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Thursday, February 07, 2019

WBAL: Frank Robinson, Baseball Lifer And Orioles Legend, Has Died

Sad news on the eve of spring training. RIP.

A right fielder, Robinson played for five teams in his 21-season career and remains the only player to be named the most valuable player in both leagues. A Triple Crown winner, he was a member of two World Series champion Orioles squads. He hit 586 career home runs, 179 of them as an Oriole.

A first-ballot entry into Cooperstown, Robinson was also the first black manager in baseball, becoming player-manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975 and staying on as manager a year after he hung up his cleats in 1977. Robinson’s No. 20 was the first to be retired by the Orioles, and was also retired by the Indians and the Cincinnati Reds, with whom he debuted. He is one of just two players, the other being Nolan Ryan, to have their number retired by three different clubs.

Robinson was born Aug. 31, 1935 in Beaumont, Texas. After parents Ruth and Frank Sr. separated, a young Robinson followed his mother to Oakland. He played baseball and basketball at McClymonds High School and, after graduation, signed with the Reds organization in 1953 for a $3,500 signing bonus. Only several years removed from Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, Robinson was the target of ugly racist taunts and wasn’t able to eat with or room with his white teammates as he was coming up through the minors.

Robinson came to Baltimore in one of baseball’s most lopsided trades. The Cincinnati Reds traded Robinson before the 1966 season for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson. Reds owner Bill DeWitt defended the trade by calling Robinson “not a young 30.” The following season, Robinson won the Triple Crown. He hit 49 home runs, one of which famously left Memorial Stadium. Until the Orioles left for Camden Yards, a flag labeled “HERE” was flown where the ball landed 541 feet away.

AndrewJ Posted: February 07, 2019 at 02:43 PM | 68 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants, hall of fame, indians, obituary, orioles, reds

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   1. Mefisto Posted: February 07, 2019 at 04:25 PM (#5813446)
He was very good as the manager of the Giants. The 1982 season, in particular, was impressive.
   2. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 07, 2019 at 04:37 PM (#5813454)

RIP Frank. I wasn't alive for his playing career but as a manager/elder statesman he always seemed like one of most universally respected people in the game.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 07, 2019 at 04:43 PM (#5813458)
Seems like a fitting tribute would be to have all of the managers wear No. 20 for Frank Robinson Day. And it would also highlight the continuing problem of a lack of African-American managers, so MLB probably won't do it.
   4. What if I planted tomatoes Posted: February 07, 2019 at 04:46 PM (#5813460)
When I was a kid I was out eating with my parents and their friends because the babysitter ditched and while we were eating my dad ran into a guy he knew was an ex player who he invited to join us. So most of the meal was this guy talking about baseball because my dad and his friend were fans and I could kind of follow but obviously did not recognize anyone they were talking about. The only reason I remember all this is because Frank Robinson was mentioned and the ex player got really excited and in a loud voice that Frank Robinson was a ############. And then my mom was telling the guy not to talk that way and my dad is like whatever he's heard it before and the ex player explained that was a compliment. And then he told stories about Frank Robinson being nice before the game and then the game would start and he would try and kill the guys on the other team if that helped his team win. And by googling that guy's story checks out. But really I had not heard ############ before that. So learned two things that night
   5. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: February 07, 2019 at 04:47 PM (#5813461)
I thought this guy would live forever.

Can't find the video now, but one of my favorite highlights is from this game, when manager Robinson's team botched a play for failing to understand the infield fly rule and started barking at the umpire. He came out of the dugout under a full head of steam, not to berate the ump, but to shoo away his own players like a flock of stupid chickens.
   6. Bourbon Samurai stays in the fight Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:02 PM (#5813465)
   7. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:03 PM (#5813466)
When Frank broke in there were still a bunch of old Negro League players in MLB. In 1956 he was teammates with Pat Scantlebury, who, back in the day, had been teammates with Martin Dihigo. He was also teammates with Bob Thurman, who had been teammates with Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson.
   8. winnipegwhip Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:08 PM (#5813467)
Jarrod...I knew the game you were talking about. I still have it on a VHS tape somewhere. I saw it as it happened and I remember the look of Robby coming out of the dugout and him yelling at the collection of people at the plate but it was directed at Brian Schneider who thought it was a force play.
   9. Howie Menckel Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:08 PM (#5813468)

raced out of the gate to MLB at age 20. for the next 19 years, his WORST OPS+s were: 125 at age 22, 135 at age 36, and 143s at age 21 and 27.

the poor man's Stan the Man!

