|First appearance||"Ebb Tide" (episode 2.01)|
|Last appearance||"Port in a Storm" (episode 2.12)|
|Created by||David Simon|
|Portrayed by||Chris Bauer|
|Occupation||Union Leader, Smuggler|
|Family||Louis Sobotka (brother), Nick Sobotka (nephew)|
|Children||Chester "Ziggy" Sobotka|
Frank is a respected Polish-American secretary treasurer for the International Brotherhood of Stevedores at the Baltimore docks. As the pater familias for the docks' longshoremen population, it is his job to manage the finances of the union and make sure that the workers are taken care of - a task made harder by the decline of Baltimore's shipping industry and the lack of available hours.
Desperate to return prosperity to the docks, Frank begins making overtures to lobbyists and politicians to support initiatives that will make the port a more attractive shipping location. His two main objectives are to have the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal dredged to increase the depth for incoming ships, and to re-open the grain pier. Bruce DiBiago, an old friend and lobbyist, serves as go-between for Sobotka and politicians such as Senator Clay Davis.
In order to obtain the necessary funds for paying the bribes, Sobotka makes an arrangement with European gangsters "The Greek" and Spiros "Vondas" Vondopoulos to smuggle illegal goods through the port. Ships with contraband such as drugs and prostitutes will be tagged by Frank's union cohort Thomas "Horseface" Pakusa, with the crates disappearing in the computer system and driven out by the Greek's man Sergei "Serge" Malatov. Frank's nephew Nick Sobotka, another union member, acts as go-between for his uncle and Vondas by passing messages and delivering lists of containers to be moved. Unbeknownst to Frank, his troubled son, Chester "Ziggy" Sobotka, often accompanies Nick to these meetings.
Frank's criminal activities begin to be suspected by the police following a feud with Major Stanislaus Valchek, whose gift of a stained glass window to a local church has been eclipsed by Sobotka's more elaborate window (a move to have the priest get Frank closer to a senator in his congregation). Suspicious of how a longshoreman could have so much disposable income, Valchek manages to persuade Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell to assemble a detail to investigate Sobotka's activities. The investigation gains further traction with the discovery of 13 dead girls in a shipping container ("can"), who turn out to be prostitutes smuggled in by the Greek.
Frank is enraged that human smuggling is taking place in his port, and threatens Vondas, demanding that no other live containers come through. With detectives asking questions about the dead girls, some strange goings-on with his cell-phone, and his own suspicions about his friend Officer Russell's involvement in the case, Frank becomes increasingly nervous. He demands to meet The Greek and tells him he wants out. The Greek, who needs Frank's system, objects. Nick then asks for more money for them to take on the extra risk. The Greek and Frank agree to this arrangement - Frank needs the money — but Frank is ever more uneasy, and his world proceeds to unravel.
Towards the end of the season, Frank is arrested on smuggling charges after the detail is pressured into making arrests (around the same time, his son Ziggy is also arrested for the murder of a local fence). Valchek personally escorts a compliant Frank out of the union hall in handcuffs, and the resulting media attention leads lawmakers to cut their ties. With his efforts to save the port sunk, and his family facing legal charges (Ziggy for murder, Nick for selling drugs), Sobotka decides to accept the advice of Beadie Russell and turn informant on The Greek.
However, before passing information to the police, The Greek arranges for a meeting to be held, in which Frank will be offered a deal envisaged by Spiros. The deal would exchange Frank's loyalty and silence about the criminal activity at the port for Spiros's assurance that the State's witness in his son's murder prosecution would testify that the shooting occurred in self defense. However, this attempt to secure Frank's loyalty to The Greek's organization is ruined at the last moment, when the Greek is tipped off by his inside man in the FBI that Sobotka has scheduled a proffer session with police, in which he will inform on the Greek. The last the audience sees of Frank alive is during the closing moments of the penultimate episode of the second season - as the screen fades out we see him walking resolutely beneath a bridge to the rendezvous with The Greek, in a final effort to save his son.
The following day Frank's body is found in the harbor, with multiple stab wounds and his throat cut. Detectives remark that numerous defensive wounds indicate he died fighting. It is implied that Spiros slit Frank's throat, echoing a murder earlier in the season. After his death, his fellow longshoremen, in tribute to Frank, re-elect him as treasurer in defiance of federal warnings, which leads to the dissolution of his local union office.
The Wire has been described as an examination of how the failure, amorality, and corruption within institutions eventually destroy the essentially decent individuals involved with them; within the series Frank Sobotka has come to be the classic epitome of such an individual.