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Trailblazer and former Oriole Frank Robinson dies at the age of 83

The former Oriole outfielder had been battling a long illness.

February 07, 2019 - 4:04 pm

By: Kyle J. Andrews

Former Oriole and Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson has died after battling a long-term illness. He was 83 years old.

Robinson played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball, beginning with the Cincinnati Reds (1956-1965) and was traded to the Baltimore Orioles (1966-1971). He would spend a season with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1972), two seasons with the California Angels (1973-1974), and three seasons with the Cleveland Indians (1974-1976). He batted .294 with 586 home runs, 2,943 hits, 204 stolen bases, and was a 14-time All-Star.

He became the first black manager in black manager in 1975 with the Indians, while simultaneously playing with the team. Robinson would serve in that role from 1975-1977. The former outfielder would also manage the San Francisco Giants (1981-1984), Orioles (1988-1984),and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2002-2006). He put together a 1,065-1,176 (.475) record over parts of 16 seasons managing, in addition to winning the AL Manager of the Year award with Baltimore.

Robinson began his Major League career with the Reds in 1956 and played 10 season with the team. He boasted a batting average of .303 with 324 home runs, 1,009 runs batted in, and 161 stolen bags, being named to the All-Star Game eight times.

However, to bolster their pitching staff, the Reds traded Robinson to the Orioles for pitchers Jack Baldschun and Milt Pappas, in addition to outfielder Dick Simpson. The trade proved to be one-sided with Robinson winning the Triple Crown in 1966 to pair with a World Series victory, and a World Series MVP. On May 8,1966, Robinson became the only person to hit a home run out of the stadium off of Indians pitcher Luis Tiant.

On June 26, 1970, Robinson would hit back-to-back grand slams in the fifth and sixth innings in a 12-2 win over the Washington Senators. The Orioles would go on to win the World Series once again that season, this time over his former club, the Reds. He would play five more years after the 1971 season. He became a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee as an Oriole in 1982 (89.2% of the vote), just five seasons after he retired for play with the Indians in 1976.

Throughout Robinson's career, he was plagued by racist taunts accompanied by death threats early on in his playing career. Signing for $3,500 in 1953 with the Reds, he often could not dine or room with his minor league teammates. When he got to Baltimore in 1966, he and his wife were denied housing in predominantly white neighborhoods.

He is still the only player in MLB history to win the MVP in the National League (1961 with the Reds) and the American League (1966 with the Orioles). His no. 20 is retired in Baltimore (1972), Cincinnati (1998), and Cleveland (2017). Robinson also had a bronze statue erected in his honor at the Reds' Great American Ballpark in 2003, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2012, and at the Indians' Progressive Field in 2017. This makes him just one of two players to have their number retired by three different organizations, the other being pitcher Nolan Ryan.

He was a charter member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame with Brooks Robinson and being inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1978. He would be named to the Washington Nationals Ring of Honor in 2015 and then inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 2016.

Robinson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2005 by President George W. Bush. He would also become the first recipient of the first Jackie Robinson Society Community Recognition Award at George Washington University in April 2007.

He is survived by his wife Barbara, in addition to a son and daughter.

A statement from the Angelos family on Robinson's passing:

“Frank Robinson was not only one of the greatest players in Orioles history, but was also one of the premier players in the history of baseball. Fans will forever remember Frank for his 1966 season in which he won the Triple Crown and was named MVP during a year that brought Baltimore its first World Series championship. His World Series MVP performance capped off one of the greatest individual seasons in baseball history. An Orioles Legend and a Baseball Hall of Famer, Frank brought us so many wonderful memories, including two championships, during his time in Baltimore.

“As the first African-American manager in Major League history, Frank was a proponent of civil rights causes on and off the field, including policies that paved the way for minorities to have increased access to executive and management positions in baseball. 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. To this day, Frank remains the only person in Orioles history to serve as a player, coach, manager, and front office executive.

“Frank’s contributions to the Orioles and his work as an ambassador for Major League Baseball will never be forgotten. This is a difficult day for our entire organization and for our many fans. We extend our condolences to his wife, Barbara, his daughter, Nichelle, his entire family, and his many friends across our game.”

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