Rachel Robinson buried her husband Jackie in 1972. three years later, Frank Robinson became the first African-American MLB manager - while he was still playing.

Frank lived another 44 years, what a life.

I suspect Rachel will show up at Frank's funeral, too.
   10. vortex of dissipation Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:12 PM (#5813471)
Can't find the video now, but one of my favorite highlights is from this game, when manager Robinson's team botched a play for failing to understand the infield fly rule and started barking at the umpire. He came out of the dugout under a full head of steam, not to berate the ump, but to shoo away his own players like a flock of stupid chickens.


SoSH U at Work posted the link in the Primer Dugout.
   11. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:14 PM (#5813472)
Robinson sort of defines the bottom end of the inner circle of Hall of Fame outfielders, doesn't he? The guys above him by both WAR and WAA are all obvious inner-circle guys -- Bonds, Ruth, Mays, Cobb, Aaron, Speaker, Musial, Williams, Rickey!, Mantle, and Ott. The guys right after him by WAR are Yaz, Clemente, and Kaline; by WAA they're Clemente, Kaline, and DiMaggio (who's likely ahead of Robinson with war credit). I feel like there's enough of a gap between Robinson and Clemente/Kaline/Yaz that it seems like a good place to draw a dividing line between the gods and the merely very great.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5813474)
I was at his (and Hank's) induction ceremony. It was the only one I ever attended. I feel blessed that I got to see those two go into the Hall.

RIP Frank.
   13. Perry Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:27 PM (#5813475)
Trivia: The first black MLB manager (Robinson) and first black NBA coach (Bill Russell) were high school teammates.
   14. Qufini Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:32 PM (#5813477)
This is sad news. However, I hope this prompts someone to write a high quality biography of Frank.
   15. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:33 PM (#5813478)
Wow Perry. I did not know that. that's amazing.
   16. Perry Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:47 PM (#5813481)
Curt Flood and Vada Pinson were also Robby's HS baseball teammates. Some high school.
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:53 PM (#5813483)
I think his pioneer status as a manager almost makes people forget what a great player he was. Just jaw-dropping numbers in a pitcher-heavy environment. One of the true greats.
   18. sanny manguillen Posted: February 07, 2019 at 06:21 PM (#5813489)
I thought this guy would live forever.


It's funny: the word "indestructible" crossed my mind today. I wonder if his trade didn't have an outsized impact on the AL. It doesn't seem like there were a lot fiery types there before he arrived.
   19. AndrewJ Posted: February 07, 2019 at 06:45 PM (#5813494)
The 1969-71 Orioles don't have the same dynastic rep of the 1972-74 A's or The Big Red Machine. Losing two of three World Series will do that, I suppose... but they were pretty dominant in all areas.
   20. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 07, 2019 at 07:04 PM (#5813497)
Far more successful as a player than a manager, but wasn't in great managerial situations. Robinson might have eventually been a genius in the Joe Torre mode if he'd had better teams, but I thought he did pretty well with what he had. Wasn't that fond of him when he played, but that was because he was leading the Orioles to glory while I was enduring the unfortunate CBS Era with the Yankees. A Hall of Famer in every sense.
   21. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: February 07, 2019 at 07:32 PM (#5813501)
My favorite player of all time. I don't remember his rookie year, but the next summer when I turned 6, I was fully cognizant of the players and I rooted for him ever since. It's an easy call to say he is by far the greatest 4th best OF of his generation of all time. RIP to a man's man, in the most absolute best sense of the phrase.
   22. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 07, 2019 at 07:50 PM (#5813503)
   23. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 07, 2019 at 07:52 PM (#5813506)
Frank Robinson would be far more famous and revered if his career wasn't during the same time period as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

   24. Astroenteritis Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:03 PM (#5813509)
What a great player he was. I enjoyed watching him when I was younger, and he impressed me as not only extremely talented, but fiercely competitive. Also he was born in the area of Texas where I grew up, though he, his mom, and siblings left the area when he was an infant. Certainly the greatest player ever born in Beaumont, Texas. A true hall of famer.
   25. Skigem Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:04 PM (#5813510)
So, for those in the know, why was he traded? I looked at b-r and why in the world would you trade him?
   26. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:12 PM (#5813512)
So, for those in the know, why was he traded? I looked at b-r and why in the world would you trade him?

