“Frank Robinson–Name It-He Did It”
The words they use, describe who he was. The stats tell you what he accomplished.
Frank Robinson was fierce and fiery, Intense and intimidating. Fanatical and relentless. Menacing and methodical.
He played with a chip on his shoulder and was in a fury all the time.
The Hall of Fame slugger, the firebrand, the manager, the confidante of the Commissioner, has passed away.
The stats stand out in neon lights.
14-time All Star. An MVP in both leagues. A Triple Crown winner. Rookie of the Year. Manager of the Year.
He had 583-career home runs. A (.294) career hitter over is 21-years. 198-times hit by pitch. 11-times he hit 30-homers or more, the pre-steroid era.
Life was never easy for Frank Robinson, a graduate from Oakland McClymonds High. He came from a family of 10-siblings, a family that had no father around.
He travelled the tough lonely road in the 1950s in the Jim Crow minor league south.
If Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and Willy Mays carried the next flag, Frank Robinson was the third link in the chain, and became a bridge to the next group of stars, led by Reggie Jackson.
He raged as s rookie, storming to the front of stardom as a rookie with the Cincinnati Reds, their first great black player in a city that had a history of being a borderline Southern racist city.
Think of that early Reds lineup, Ted Kluzewski, Wally Post Gus Bell, Ed Bailey, home run hitters everywhere, and then add Robinson and his volatile talents.
He crowded the plate, daring pitchers to hit him. They knocked him down, but he’d get up and his a bomb in response. On the bases, he was reckless, barrel sliding guys into left field as they tried to turn double plays.
He battled opposing pitchers. He was a warrior on the field, and in his own clubhouse, once bringing a handgun into Crosley Field to settle a dispute that had racial overtones to it with a Reds teammate.
History will always write about the worst trade of all time, the Cubs-Cardinals swap of Ernie Broglie for Lou Brock.
The Reds-Orioles deal, a 30-year old Robinson for picher Milt Pappas rates right up there as armed robbery.
Robinson drove Baltimore to World Series greatness. The relentless Robison, the ever demanding Earl Weaver, and a loaded pitching staff put the Orioles into the World Series time and again.
As that 2-decade career reached an end, he took the next step in his career, becoming the playing manager of the woeful Cleveland Indians
There was always drama in his career, and so was his opening day heroics, a pinch hit home run in Cleveland in his first game ever as baseball’s first black manager.
What drove him to greatness as an everyday player, did not translate to success, being in the dugout every day leading a team.
Robinson’s in your face approach, ‘why aren’t you as good as I was’ wore his team down. His surly approach with the media became old. Joe Tait, the popular Tribe broadcaster, openly questioned Robinson’s ability to manage the game he starred in, and handle the players too.
Robinson was gone in his third year. But proud as he was, he learned. He became a teacher and a motivator. He managed the Giants, went to the Baltimore, survived an (0-21) start one season, but got them int the playoffs.
He was asked to help transfer the near bankrupt Expos out of Montreal, to Washington DC.
The career record was (1,065-1,176) in three hopeless situations in Cleveland, San Francisco and then Montreal. He brought Baltimore baseball back to life too.
When his time in a uniform was done, he became a trusted advisor to both Bud Selig and Rob Manffed, serving at the pleasure of the Commissioner. He handled baseball discipline, he counseled young players, he advised rookie managers. He pushed hard for more minority interviews for all open MLB positions.
He did everything and anything, using his nearly 50-year’s experience as the manual, how to handle, cope,manage, play the game. His philosophy was simple. “Hear Something-See Something-Do Something’.
He played for keeps. His eyes flashed his never-ending energy. He was a trailblazer.
Frank Robinson was many things, to many people. He did so many things right.
He was a gem of an individual, a unique star in a game of stars, in baseball’s Golden Era.