Frank Robinson was a baseball titan, and the Cincinnati Reds were lucky to have had him don their jersey for a decade of record-breaking excellence. His 586 career homers cemented him in lore for those who follow the numerical history of the game, and his MVP awards in both the AL and NL further established the Hall of Famer as one of the absolute best players this game has ever known.
As a testament to just how influential a man he was, that entire first paragraph barely scratches the surface of the impact he had both on the game of baseball and on the society in which he lived.
Robinson died on Thursday at age 83, as the New York Daily News relayed. He had been fighting bone cancer for some time.
Frank Robinson, MLB's first black manager, is dead at 83 https://t.co/q3CwUMLidg— NY Daily News Sports (@NYDNSports) February 7, 2019
He won the NL Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, and a Gold Glove as a Red, three times leading the league in OPS and OPS+ while logging a then club record 324 homers. That, though, famously preceded him being traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, among others, at the time being labeled an ‘old 30’ years old by the Reds brass.
Robinson promptly hit .316/.410/.637 in his first year as an Oriole, leading the league in all three categories. He added a league-best 49 dingers and 122 RBI that year for good measure, claiming the Triple Crown en route to winning the AL MVP, World Series, and World Series MVP. He later added another World Series title to his trophy case in 1970 - that time with the Reds themselves as his opponent.
He later became the first black manager in baseball history in 1975 when taking the helm in Cleveland, eventually winning 1065 games over 16 seasons and taking home the Manager of the Year award in 1989 while in charge in Baltimore. By then, he was already a Hall of Famer, as he was elected in his first time on the ballot in 1982 alongside Hank Aaron.
He was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
There are endless reasons why his statue sits in front of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, as his name still sits prominently in the team’s record books despite him playing his last game as a Red some 54 years ago. His 63.9 bWAR while in Cincinnati ranks fourth all time in team history, his .943 OPS as a Red second only to Joey Votto. Those 324 dingers still sit second in club history, while his .554 slugging percentage is still the tops in the history of the franchise. He was also hit 118 times by pitches in a Reds uniform, which is still far and away the most in team history.
A once in a generation talent and a baseball pioneer, Robinson should long be remembered as one of the true icons in this sport’s long, long history. We send our sincerer condolences to his family, and tip our caps to one of the true legends of his time.
MLB.com’s Orioles beat writer Joe Trezza has an update from Robinson’s family:
Frank Robinson's family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions in Frank’s memory can be made to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee or the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) February 7, 2019