In the infamous words of Reds owner Bill DeWitt, "Robinson was not a young 30." He might have got that one wrong.
   27. depletion Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:16 PM (#5813514)
AndrewJ (16): they won the 1966 World Series with basically the same team, so 2 WS wins in 4 appearances over 6 years. I only saw Frank play on TV, as I was a Mets fan and was too young to see him on the Reds. Obviously the guy to pitch around in the 1969 WS. I also remember the back page of the Daily News, June 21, 1966, showing Frank with the ball in his glove on his back in the outfield stands of Yankee Stadium having caught a would-be home run with a leaping grab over the short outfield fence. He was a multiple Gold Glover as well as triple crown winner and the multi-league MVP.

I made a point to get to RFK for the last game of 2006: his retirement as a manager. Frank was notorious for hating all opposing teams, so it was kind of touching to see him give Willie Randolph, the Mets' manager, a big hug before the game.
   28. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:17 PM (#5813515)
   29. depletion Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:20 PM (#5813516)
Imagine the Reds, 1969 to 1973 with Frank Robinson instead of Milt Pappas. Oops. Also, nice HS outfield - would have been among the best in the majors.
   30. John DiFool2 Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:28 PM (#5813518)
Wouldn't he have been able to appeal to 3rd for the runner leaving early?
   31. SoSH U at work Posted: February 07, 2019 at 08:41 PM (#5813521)

Wouldn't he have been able to appeal to 3rd for the runner leaving early?


Are you talking about the Neifi play? You only have to tag up on an infield fly if the ball is caught. If it drops safely, you're free to advance.
   32. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: February 07, 2019 at 09:03 PM (#5813525)
When I was first becoming a serious baseball fan in the Bay Area as a kid, Frank Robinson managed the Giants and he impressed me as someone who was 0% bullshit. He just commanded respect. RIP to an Oakland legend.
   33. Moeball Posted: February 07, 2019 at 09:18 PM (#5813529)
F. Robby's 1966 season is just about the greatest FU ever to a team that traded you. Also, winning is fun! He and Brooks used to joke about being twin brothers, but Brooks said you could always tell which one was Frank because he was taller.
   34. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 07, 2019 at 09:50 PM (#5813537)
I wonder if his trade didn't have an outsized impact on the AL.

It actually might have been the event that took the AL out of its competitive tailspin. Prior to 1966, there had been only 3 non-Yankees American League World Series winners during the previous 35 years: The 1935 and 1945 Tigers and the 1948 Indians. But then from 1966 through 1974 there were 5 more. The greater balance didn't affect the All-Star game until the early 80's, but once Robinson came over to the Orioles it wasn't just the Yankees against the National League any longer.

And FWIW, during Robinson's time with the Orioles, their record against the Yankees was 74-34.
   35. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 07, 2019 at 09:53 PM (#5813539)
F. Robby's 1966 season is just about the greatest FU ever to a team that traded you.

Babe Ruth's 1920 season might have something to say about that, but then in 1920 Ruth didn't get a ring.

(And yes, I know Ruth was sold, not traded, but he was sold with a big FU message attached that was even colder than that "old 30" message of DeWitt's.)
   36. Russlan thinks deGrom is da bomb Posted: February 07, 2019 at 11:24 PM (#5813559)
It was almost 13 years ago now, an afternoon at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Frank Robinson managed the Washington Nationals. They weren’t very good. For one thing, most of their catchers were hurt. It meant Matt LeCroy, on bad knees and who knows what else, would have to catch that day against the Houston Astros. LeCroy would not have seemed to be the most or the least of the Nationals’ potential issues that day, given the Nationals had gone out 18-29 and appeared to be played precisely to their potential.

The Astros stole seven bases that day. They stole 72 in their other 161 games. And in the seventh inning, with none out and two Astros on base and a rare Nationals lead in peril, Frank Robinson chose to relieve his catcher. LeCroy came off. Robert Fick took his place. The Nationals held on and won.

To catch sight of a man’s soul is rare. Of two men’s souls, rarer still.

