August 31, 2010
Frank Robinson turns 75 Tuesday and it seems like he has an outstanding résumé bulletpoint for every one of those years. Hall of Famer. Five hundred eighty-six career home runs. 1956 Rookie of the Year. Two-time World Series champion. Only player to win the MVP in both leagues. Fourteen-time All-Star. First black manager in MLB history. Last manager of the Montreal Expos. First manager of the Washington Nationals. And on and on.
Robinson isn't viewed in the same romantic way as other Hall of Famers from his era and I suppose the reasons for that are varied. He put up his numbers in Cincinnati and Baltimore instead of New York. He didn't play to the crowd like Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. He had a more intense personality and maybe his extended time in the spotlight as an everyday manager dimmed some of his power-hitting mystique.
But those who came after his time (including yours truly) should make no mistake: Frank Robinson was an upper echelon Hall of Famer, a fearless brute who crowded the plate and could put more damage on a baseball than just about anybody.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun shares a good Robinson story:
He was asked about hitting 600 homers; he ended with 586. He said 600 wasn't a big deal back then so retiring 14 short never entered his mind. He then said he could have easily reached 600, but his manager in Cleveland didn't play him enough because the guy thought he was washed up. That manager, by the way, was Frank Robinson.
In honor of Mr. Robinson's birthday, here's our own selection of classic photos from the AP archive. For captions of the photos, visit the set on Flickr.