Frank Robinson

Photo by NBC

Baseball Great Frank Robinson Dies at Age 83


By David A. Avila

Two-time Most Valuable Player, and one of the top hitters of any era, Frank Robinson passed away, announced Major League Baseball on Thursday.

 “We have lost Frank Robinson at the age of 83,” said MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr.

Robinson entered Major League Baseball in 1956 with the Cincinnati Reds and was named NL Rookie of the Year. It was a mere nine years after Jackie Robinson (no relation) broke the MLB color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He was born in Beaumont, Texas but at an early age his family moved to Oakland, Calif. and it was there that he began playing baseball.

While with Cincinnati Reds he won the National League award for Most Valuable Player in 1961 and led his team to the World Series against the powerful New York Yankees. The next year he was even more impressive offensively but his team did not win the N.L. pennant. After four more years Robinson continued to be one of the leading players in the National League but Cincinnati owner Bill DeWitt decided to trade him to Baltimore in 1966. When asked the reason DeWitt infamously said “Robinson was an old 30.”

In 1966, Robinson led the Baltimore Orioles to the World Series while winning the Triple Crown and being voted Most Valuable Player in the American League. He is the only player in history to win MVP in both the AL and NL. After leading the Orioles to the World Series the team then swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games.

“He was that single ingredient needed to make us a great baseball team,” stated former Baltimore teammate Paul Blair to newspapers. Blair passed away in 2013.

After stints with the Dodgers and Angels he was traded to Cleveland Indians and while there was installed as the first Black manager in MLB history in 1975. In his very first game on April 8 as player-manager Robinson hit a homer off NY Yankee Doc Medich.

Those who faced Robinson as a hitter remember his crouch and hugging the plate.

“He gave that appearance that you could pitch him inside but he would pull that leg out and hit the ball inside,” said Jim Kaat a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame. “He played the game somewhat with a chip on his shoulder. He’s right there with the all-time greats.”

Robinson would hit a total of 586 homers when he retired and was the number four all-time leader. He led the Baltimore Orioles to four pennant winners in 1966, 1969, 1970, and 1971 including another World Series win in 1970. When he retired his final batting average was .294 and he finished with a total of 2,943 hits.

“Frank turned them into a dominant team. He turned that franchise from a good team to a great team,” said Kaat about Robinson’s influence with the Baltimore Orioles.

Fellow Oriole and another Hall of Fame inductee Jim Palmer said his own career benefitted from Robinson as a teammate.

“Without Frank Robinson on my team I don’t get voted into the Hall of Fame,” said Baltimore Orioles pitching great Jim Palmer.

Robinson managed the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals and was voted Manager of the Year in 1989. But as a hitter he had few peers.

“He was one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball,” said Manfred.