Afterward, overtaken by the gravity of a decision that may have humiliated a fellow ballplayer, Frank Robinson wept.

Then Matt LeCroy absolved him, saying, memorably, “If my daddy was managing this team, I’m sure he would have done the same thing.”
   37. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 07, 2019 at 11:32 PM (#5813560)
Robinson was really just good at everything. He was even pretty fast. Players with fewer career stolen bases include: Jeff Bagwell, 40/40 man Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey Jr, Pete Rose, Jackie Robinson, Torii Hunter, Willy Tavaras (who had a career only because he could run), Mike Trout, Deion Sanders, Andrew McCutcheon, Denard Span, Vlad Guerrero, Cameron Maybin.

He stole more bases than any of those guys. And, of course, he also hit like Frank Robinson.
   38. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 08, 2019 at 12:51 AM (#5813570)
I don't believe there's a stat for double plays broken up, but Robinson did that well, too.
   39. AndrewJ Posted: February 08, 2019 at 07:47 AM (#5813587)
Davey Johnson was on the MLB Network last night talking about FRobby running the clubhouse "kangaroo court" during the late 1960s, levying minor fines on teammates for not executing properly. All very tongue-in-cheek, but it showed how much he was able to push an ALREADY-great team.
   40. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 08, 2019 at 09:42 AM (#5813610)
Frank Robinson would be far more famous and revered if his career wasn't during the same time period as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.


He seems pretty underrated as a player - his career was about 90% of Hank Aaron's. They were extremely similar as players, except Aaron kept it up for a couple of extra seasons. FRobby finished with a 154 career OPS+ to Hank's 155. Robinson led the league in OPS (and OPS+) four times to Hank's three.

He walked more often than Hank or Willie, which is why he finished with a higher OBP than either of those gentlemen. He never lead the league in walks, but finished in the Top Ten 12 different seasons. Just a great, great, ballplayer.
   41. Sweatpants Posted: February 08, 2019 at 09:53 AM (#5813612)
He walked more often than Hank or Willie, which is why he finished with a higher OBP than either of those gentlemen.
Another reason for that - Mays and Aaron were hit by 76 pitches in their careers, combined. Robinson got plunked 198 times.
   42. sanny manguillen Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:03 AM (#5813615)
Quick look: I believe he had more HBPs than Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Clemente, and Banks combined.
   43. SoSH U at work Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:08 AM (#5813617)

I don't believe there's a stat for double plays broken up, but Robinson did that well, too.


I recall posting how Hal McRae was the most malevolent I'd ever seen at breaking up the double plays. Harvey noted Hal was a gentleman compared with F Robby.

   44. SoSH U at work Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:13 AM (#5813621)
Hey, why not just direct quote the man himself on a separate occasion:

Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 31, 2005 at 12:56 AM (#1585931)

Something else to keep in mind about Frank Robinson is that he held multiple unique distinctions as a baseball player.

If you asked any second baseman or shortstop in the 60's who was the one guy they didn't want to see the response would have been immediately "Frank Robinson". He was the most feared baserunner of his time.

If you asked players who was the toughest player in the league the response invariably would have been "Frank Robinson". Frank hung on the plate and he wasn't wearing no "Craig Biggio Armor Plating". He ran into walls as a matter of routine. And as mentioned above, threw his body around the bases with abandon.

If you asked pitchers who was the last guy they wanted to face with the game on the line the response would be "Frank Robinson". Whether clutch exists or not the PERCEPTION was that Frank was a royal MF with the game on the line.

I think you would be hard-pressed to find a comparable player from any era with those type of credentials.

Robbie, like Whitey Herzog, understood the game is about CONFRONTATION. He just took it more seriously than Whitey. Or just about anyone for that matter. :)

   45. 185/456(GGC) Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:19 AM (#5813627)
 12. SoSH U at work Posted: February 07, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5813474)
I was at his (and Hank's) induction ceremony. It was the only one I ever attended. I feel blessed that I got to see those two go into the Hall.

RIP Frank.


As I said in yesterdugout, he may be the first player I saw on TV who was inducted into the HoF, unless it was Bob Gibson or Hank Aaron.
   46. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:19 AM (#5813628)

Something else to keep in mind about Frank Robinson is that he held multiple unique distinctions as a baseball player.

