Frank Robinson, the first black manager in Major League Baseball and the only player to earn the MVP award in both leagues, died Feb. 7. He was 83.
Robinson’s death has prompted many to take a closer look at the life of this baseball legend, and what a life it was.
The youngest of 10 children, Robinson grew up in Oakland, playing sports year-round.
His American Legion baseball team — which included 14 future pros — won a national championship. Bill Russell was his high school basketball teammate.
And Robinson’s amazing journey was only just beginning.
Playing for five MLB teams from 1956 to 1976, the outfielder hit 586 home runs (10th all-time), collected two MVP trophies and led the Orioles to a pair of World Series championships.
Also, Robinson — a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection — was a 12-time All-Star, and a Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove award-winner.
In 1975, Robinson set forth on a managerial career, becoming the first black manager in major league history. His Cleveland Indians opened at home that year, and Robinson, still active as a player, batted himself second as the designated hitter. In the first inning, he homered.
Robinson would go on to manage four other teams before retiring in 2006.
As a player, Robinson was fearsome and fearless. As a manager he was a strict task-master. He was the definition of “old school.”
When his coaching days were over, Robinson spent several years working as an executive for MLB and for a time oversaw the annual Civil Rights Game. He advocated for more minorities throughout baseball and worked with former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to develop the Selig Rule, directing teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a new manager.
For all he did on and off the field, in 2005 Robinson was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Frank Robinson’s resume in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement following Robinson’s passing.
A trailblazer indeed.
So long to Frank Robinson, a unique figure in baseball history.
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