Remembering Frank Robinson: feared slugger, Triple Crown winner, baseball trailblazer

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who hit 586 home runs and helped the Orioles win World Series in 1966 and 1970, and later managed the Nationals, died Thursday in Southern California. He was 83.

Here are things to know about Robinson:

* He was born in Beaumont, Texas, the youngest of 10 children, and when his parents divorced, his mom moved the family to Oakland, where Frank was a high school basketball teammate of future NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell and baseball teammates of future big league outfielders Vada Pinson and Curt Flood.

* Robinson signed with the Reds in 1953 and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1956, hitting a rookie record 38 home runs. The record was later broken by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who hit 52 in 2017.

* After being traded from the Reds to the Orioles before the 1966 season, Robinson was determined to prove to Reds’ management that he wasn’t done. The team thought that he was an “not a young 30.” Robinson hit home runs in his first three Orioles games, two at Boston’s Fenway Park and then at the home opener at Memorial Stadium on April 15th in a 3-2 loss to the Yankees. The home runs came against Boston’s Earl Wilson and Dave Morehead and the Yankees’ Fritz Peterson.

* Robinson hit .463 in his first 12 games for the Orioles in 1966 and then cooled off in May at .262. After that, his monthly averages were .336, .302, .316 and .303. He hit a combined 25 of his home runs in July and August.

* On May 8, 1966, Robinson hit a 541-foot home run that left Memorial Stadium. The home run came against Cleveland’s Luis Tiant, who came into the game with three consecutive shutouts. At a 2014 news conference, Robinson said that he hit a fastball down and in and he knew it was gone, but he didn’t know it left the yard. His teammates told him that when he got to the dugout and he responded, “Get out of my face.’‘

* Robinson’s last home run for the Orioles came in Cleveland in September 1971. It was hit against Indians lefty Sam McDowell.

* Robinson is the only player to win an MVP award in both leagues. He hit .325-37-124 for the ‘61 Reds, getting 15 of 16 first-place votes to beat second-place Orlando Cepeda. In 1966, Robinson won the Triple Crown for the Orioles (.316.-49-122) and got all 20 first-place votes in the American League MVP voting. Orioles teammates Brooks Robinson finished second and Boog Powell third.

* Robinson and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan are the only players to have their numbers retired by three different teams. The Orioles, Reds and Indians retired Robinson’s No. 20. Former Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond won No. 20 in honor of Robinson.

* In 1970 at Washington’s RFK Stadium, Robinson hit back-to-back grand slams in the Orioles’ 12-2 win against the Senators. The slams came in the fifth and sixth innings. Dave McNally was on third, Don Buford on second and Paul Blair on first for each of the grand slams.

* Robinson hit eight opening day home runs, the most memorable coming on April 8, 1975 when he was the player-manager for the Cleveland Indians making history as the first African-American manager. Robinson, 39 at the time, hit a 2-2 pitch from the Yankees’ Doc Medich before 56,715 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. In interviews throughout the years, Robinson said he remembered thinking, “Will miracles never cease?’’ as he rounded third base. He also wished that Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, would have lived long enough to see an African-American manage. Jackie Robinson died in 1972. Future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was the Cleveland pitcher and he gave Frank Robinson the game ball in honor of his first game as a manager.

* He won the AL Manager of the Year when he led the ‘89 Orioles to a near playoff run the year they were eliminated on the final weekend in Toronto. That made Robinson the only one to win a Rookie of the Year, MVP and Manager of the Year.

* In 2005, Robinson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for a civilian to get. President George W. Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, presented Robinson with the award.

* Robinson was the 1966 World Series MVP when the Orioles swept the Dodgers, outscoring the Dodgers 13-2 in the four games. He hit a first-inning home run at Dodger Stadium in Game 1 to get the Orioles started on a 5-2 Game 1 win. He also hit the home run in Game 4 in the Orioles’ 1-0 series-clinching win. Both home runs came against the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale.

* When Robinson retired, he was fourth on the all-time home run with 586, behind only Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. Robinson is currently 10th.

* Robinson finished his career with a .294 average and 1,812 RBIs. He was a 12-time All-Star.

* He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982 and went into Cooperstown in the same ceremony as Henry Aaron and former commissioner Happy Chandler.