Horrible news about one of baseball’s all-time greats: Hall of Famer Frank Robinson has died at age 83. He had been suffering from bone cancer.
Robinson’s impact on the game cannot be overstated. A fixture in baseball for over 60 years, Robinson was the 1956 Rookie of the Year and won the MVP Award in both the National and American Leagues, in 1961 with the Reds and in 1966 with the Orioles. He was also the 1966 Triple Crown winner. For his career he was a .294/.389/.537 hitter who smacked 586 career homers, placing him 10th on the all-time list. He appeared in 14 All-Star Games and was the 1966 World Series MVP. A part of his game that often goes unnoticed: he led the league in getting hit by pitches seven times in his career. He crowded the plate and dared pitchers to throw him inside. They did and he never backed off. A fierce but not necessarily fiery competitor, Robinson was known to slide hard and otherwise play hard in every aspect of the game.
That alone justified his induction into the Hall of Fame, which occurred in his first year of eligibility in 1982. But he was also a trailblazer, becoming the game’s first African-American manager when the Indians hired him as their player-manager for the 1975 season. He would go on to manage for the Giants, the Orioles, the Expos and, upon that franchise’s move to Washington, he became the Nationals first manager. His career record was 1065-1176, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that he took over some pretty bad teams. He rarely had teams which underachieved their talent level, and his managerial abilities were on perhaps their best display in Baltimore in 1989 when he turned around a dreadful Orioles club and was named the 1989 AL Manager of the Year.
In the middle of his managerial career he moved into Major League Baseball’s front office where he was a key advisor to Commissioner Bud Selig, serving as the game’s vice president of on-field operations. As baseball’s so-called Dean of Discipline, he handed down suspensions and the like. After returning to the dugout to manage the Expos and the Nationals he returned to work as a special advisor to Selig and then Rob Manfred until his death.
Robinson is survived by his wife, Barbara, a son and a daughter.