A Tribute to Frank Robinson

We look back fondly on Frank Robinson’s legacy with several special guests including former Orioles players and long-time sports commentators.

Vinny & Haynie
February 09, 2019 - 12:24 pm
American League All-Star Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles speaks with Frank Robinson prior to the 86th MLB All-Star Game at the Great American Ball Park on July 14, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

(Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America

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By: Kyle J. Andrews

Frank Robinson passed away on Thursday after a long battle with bone cancer. He was 83 years old. His passing shined a light on the impact he had on the lives and careers of other former baseball players and the game itself. 

Ben McDonald

Former Orioles pitcher Ben McDonald learned a great deal about the Orioles from Robinson. Having been recently selected from LSU in the 1989 MLB Amateur Draft, McDonald didn’t have a clear vision of Baltimore’s baseball history. Robinson became his first manager and showed him the ropes.

“I didn’t know a lot about the history of the Baltimore Orioles to be honest with you,” McDonald said. “We didn’t have CableVision until I got into high school where I live. On CableVision, the only thing that we ever got was TBS and WGN. I grew up as a National League  -- Braves, Cubs fan. It was very rare on Sunday Night Baseball, that you ever see the American League teams and the Baltimore Orioles.

“When I first signed with the Orioles, I did not know a whole lot about the history. But it didn’t take long with Jim Palmer around the clubhouse and Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson managing, with Boog Powell coming along – you started to grasp a lot of the history. I had to do a little bit of research and talk to people to really figure – I knew Frank was a good player, I knew he was in the Hall of Fame, but I didn’t realize how good he was.

“He was the only guy to win MVP in two different leagues and was the Triple Crown [winner] in ’66 and when he came to the Orioles, he really was that piece of the puzzle that they needed to get them over the top and he would be a big part of why they would go on to win two World Series when he arrived in Baltimore.”

Listen to McDonald's full interview below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boog Powell 

Boog Powell played with Robinson for the Orioles from 1966-1971. During those times of great success with the Orioles, the team held each other accountable in a fun way. Robinson, donning a mop on his head, was dubbed the “judge” of Baltimore’s “Kangaroo Court”.

“All of a sudden, Frank’s sitting over by the shower door and he’s got this funky mop on, that he got out of the corner – it was a clean mop by the way,” Powell said of Robinson’s Kangaroo Court character on. “He wore this thing like an English judge or an English whatever.

“It was only when we won and you could bring any case up you wanted. All of the ballplayers were free to bring up a case in the first five minutes after the game after we won, the locker room was closed to the press and the press weren’t really crazy about that. It was our deal and there wasn’t anybody that was going to change that.”

Listen to Powell's full interview below. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe Orsulak 

Once an Orioles outfielder, Joe Orsulak played on the second-worst team in the franchise’s history in 1988. Baltimore went 54-107 and had to make great changes in the next season. Robinson took over in the middle of the 1988 campaign and slowly began to change the culture of the team.

 “Frank was tough,” Orsulak said. “I think he was easier on the rookies because they were a little more fragile, so to speak. He didn’t want to ruin them, but the veterans – we were a little hardened. He had high expectations and when you didn’t do well it wasn’t hard to see that Frank wasn’t pleased.”

Listen to Orsulak's full interview below. 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Henneman

Former Baltimore Sun columnist and current PressBox columnist Jim Henneman covered Robinson during his time in Baltimore as a player and as a manager. Over his time as a writer, he was able to get to know Robinson much better, including learning about what his biggest regret was.

“The one thing about it that he regrets is his time here was too short,” Henneman stated. “What we tend to forget is he got traded out of necessity to make room for Don Baylor and it’s truly interesting because it was like trading for a clone. If you get a Frank Robinson clone, it would be Don Baylor. Don was as good of a player as Frank was and he would be the first to tell you that. But he was a clone in the way that he played the game.

Listen to Henneman's full interview below. 

 

 

Jim Palmer

Jim Palmer played with Robinson from 1966-1971 and he was able to take in everything that made him such a spectacular figure and through it all, the most important thing for Palmer was that Robinson was a trailblazer for many black baseball players and managers.

 “He was a marvelous guy,” Palmer said. “I think the one thing – if you read most of the headlines today – first African-American manager. He did his due diligence. He went to Puerto Rico and managed and it wasn’t like some guy just because ‘You know what? I’m a great player, I happen to be black or African-American, I think I should manage.’ No."

“He went down, I played for him one year, Reggie Jackson played on one of those teams, Don Baylor played on one of those ball clubs. Not only did he help us win games and change baseball in Baltimore, but just think of the impact he had – not only on the players that he had a chance to interact with, but if you’re an African-American player, and you came up and saw what Frank Robinson was able to do, along with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, you’re going ‘Boy, maybe I’ll choose baseball’ and what a career he had.”

Listen to Palmer's full interview below. 

Robinson will be remembered for being a hard-nosed competitor, a trailblazer, a tough manager, and a person that was defiant against racism. To all that he had overcame in his life to accomplish, Robinson’s legacy will blaze on.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleJAndrews_