Baltimore Sports History: Frank Robinson

March 19th, 2024 by The Professor

In 1950, Baltimore was left without any baseball team when the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro Leagues folded. Baltimore went through a short 4-year stint without having a baseball team until The St. Louis Browns were sold to a group of Baltimore Businessmen. The team moved to Baltimore and went on to be renamed The Orioles.

The Baltimore Orioles have a rich history of talented players, including 17 MLB Hall of Famers. Among them was Baseball legend Frank Robinson who played for the Orioles for 6 seasons. Although he only played in Baltimore for a short time, his accomplishments will never be forgotten among Oriole fans. Robinson’s statue stands tall in Orioles Legends Park, in left center field at Camden Yards.

Frank Robinson’s 21-year career started in Cincinnati where he played his first game at 20 years old. As a rookie in 1956, Robinson finished 4th in the MLB in homeruns with 38. His homerun total would tie the rookie homerun record and wouldn’t be broken until 1987 when Mark McGwire hit 49 homeruns in his rookie year. Robinson would also make the 1956 All-Star game as the starting left fielder for the National League. Robinson played for the Reds until 1965 and during that span he had 8 all-star game appearances, won his first league MVP and his only Gold Glove. His MVP Season in 1961 helped propel the Reds to winning the National League Pennant that year, they would go onto lose to the New York Yankees in the World Series.

To many fans surprise, the Reds traded Robinson following the 1965 season to the Baltimore Orioles. Reds owner Bill DeWitt thought that Robinson’s career would decline after he had turned 30 years old. DeWitt couldn’t have been anymore wrong.

In his first season with the Orioles in 1966, Robinson won the AL Triple Crown award, AL MVP, made the All-Star Game and won World Series MVP for the Orioles. His Triple Crown was won by batting to a .316 average, 49 homeruns and 122 RBI’s. Because of his Triple Crown, Robison won his second MVP award and became the first and only player to this day to win the MVP award in both leagues. The Orioles won the AL Pennant in 1966 and swept the Dodgers to win the franchise’s first World Series. Robinson hit two homers in the series, also notably hitting a triple against Hall of Fame Pitcher Sandy Koufax in game 2. He was also the first and only player to hit a homerun out of Memorial stadium, an estimated 450 in the air.

Robinson would earn All-Star honors in 5 of his 6 years playing in Baltimore. His last 3 seasons with the O’s were 3 AL Pennant winning years. In 1970 the Orioles and Frank Robinson would win their 2nd World Series in 5 years.

Following the 1971 Season, Robinson’s Oriole playing career came to an end as he was traded to the Dodgers. He would play his final 5 seasons with the Dodgers, Angels, and Indians before retiring from playing. He earned his final All-Star appearance with the Angels in 1974.

Through 21 years, Frank Robinson had a career batting average of .294, hit 586 homeruns, 1812 RBI’s and 2,943 hits. He ranks 10th in all-time homeruns, 22nd in RBI’s and 36th in hits. After his playing years, Robinson became the first African American Manager in MLB history. However, his managerial career did not go as well as his playing career. Between 1975 and 2006, Robinson managed the Indians, Giants, Orioles, and Expos/Nationals but never made the postseason.

Frank Robinson will go down as one as the best to ever play the game. He was elected first ballot to the MLB Hall of Fame in 1982. Along with his 2 MVP awards and 14 All-Star game appearances, his final and potentially greatest award came in 2005 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Frank Robinson passed away in 2019 at the age of 83.

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