Legendary baseball player, Frank Robinson, passed away this week. He is remembered not only for his great skill on the diamond but also for breaking down barriers in baseball. He was the first African American manager in baseball. And he did so while still playing, earning him the title player-manager of the Cleveland Indians.
On opening day in 1975, Robinson was going to focus on the managing side of things and hadn’t put himself in the lineup. But his fellow coaches convinced him that he deserved to be in the game. He was making history and should be on the field. So Robinson penciled himself into the number two spot in the batting order.
In his first at-bat, Robinson fell down in the count to Yankees pitcher Doc Medich. With two strikes on him, Medich threw a nasty slider across the outside part of the plate. But Robinson kept his cool and didn’t swing. Robinson recalls being annoyed that Doc had tried to get him to chase. Now Robinson was going for blood. He hit the next pitch high into left center field, and the ball went sailing over the fence.
That was the kind of person Robinson was. He was selfless enough to not even play himself on opening day. And he was a fierce competitor who kept pitchers on their toes.
There was no one who liked winning more and knew how to do it better than Frank. His best season was in 1966 when he took the Orioles to the World Series and won, while winning the Triple Crown and the MVP for himself.
More Of Robinson’s Achievements
Frank Robinson truly has a long list of impressive achievements. He is one of the most accomplished players of our time. In his first season he was already a sensation. In 1956, he won the Rookie of the Year award. That year he hit .290 and had 38 homeruns. He was only 20 years old.
Robinson remains the only player to win the MVP in both the American and National leagues. He was a part of a whopping 13 All-Star teams. He led his league in slugging percentage in four different seasons, including an amazing three years in a row from 1960-1962.
Robinson retired in 1976. He’d hit an astounding 586 homeruns during his career. The only three players at the time to have hit more were Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays. That’s pretty good company to be in. Robinson is also one eight players to have over 2,900 hits and over 500 homeruns, almost reaching the category of Aaron and Mays, who have over 3,000 hits and over 600 homeruns.
How He Became Frank Robinson
Robinson grew up in an era of open racism and experienced a lot of it growing up. From Oakland, California, he actually played high school basketball with the great Bill Russell. But Baseball was his thing. He went through the minor leagues where he face a lot of racism but overcame every challenge thrown his way and made it to the majors in 1956.
Robinson recalls that the best way to shut up those mistreating him was to beat them on the field. And that’s exactly what he did. Robinson seemed at times to be fueled by his anger. He channeled in into his hitting.
In 1965, he was upset about being traded from the Reds to the Orioles. The Reds thought that at 31, Robinson was getting old. Of course, in 1966, he won the Triple Crown, proving to the management in Cincinnati that they had made a mistake.
Frank Robinson showed a generation how to compete, how to use emotion in sports properly. He was a fantastic player and a revolutionary figure. As an icon and as a man, he is missed.