Frank Robinson from 1956 to his rise into the Hall of Fame

Frank Robinson had the ability and intensity on the diamond that few possess. Robinson would crowd the plate like he owned it. “Pitchers did me a favor when they knocked me down,” he said. “It made me more determined. I wouldn’t let that pitcher get me out. They say you can’t hit if you’re on your back, but I didn’t hit on my back. I got up.”

He was recognized as one of the most feared base runners of his era and showed reckless abandon on the base paths. “The baselines belongs to the runner, and whenever I was running the bases, I always slid hard. I wanted infielders to have that instant’s hesitation about coming across the bag at second or about standing in there awaiting a throw to make a tag. There are only 27 outs in a ballgame, and it was my job to save one for my team every time I possibly could.”

Robinson broke into the National League as a 20-year-old in 1956 and tied a rookie record with 38 home runs en route to NL Rookie of the Year honors. Over the next decade and a half, Robinson was one of the most feared hitters in the game. He won the Triple Crown in 1966 and was the first player in major league history to win the MVP Award in both leagues. A 12-time All-Star, he also took home World Series MVP honors in 1966 and the All-Star Game MVP Award in 1971.

When asked by a fan how he would pitch to Frank Robinson, All-Star pitcher Jim Bouton replied, “Reluctantly.” In 1975, as his playing days wound down with the Cleveland Indians, he was named the club’s player-manager. He was the first African-American to manage a major league club. He also managed the Giants, Orioles, Expos and Nationals and was named American League Manager of the Year in 1989.

Courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Expos and Nationals GM Jim Bowden commented, “I have a lot of respect for Frank Robinson. He has respect for the game of baseball and the way it should be played. I was pleased because he is a man of his word. He said he was going to do something, and he follows up and he does it.”

Courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame

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