Friday, November 06, 2009
Frank Robinson--The Picture Of The Day
On the very day this picture was taken on April 17th 1956, Frank Robinson was 20 Years Old and about to play in his very first Major League Regular Season Game for The Cincinnati Reds. Over 50 Years later, Frank Robby would wear a Big League Uniform for the last time in a Regular Season Game (in all likelihood) managing Our Washington Nationals.
That date was October 1st, 2006. Frank Robby was then 71 Years Old.
Nearly 5000 times during one of the greatest baseball careers of All-Time, Frank Robinson would wear Number 20 on the back of a baseball uniform. For The Cincinnati Reds, The Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels and Cleveland Indians, he played. For The Cleveland Indians, The San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos & Nationals, he managed.
Always a trendsetter and never one to back down to anybody, Frank would become the 1956 National League Rookie of the Year, tie a Major League record with 38 1st Year Homers that season, and would lead The Cincinnati Reds (then also called Red Legs) to the 1961 World Series. The year Robinson would garner his first MVP Award. Yet being a seven time All-Star and Gold Glove Winner for The Reds was never enough to some in the mid-west.
Incredibly, Frank Robinson was never really appreciated for his accomplishments by Cincinnati's Ownership. And when Reds Owner Billy DeWitt traded Number 20 to The Baltimore Orioles claiming Frank was "an old 30", one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history helped transform a good young team just up the parkway from Washington, D.C. into a dynasty.
Upset over Cincinnati Management sullying his career, Frank Robby carried the entire Baltimore Franchise on his back over the next six seasons. Four-times The Orioles won The American League Championship. Two-Times they won The World Series. In 1966, Frank's first season in The American League--he was named Most Valuable Player. Still, the only person to be so named in both leagues.
Yet, Frank Robinson wasn't done with his accomplishments. He wanted to be a Major League Manager. And he wanted to be the first African--American to do so. In 1975, The Cleveland Indians hired Old Number 20 to be their Player-Manager. Over the next 31 years Robinson would manage four different franchises, never winning a league championship, nor even a division title. His personal success on the field never transforming to the dugout.
Elected into The National Baseball Hall Of Fame & Museum in 1982, Frank Robinson was respected like virtually no other person in the game. He was a fierce competitor during his playing days. That fire which carried over to his managing career. Remember when Frank Robby argued a ruled home run hit by The Atlanta Braves in 2005 at RFK wasn't? And he got the call reversed--even though replays proved the ball DID hit the foul pole. Remember when he got in the face of Mike Scioscia--the manager of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim--at Angels Stadium over the famous pine tar incident in Brendan Donnelly's glove that same season? One of the highlights of 2005. Remember when few could control the hot tempered, but talented, Jose Guillen during the Inaugural Season of Our Washington Nationals? Frank could because when he spoke, players listened. For those first two seasons after baseball returned to The Nation's Capital--Frank Robinson was The Face Of Our Franchise.
Sohna and I will always remember him for his toughness as well as this poignant moment during his penultimate game as manager in a Nationals Uniform. Frank Robinson also had a heart. Still as memorable as things get.
From the very first day he donned a Cincinnati Reds Uniform until the very last day he wore a Washington Nationals Jersey, Frank Robby proved to be a proud and decent man. A great player from one of the greatest generations of players in baseball history, Frank Robinson always has held his head up high.
Dignified still today, Frank Robinson--The Picture Of The Day.
Photo Copyright--Time Inc, Life Magazine. Photographer--Francis Miller