Frank Robinson, born in a humble home in Beaumont, Texas, went on to become one of the best players of his generation and the first black manager in Major Baseball League. A Hall of Famer, Robinson also is known as the only player ever to be named MVP of both the National League and the American League.
The following provides an overview of the extraordinary life of Robinson.
Frank Robinson Early Life
Robinson was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1935 as the youngest of 10 children. His parents divorced when he was still an infant and his mother moved the family to California, near Oakland. He rarely saw his father (despite being named after him), but the elder Robinson once told his other sons that Robinson would never be a good big-league baseball player.
He was going to be proven wrong.
Early Baseball Career
Robinson spent most of his childhood playing some sort of sport. He joined an American Legion team at the age of 14, and in high school, he played basketball alongside future star Bill Russell and baseball alongside Vada Pinson and Curt Flood.
After graduating high school, he made his professional debut with the Ogden Reds, later being promoted to the Tulsa Oilers and then switching to the Columbia Reds. In 1956, he made his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds, then called the Redlegs due to the Red Scare.
Major League Career
Robinson performed extremely well during his first season, helping pull the Redlegs out of an 11-year losing streak and being awarded as the Rookie of the Year. He would go on to be an amazing player, becoming the best run-producer in the history of the team, and being awarded the MVP in 1961, the same year the Reds won the National League pennant (though they lost the World Series to the New York Yankees).
However, Bill DeWitt, owner of the Reds, took a disliking towards him, seeing him as too old (he was only 30, but “an old 30,” according to DeWitt), and he traded him to the Baltimore Orioles before the 1966 season. The Orioles then went on to win the World Series that year, and Robinson was awarded both the World Series MVP and the American League MVP. They won the American League Pennant in 1969, 1970 and 1971, beating the Reds in the 1970 World Series.
However, before the 1972 season Robinson was suddenly traded to the Dodgers, who traded him to the California Angels after just one season. Midway through 1974 he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, of which he became player-manager and the first black manager in baseball.
Frank Robinson had had his heart set on becoming the first black manager in baseball since the early 1970s. He stopped playing baseball in 1976 and was fired as the manager of the Indians in 1977. Afterward, he briefly became a coach for the Angels before returning to the Orioles as a coach. In 1981 he became the manager of the struggling San Francisco Giants but was fired in 1984 when they started doing poorly again. In 1988 he became the manager of the Orioles, being awarded the American League Manager of the Year Award in 1989 after the Orioles went from a dismal 54-107 to a shocking 87-75.
In 2002, he became the manager of the Montreal Expos, which became the Washington Nationals in 2004. But after their disappointing performance in the 2006 season, he retired from baseball altogether.
Robinson died of bone cancer in February 2019.