Frank Robinson (1935-2019), trailblazing Major League Baseball manager and Hall of Fame player

Ross Houston
February 8, 2019

The baseball world has sadly lost a Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever make a mark on the game. He left Cleveland in 1977 and returned to managing with the San Francisco Giants from 1981-84 before returning to the Orioles as manager of the team from 1988-1991.

The slugger won two Most Valuable Player awards, one with the Reds and one with the Baltimore Orioles, making him the only player to win an MVP in both the American and National League. His 1961 Reds team lost the Series to the Yankees in five games while his 1969 Orioles lost that World Series to the Miracle Mets.

"Frank Robinson's résumé in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations", Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career", Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday in a statement.

Robinson, who was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, completed his career with 586 home runs, which still ranks 10 in baseball history.

Robinson fulfilled his quest to become the first African-American manager in the big leagues when the Cleveland Indians hired him in 1975.

Robinson also led the Orioles to another World Series title in 1970. In 2005, Frank was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, for 'setting a lasting example of character in athletics'. He became the first manager of the Washington Nationals after the franchise moved from Montreal for the 2005 season - the Nationals put him in their Ring of Honor, too. And while he never led his league in a Triple Crown category other than in 1966 when he managed it in all three, he led his league in slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+ four times, including three years in a row (1960-62).

Robinson's legendary run as a player only tells part of his story. He played for the California Angels in 1973 and was dealt to Cleveland late in the 1974 season. In 1975, Robinson became manager of the Cleveland Indians, breaking the color barrier. His leadership in the front office and as manager of the Orioles was highlighted by being named the American League Manager of the Year in 1989.

A no-nonsense guy, Robinson also had a sharp wit.

"Frank took us from being a good team in 1965 to being a great team in 1966", Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer told the Baltimore Sun.

At the time, the Orioles had a batboy named Jay Mazzone, whose hands were amputated when he was 2 after a burning accident.

"Frank Robinson broke the ice", Mazzone said.

"It was either thumbs up or thumbs down", he recalled. "After that, I was treated just like everybody else".

Robinson is survived by his wife, Barbara Ann, and two children, Frank Kevin and Nichelle.

There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.

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