If you asked any second baseman or shortstop in the 60's who was the one guy they didn't want to see the response would have been immediately "Frank Robinson". He was the most feared baserunner of his time.

If you asked players who was the toughest player in the league the response invariably would have been "Frank Robinson". Frank hung on the plate and he wasn't wearing no "Craig Biggio Armor Plating". He ran into walls as a matter of routine. And as mentioned above, threw his body around the bases with abandon.

If you asked pitchers who was the last guy they wanted to face with the game on the line the response would be "Frank Robinson". Whether clutch exists or not the PERCEPTION was that Frank was a royal MF with the game on the line.

I think you would be hard-pressed to find a comparable player from any era with those type of credentials.

Robbie, like Whitey Herzog, understood the game is about CONFRONTATION. He just took it more seriously than Whitey. Or just about anyone for that matter. :)

Sounds like Ty Cobb with home run power.
   47. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5813634)
Hey, why not just direct quote the man himself on a separate occasion:


Thanks for digging that up. I was just thinking about Harvey the other day.

I can't find the story now, but I remember hearing that pitchers knew never to throw at Robinson, because if you did, the next pitch was going out of the park.
   48. SandyRiver Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5813638)
He hit 49 home runs, one of which famously left Memorial Stadium. Until the Orioles left for Camden Yards, a flag labeled “HERE” was flown where the ball landed 541 feet away.

I was in the upper deck behind 1st that day, and I'd put the air distance closer to 450/475 than 541. It was a towering FB down the LF line, and when we saw folks in those bleachers turning around to watch, we knew it had gone out.
Robbie also had one of the best quotes ever when he was on the Reds. As recounted in "The Long Season", the rookie Pinson had homered then run around the bases like he was beating out a bunt. Back in the dugout, Robbie told him, "Son, stick to singles and leave the long ones to us cats who can act 'em out."
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5813639)
I remember hearing that pitchers knew never to throw at Robinson, because if you did, the next pitch was going out of the park.
Er, it seems like if he had that Ichiro-like ability, he probably would/should have engaged it more often than just following brushback pitches.
   50. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:34 AM (#5813643)
I don't think it was intended to be taken 100% literally.
   51. winnipegwhip Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:50 AM (#5813654)
When MLB had that MasterCard All Century Team in 1999 and he was left off I was very angry. That was the greatest oversight from that team. He should have been on the short list when the team was made.
   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 08, 2019 at 11:03 AM (#5813663)
I don't think it was intended to be taken 100% literally.
I know, I know, I just think that transparently ridiculous mythologizing is dumb. Especially when it's someone like Robinson, who was so good in reality and needs no mythologizing.
   53. Mefisto Posted: February 08, 2019 at 11:17 AM (#5813673)
I remember hearing that pitchers knew never to throw at Robinson, because if you did, the next pitch was going out of the park.


If true, it's another example of "if you come at the King you best not miss".
   54. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 08, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5813678)
"Players used to tell me opposing managers in meetings would tell their pitchers, ‘Don’t knock this guy down because he will get up and hit it 500 feet. Get him out but don’t knock him down.’ And nobody knocked Frank down.” - Pete Rose

“Pitchers did me a favor when they knocked me down,” Robinson told Baseball Digest in 2006. “It made me more determined. I wouldn’t let that pitcher get me out.”


I don't see that as mythologizing. There is a reason pitchers throw inside - because most batters are, naturally, afraid of getting hit. Robinson wasn't afraid of anything.
   55. AndrewJ Posted: February 08, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5813692)
The first baseball book I ever owned -- I bought it at the HOF in 1977 -- mentioned that Robinson had homered in a then-record 32 different parks.* He homered off the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, the LA Memorial Coliseum, Dodger Stadium… and Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City.

Frank Robinson would be far more famous and revered if his career wasn't during the same time period as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

Robinson's offensive skills were shot by 1976, but he theoretically could have penciled himself in the Indians lineup as a player-manager long enough to join Aaron and Mays in the 3000H/600HR club. He chose not to, and I respect him for that.

* In the era of free agency, expansion from 24 to 30 teams, interleague play, a rash of new stadia and regular season games overseas, that has since been eclipsed many times. Sammy Sosa has the current record at 45.
   56. Morty Causa Posted: February 08, 2019 at 01:29 PM (#5813737)
I seem to remember that Frank once said that if he knew hitting 600 home runs would be such a big deal, he would have played more and longer.

