(Gray News) - Frank Robinson, the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame slugger and Major League Baseball’s first black manager, died Thursday. He was 83.
Robinson passed away in his Los Angeles home surrounded by his wife Barbara, daughter Nichelle and other family members. He had been in hospice care at his home in Bel Air.
Robinson played for five teams in his 21-season career. He was a member of two World Series championship teams for the Orioles.
“I always had the willingness to push myself. I tried to be better than what I was,” Robinson said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “Sure, it’s just a game. But it’s my life.”
Robinson hit 83 home runs as rookie with the Reds, and consequently was named National League Rookie of the Year when he was 20 years old.
He hit 586 home runs and was a 14-time All-Star. Robinson is the only player be the MVP in both leagues. He won National League honors with the Reds in 1961 and then the American League award in 1966 with the Baltimore Orioles.
Robinson won the Triple Crown in 1966, hitting .316 with 49 home runs, 122 RBIs and 122 runs in one of the great individual seasons in MLB history.
An All-Star outfielder in 12 seasons and a first-ballot selection to Cooperstown, Robinson also was a Rookie of the Year and picked up a Gold Glove.
Robinson played the game with grace, but was known as a fierce competitor who combined hard work with natural talent. He yielded to no pitcher, and didn’t seem to care about being brushed back or getting hit by a pitch.
“Pitchers did me a favor when they knocked me down,” Robinson said, according to the Associated Press. “It made me more determined. I wouldn’t let that pitcher get me out.”
Opposing pitchers took notice.
“Frank Robinson might have been the best I ever saw at turning his anger into runs. He challenged you physically as soon as he stepped into the batter’s box, with half his body hanging over the plate,” Hall of Fame ace Bob Gibson once wrote.
“As a rule, I’m reluctant to express admiration for hitters, but I make an exception for Frank Robinson,” Gibson said.
He was still an active player when the Cleveland Indians named him manager in 1974, making him the first black manager. In his first at-bat as their player-manager, he hit a home run.
“The only reason I’m the first black manager is that I was born black," Robinson said. "That’s the color I am. I’m not a superman. I’m not a miracle worker.”
Robinson also managed San Francisco, Baltimore and Montreal. He became the first manager of the Washington Nationals after the franchise moved from Montreal for the 2005 season. In all, he managed for parts of 16 seasons.
Later, Robinson spent several years working as an executive for MLB.
Three teams - the Reds, Orioles and Indians - have retired Robinson’s No. 20. He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.
Born in Beaumont, TX, he was the youngest of 10 children. His parents divorced when he was a baby, and his mother, Ruth Shaw, took the children to California, eventually settling in Oakland.
He attended McClymonds High School, where he was a teammate of Bill Russell on the school’s basketball team.
He married his wife Barbara in 1961. They had two children.
During the off seasons while playing for the Reds, Robinson attended Xavier University in Cincinnati.