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Sat, 08.31.1935

Frank Robinson, Baseball Great Born

Frank Robinson

*Frank Robinson was born on this date in 1935.  He was a Black professional baseball player and manager. 

Frank Robinson was born in Beaumont, Texas,  the youngest of ten children born to Frank Robinson and Ruth Shaw. His parents divorced when he was an infant and his mother moved with her children first to Alameda, California, and then to the West Oakland, California. He attended Oakland’s McClymonds High School, where he was a basketball teammate of Bill Russell. He was a baseball teammate of Vada Pinson and Curt Flood. He also played American Legion Baseball.  

In 1953, a scout for the Cincinnati Reds, signed Robinson to a contract worth $3,500. He made his professional debut for the Ogden Reds of the Class C Pioneer League.  He was promoted to the Tulsa Oilers of the Class AA Texas League in 1954, but was demoted to the Columbia Reds of the Class A South Atlantic Leaguein 1955.  Robinson made his major league debut in 1956 with the Cincinnati Reds.  He tied the then-record of 38 home runs by a rookie and was named Rookie of the Year.  While playing for the Reds in the late 1950s, Robinson attended Xavier University in Cincinnati during the off-seasons.  

The Reds won the NL pennant in 1961 and Robinson won his first MVP, (in July he batted .409, hit 13 home runs, and drove in 34 RBIs to win NL Player of the Month),. The last time the NL played a 154-game schedule was his best offensive year was in 1962. That season he hit .342 with 39 home runs, 51 doubles, 208hits (his only 200+ hit season), 136 RBIs and 134 runs in 162 games. The Reds lost the 1961 World Series to the New York Yankees. Robinson was a fierce player. He spiked Johnny Logan in 1957, causing Logan to miss six weeks. He also got into a fist fight with Eddie Mathews in 1960.  

Prior to the 1966 season, the Reds traded him to the Baltimore Orioles. That year Robinson won the Triple Crown with the World Series champion Orioles. In Robinson's first year in Baltimore he led the American League with a .316 batting average (the lowest ever by a Triple Crown winner), 49 home runs (the most ever by a right-handed Triple crown winner) and 122 runs batted in.   While in Baltimore, he became active in the American Civil Rights Movement. He originally declined membership in the NAACP unless the organization promised not to make him do public appearances. However, after witnessing Baltimore's segregated housing and discriminatory real estate practices, he reconsidered and became a speaker on racial issues.  

Frank Robinson, MVP

On May 8, 1966, Robinson became the only player ever to hit a home run completely out of Memorial Stadium. The shot came off of Luis Tiant in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, and the home run measured 541 feet (165 m). Until the Orioles' move to Camden Yards in 1991, a flag labeled "HERE" was flown at the spot where the ball left the stadium.  The Orioles won the 1966 World Series and Robinson won the World Series MVP Award. In the Orioles' four-game sweep of the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Robinson hit two home runs. Both home runs were hit off Don Drysdale. On June 26, 1970, Robinson hit back-to-back grand slams (in the fifth and sixth innings) in the Orioles' 12–2 win over the Washington Senators at RFK Stadium. The same runners were on base on both home runs Dave McNally on third, Don Buford on second and Paul Blair on first.  The Orioles won three consecutive pennants between 1969 and 1971 and won the 1970 World Series over his old club Cincinnati.  

In 1971, the Orioles traded Robinson to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He played 103 games, while compiling a .251 batting average, 59 RBIs, 86 hits, and 19 home runs. In November of that year, he was traded to the California Angels.  He played 147 games in 1973 and 129 in 1974. In his tenure with the Angels, he hit for a .259 average while having 50 home runs, 249 hits, and 160 RBIs.  In 1974, the Angels traded him to the Cleveland Indians. Three weeks later, the Indians named him their manager, and persuaded him to continue playing. Robinson met his wife, Barbara Ann Cole, in 1961. They married that year had two children Frank Kevin and Nichelle.  They lived in Los Angeles, where Barbara sold real estate. 

In his first at bat as a player/manager for Cleveland in 1975, he hit a home run against the Yankees. He injured his shoulder in 1975 and he retired from playing after the 1976 season, after batting .226 with 14 home runs in 235 at bats for Cleveland from 1974 through 1976.  During a 21-year baseball career, he batted .294 with 586 home runs, 1,812 runs batted in, and 2,943 hits. At his retirement, his 586 career home runs were the fourth-best in history (behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays). He is second on Cincinnati's all-time home run leaders list (324, behind Johnny Bench) and is the Reds' all-time leader in slugging percentage (.554).  

Robinson was the first Black manager in MLB history.  He managed the Cleveland Indians during the last two years of his playing career, compiling a 186 - 189 record. He went on to manage the San Francisco Giants, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. He was the honorary President of the American League.   Frank Robinson died in Los Angeles on February 7, 2019, at the age of 83, as a result of bone cancer. 

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