You didn't throw at Robinson because he just might tear you a new one. See the comments by players in the Baltimore Sun. Too bad, the Earl isn't alive. Would like to see what he'd say. Brooks's tribute is particularly nice, and true.
   57. Rally Posted: February 08, 2019 at 01:41 PM (#5813745)
Robinson's offensive skills were shot by 1976, but he theoretically could have penciled himself in the Indians lineup as a player-manager long enough to join Aaron and Mays in the 3000H/600HR club. He chose not to, and I respect him for that.


In 1975 he had Boog Powell and Rico Carty for 1B/DH, and both hit well. Boog wasn't very good in 1976, but Carty was. It is commendable for Frank to have played his best options, focused on the manager job, and not writing his own name into the lineup (unlike some other player-managers who played for the early 60's Reds).

I'm not convinced though that his offensive skills were shot. He was excellent in 1975 (153 OPS+) in limited playing time. In 1976 he played even less, 79 PA, and hit 224/329/358. Not good, but in that league still worth a 104 OPS+. Sure, he was 40 and certainly knew more about what he could and couldn't do than someone looking at his stats 40+ years later. But with his track record and the extreme small sample size, I'm not convinced that Frank had nothing left to contribute in the batters box.
   58. baudib Posted: February 08, 2019 at 01:48 PM (#5813751)
When I was a very young baseball fan, I read a biography of Frank Robinson and it has always stuck with me.

One of the things I remember was that the American League in 1966 was very much a "friendlier" league. There were fewer brushback pitches -- the Drysdales and Gibsons of the era were in the NL -- and of course no one ran the bases the way Robinson did. Obviously the AL was integrated, but far less so than the NL.

I like the idea of Robinson defining the bottom end of the inner circle of the Hall of Fame.

I remember decades ago, Bill James was looking at a group of great young right fielders. It included Reggie Jackson, a no-doubt Hall of Famer, and Strawberry, who would have been a Hall of Famer. Robby was in the group too, and James made a comment like, "Well, Robby is a little too good for these guys."

Everyone knows he won 2 MVP awards, but after the one he won in 1961, he came back with an even better season in 1962. Probably one of the few guys you can say that about. His '62 season is just stupendous -- .342, 39 HR, 134 runs 136 RBIs -- but the story of that season is all about the Dodgers and Giants. Even if Wills hadn't won, it would have gone to Mays, who hit 49 homers and a career high in RBIs, or Tommy Davis, who drove in 153.
   59. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 08, 2019 at 02:05 PM (#5813755)
In the infamous words of Reds owner Bill DeWitt, "Robinson was not a young 30." He might have got that one wrong.

I was just reading Jeff Pearlman's book on the 1986 Mets, and he writes a bit about that trade as a testament to Frank Cashen's acumen before he became the Mets GM. He writes that Robinson was regarded as a "malcontent" as a result of his temperament and perhaps his skin color.

This article from a few years ago revisits the Robinson-for-Pappas trade with some additional details that Pearlman didn't mention.

Harder to justify is the decision that Robinson would be the guy to get shipped out to shore up the Reds starting pitching. The official explanation from DeWitt was that Robinson was "not a young 30" (DeWitt is often misquoted as calling Robinson "an old 30," but he never actually used the word "old" in reference to Robinson). This claim is difficult to support looking at Robinson’s statistics. He had not declined significantly from his 1961 MVP season. More likely, Robinson was moved because of clubhouse and off the field issues. This profile from Sports Illustrated from June of 1963 is telling. It paints a picture of Robinson as shy and introverted, but also as a player who didn’t always get along with his teammates. The article briefly mentions Robinson’s arrest in 1961, but according to Before the Machine by Mark J. Schmetzer, that event may have had a profound influence on Robinson’s relationship with DeWitt. Robinson had had a run in with the law in 1958, and then-general manager Gabe Paul and interceded on his star player's behalf. When Robinson was arrested in 1961, new GM DeWitt did not help him in any way. Robinson may have been expecting the same treatment he had gotten previously and may have been bitter about not getting it again. And despite the team treating it as a joke, Robinson’s threat to quit baseball in 1963 had to have rubbed the front office the wrong way. In the era before free agency, a holdout was the only weapon the players had in contract negotiations. A threat to quit baseball entirely was a serious matter and DeWitt must have thought Robinson meant it, since he caved and gave Robinson the trade he was demanding. At the time, it was very common for malcontents (or perceived malcontents) to be traded away, and sometimes teams would take whatever they could get to be rid of a supposed troublemaker.


