again.
Bryant Gumbel and Real Sports producer David Scott traveled to Houston to interview Robbie Tolan and family. They also interviewed Bellaire Mayor Cindy Siegel in an effort to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting and to explore whether or not racial profiling may have been a factor. The mayor defended the police, and denied racial profiling, saying that young people tend to “spout off.”
Racial profiling? The statistics as well as this tragic incident would say so. According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, a non-profit organization that collects and compiles data on race and traffic stops, Bellaire, population nearly 16,000 and, as mentioned, less than 1 percent black; yet an astounding 22 percent of motorists given tickets in 2007 were black and 39 percent of motorists stopped and searched were black. According to local reports, the city is said to be taking the allegations seriously.
Robert Tolan, popularly known as Robbie, has now shared his story and his anguish with a national audience.
“I feel like I had a lot of time left, and you take that from me and I’m nothing. I’m gone,” said Tolan, who was released by the Washington Nationals last year.
When Real Sports’ Bryant Gumbel asked, “What part of you thinks ‘My ship has sailed?’” Tolan replied, “The part with the bullet in it.”
Tolan is still traumatized by the incident, stating in his interview that it is difficult for him to return to the family’s home; “Eeven though they cleaned it up, I can see the blood on the floor and on the concrete. I mean, I see everything that night.”
As a biography, Robbie Tolan is 23 years old. His given name is Robert Tolan though he is best known by the nickname. His mother is Marian Trahan and his father is Robert Tolan, popularly known as Bobby Tolan.
He had embarked upon a career in baseball in 2007 as a reserve outfielder. He played with the Washington Nationals as a minor leaguer, where he rose from the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to Class A Vermont, and later to Class A Hagerstown. He batted .210 with one home run and 10 RBI.
“He was with the organization in 2007, a good kid, worked hard,” Nats player development director Bobby Williams said today. “He wasn’t an everyday player, but he came to the park every day with a good attitude. You know, it’s very unfortunate what happened.
“We signed him as a non-drafted free agent [in May or June of 2007]. He hadn’t played professionally yet at that time.”
Although Tolan was invited in 2008 to spring training with the Washington Nationals, it did not work out as the team couldn’t find a spot for him and let him go. He played instead with the Bay Area Toros of the independent Continental Baseball League.
His father Bobby Tolan played in the major leagues for for 15 years, first with the St. Louis Cardinals (1965-68) and then with the Cincinnati Reds (1969-73) followed by brief stints with the San Diego Padres, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He retired in 1978. In 1970 he led the National League in stolen bases. He became a coach for the Padres in the early 1980s
Here are photos of Robbie Tolan. Watch video below.