Thursday, February 7, 2019

RIP Frank Robinson

I was saddened to hear the news of the passing of one of baseball's all-time great sluggers, Frank Robinson, who succumbed to cancer earlier today.

Frank began accumulating awards and adulation from the start of his career, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1956, tying the National League rookie home run record by hitting 38. The National League rookie record would last until 2017.

In 1961, he led the Cincinnati Reds to a World Series showdown against the mighty Yankees, who won that Series. Robinson was named the National League Most Valuable Player.

He was involved in a controversial trade involving the Baltimore Orioles, where he was traded to for pitcher Milt Pappas. Traded prior to the 1966 season, because he was "an old thirty", Frank responded by leading the Orioles to the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning the Triple Crown in the process, the first in the American League since Mickey Mantle in 1956.

Oh yeah, he was the American League Most Valuable Player, the first to win the award in both leagues, and the World Series MVP as well, leading the Orioles to a four game sweep of the pitching rich Dodgers.

He played a few years with the Orioles, before moving on to the Dodgers, then the California Angels. In 1975, he joined the Cleveland Indians as a designated hitter and manager. He made history by becoming the first African-American manager in the major leagues.

He managed in Cleveland for two seasons, and later was called upon to manage in Baltimore, San Francisco and Montreal/Washington. He spent many years in the Commissioner's office, in a variety of roles, and was well respected throughout baseball.

He was a fierce competitor, and Roberto Clemente referred to Robinson and Stan Musial as the best hitters he had ever seen.

Frank was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility in 1982, garnering 89.2% of the vote.
He had his jersey (#20) retired by three different teams, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.

The most amazing, easily overlooked fact for me, at the time of his retirement, he was in fourth place on the all-time home run list with 586. Only Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays were ahead of him.

Rest in Peace Mr. Robinson. You have impacted our wonderful game beyond measure.