Frank Robinson Changed Baseball in Baltimore – View from the Press Box

Frank Robinson passed away today at the age of 83. He is, in my opinion the greatest Oriole of all time. He taught the Orioles how to win.

He is perhaps the most underrated player and Oriole of all time.

Take nothing away from Brooks, Cal or Eddie, but I’m taking Frank.

Stats? Yea he has them….14 x All-Star, 2 x World Series Champion, AL and NL MVP , NL Rookie of the Year , Gold Glove Award winner, 2,943 hits, 586 home runs, 294 average, 1,812 RBI.

Robinson was traded to the Baltimore Orioles on Dec. 9, 1965, for Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson. General manager Bill DeWitt infamously referred to Robinson as a “not young 30” at the time of the trade. It is still believed to be one of the worst trades in modern baseball history. His first season with the O’s Robinson had 49 homers, 122 RBIs and a .316 average.

Frank Robinson would go on to play for the Orioles for only six season. In those six seasons though, he led the club to four AL pennants and two World Championships.

He changed the team.

He taught the Orioles how to win.

In a statement Brooks Robinson said “Today is a very sad day because I lost not only my teammate, but also a very dear friend, I loved Frank and got to know him so much better after we both retired. I spoke to him a few days ago and he sounded good. He wanted to be home. I let him know that Connie and I were pulling for him, and that he, Barbara, and Nichelle were in our prayers”.

“As a player, I put Frank in a class with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle. He was the best player I ever played with. When he came here in 1966, he put us over the top. He was a great man and he will be deeply missed.”

Frank Robinson was baseball royalty. Two-time MVP. Rookie of the Year. Triple Crown winner. World Series MVP. 14-time All-Star. The game’s first African-American manager. The first and only player to win MVP in both leagues

Robinson’s number isn’t just off limits with the Orioles. It’s retired by three Major League clubs. The Indians retired Robinson’s No. 20 on May 27, 2017, following the Reds in 1998 and the O’s in ’72, he joins only Nolan Ryan (Angels, Astros, Rangers) as the only players to receive the honor from three teams. Amazing

The Orioles released the following statement today regarding Robinson’s death

“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.”

After his playing days ended, Robinson would go on to be the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball with the Indian. In 1988 he went on to manage the Orioles. Fans that may remember the 1989 “Why Not” season, most likely remember him at the helm after the famous 1988 Orioles the year before.

Frank was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush. The honor, established in 1963 for civilians, is granted for “especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Robinson was one of only 13 baseball players to win the medal, the nation’s highest honor for civilians along with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Robinson then worked in the Commissioner’s Office from 2007 until 2015 when he was named a senior advisor to the commissioner and honorary American League president. 

Franks Robinson was the greatest Oriole of All Time. A true baseball trailblazer. A legend on and off the field.

Jim Palmer said it best “Frank took us from being a good team in 1965 to being a great team in 1966, I’m glad Cincinnati thought he was ‘an old 30’ when they traded him.”

Frank Robinson changed baseball in Baltimore.

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