Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson, one of the greatest baseball players in history and the first black manager in the majors, died today at his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.
Robinson was and remains the only player to win the Most Valuable Player award in both the National and American Leagues.
Fierce and aggressive at the plate, on the basepaths and in the dugout, Robinson once called himself “the intimidator.”
He debuted with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, which coincided with the final season for another celebrated player with the same surname: Jackie Robinson, the first African American in Major League Baseball.
He often quarrelled with Reds management and received death threats early in his career; in response he began carrying a gun, and as the Washington Post reports, in 1961 “he displayed it at a restaurant when a man threatened him with a knife.” Arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, Robinson spent a night in jail.
That same year he hit .323 with 37 home runs and 124 runs batted in, leading the Reds to the National League pennant. But four years later, Reds management considered him over the hill at age 30, and traded him to the Baltimore Orioles.
We are saddened by the loss of Frank Robinson, a Hall of Famer, 2-time MVP and MLB’s first African-American manager. He was 83. pic.twitter.com/tYDZGMWAfd
— MLB (@MLB) February 7, 2019
The next season, 1966, Robinson won baseball’s Triple Crown, leading the league with a .316 batting average, slamming 49 home runs (his career high) and hitting 122 RBI. He led the Orioles to victory in that season’s World Series, homering twice against the L.A. Dodgers and taking home the series MVP award.
In 1975, while playing for the Cleveland Indians, Robinson was named the team’s player-manager.
He retired as a player the next year, after 21 seasons and 586 homers (then 4th on the list behind Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willy Mays, Robinson is now ranked 10th).
In all he managed more than 2,000 games and later became an MLB executive.
Frank Robinson Jr. was born in Beaumont TX in 1935, and grew up in Oakland CA. He is survived by his wife and two children. His uniform number 20 was retired both by the Reds and the Orioles.
For more, watch the video above from The Baseball Hall Of Fame.