The 1961 arrest referred to above is described in more detail here:

He'd been bothered by a few leg injuries and a dubious 1961 arrest — Robinson was so angered by a short order cook's racial taunting in a diner that he showed a .25 pistol he carried (for protection, since he habitually carried large amounts of cash) without realizing a police officer was nearby to see it, according to a 1963 profile.


I wasn't aware of any of those details--they do provide a bit of context to the trade, however misguided it was.
   60. AndrewJ Posted: February 08, 2019 at 03:38 PM (#5813781)
Everyone knows he won 2 MVP awards, but after the one he won in 1961, he came back with an even better season in 1962. Probably one of the few guys you can say that about. His '62 season is just stupendous -- .342, 39 HR, 134 runs 136 RBIs -- but the story of that season is all about the Dodgers and Giants.

The '61 Reds were one of the few "miracle" teams to improve their W/L record in the season after the miracle, from 93-61 to 98-64 in 1962. And they finished third.
   61. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 08, 2019 at 03:47 PM (#5813785)
The '61 Reds were one of the few "miracle" teams to improve their W/L record in the season after the miracle, from 93-61 to 98-64 in 1962. And they finished third.


Thanks to the addition of two expansion teams, every single NL team improved its record from 1961 to 1962, except for the hapless Cubs.
   62. bachslunch Posted: February 08, 2019 at 04:59 PM (#5813813)
@41: if memory serves, Robinson got hit by pitches a lot because he crowded the plate. Pretty ballsy thing to do against the Bob Gibson’s and Don Drysdale’s of the world.
   63. Perry Posted: February 08, 2019 at 07:02 PM (#5813838)
The Pappas trade didn't look QUITE that one-sided at the time. Pappas was a pretty good starting pitcher, something the Reds badly needed, and Dick Simpson was 21 years old and coming off a 301/380/523 year in AAA, albeit with a massive number of strikeouts. Simpson turning into a bust rather than a star is what really killed it for the Reds.
   64. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 08, 2019 at 07:56 PM (#5813844)
The '61 Reds were one of the few "miracle" teams to improve their W/L record in the season after the miracle, from 93-61 to 98-64 in 1962. And they finished third.

Fun fact about the '61 Reds: After finishing 6th in 1960, they simply traded positions with the Pirates. And the same 4 teams finished in between them each year, with the Cubs and the Phillies below them.
   65. vortex of dissipation Posted: February 08, 2019 at 08:43 PM (#5813851)
The National League in that era was an incredibly competitive league. From 1958 to 1964, six different teams won pennants in seven seasons.
   66. sanny manguillen Posted: February 08, 2019 at 10:12 PM (#5813862)
The Reds were in an unusually strong cycle of producing hitters in the mid-60s. They had Pinson and Tommy Harper in the outfield, and (a lot of people won't believe) Deron Johnson at third. Tony Perez was 23, Tommy Helms had hit over .300 two straight years in Triple A, where Lee May had hit 34 homers. I'm not saying they made the right move, but moving one of their veteran sluggers opened things up for the young guys while adding pitching. On paper, they looked more like a baseball team after the trade than like a miscellaneous collection of sluggers.
   67. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: February 08, 2019 at 11:32 PM (#5813884)
The National League in that era was an incredibly competitive league. From 1958 to 1964, six different teams won pennants in seven seasons

And what about the AL East between 1981 and 1986? Yankees, Brewers, Orioles, Tigers, Blue Jays, Red Sox. And then it was the Indians turn to make it 7 out of 7.

(P. S. Don't bother to look at how that SI cover prediction came out.)
   68. bachslunch Posted: February 09, 2019 at 08:20 AM (#5813901)
@63: the Reds also got Jack Baldschun in that trade. He had been an excellent reliever for four of his first five seasons in the league; he had had his one off year prior to being traded but was still 28 at the time and probably seemed like a good acquisition. Unfortunately for the Reds, he stunk once he got there and was out of the league soon after.

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