On the field, Robinson was one of the game's most-feared sluggers for a almost unfathomable stretch, with his first All-Star nod coming in his Rookie of the Year season of 1956 and his final one occurring in 1974, his final full campaign. When he signed with the Nationals in February 2006, it was Robinson who bluntly told him "You won't play much". He became the first manager of the Washington Nationals after the franchise moved from Montreal for the 2005 season.
But one of the greatest gifts I've been given was the privilege of covering and getting to know Frank Robinson, who passed away Thursday at the age of 83.
After his career in the dugout, Robinson filled a variety of roles with the league and all the while tirelessly advocated for more opportunities for African-Americans in baseball. An MVP with Cincinnati and Baltimore, he won the Triple Crown while leading the Orioles to their first World Series championship in 1966.
Robinson, the first African-American manager in MLB history and the only player to win MVP awards in both the American and National leagues, was 83 and had suffered from bone cancer.
Robinson batted.316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBIs during his first season in Birdland. Robinson hit a home run that cleared the left-field bleachers, the ball flying high over spectators, and landing in the parking lot beyond. Among being both a player and a manager, Robinson worked in the Baltimore Orioles front office and also as vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball.
Robinson hit two home runs against the Reds - of all clubs - in teaming with future Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson to win another crown for the Orioles in 1970. He was Rookie of the Year and went on to play for the Reds until 1965.
When he arrived in Baltimore, Robinson and his family struggled to find housing in the city, with many landlords refusing black tenants. "He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career". And he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
However, Robinson was also aware of the challenges he would face as the league's first African-American manager. If it's any kind of baseball laurel, Frank Robinson probably won it.
Robinson had coached for the Orioles and worked in their front office when he became their manager in 1988 after the team opened at 0-6. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a Baltimore Oriole in 1982.