A quick trivia question for you:
Who is the only person to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, and a Manager of the Year Award?
The answer is Frank Robinson, a man who was a legend on and off the baseball field. On Thursday Frank Robinson passed away after a long illness at the age of 83.
Much like Jackie Robinson (no relation) Frank Robinson broke down barriers. In 1972, just a few days before Jackie passed away, he said he wished a Major League team would finally hire an African American manager. He even mentioned Frank by name as a potential candidate, noting his time as a successful skipper in the Caribbean.
Three years later it happened. Frank was the skipper of the Cleveland Indians (and also their Opening Day designated hitter) finally fulfilling one of the last dreams of a man he looked up to.
“Every time I put on this uniform, I think of Jackie Robinson,” said Frank that day, April 8, 1975. He also hit a home run and led the Indians to a win, by the way.
By that time Frank had already solidified his place in the Hall of Fame. Robinson is the only man to win the MVP award in both the National League and the American League. He earned the honor first with the Reds in 1961 and then with the Orioles in 1966. He was with Baltimore because he’s also the answer to this trivia question:
Who was involved in the worst trade in MLB history?
Cincinnati sent Robinson to the O’s for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun, and outfielder Dick Simpson. Those guys each played two years for the Reds, going a combined 31-14 on the mound with five home runs from Simpson. Robinson won the AL Triple Crown and led the Orioles to their first World Series championship.
After retiring with 586 career home runs (only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays had more at the time) he managed for 16 years with the Indians, Giants, Orioles, and Expos/Nationals.
He transitioned seamlessly from the clubhouse to the Commissioner’s office, working as MLB’s Vice President of On-Field Operations and later as a sounding board for Commissioner Rob Manfred, who consulted with Robinson on ways to make the game better, including developing the Civil Rights Game.
Robinson did not just stick to balls and bats. He was a leader in his community, using his popularity as a baseball player to speak out on racial issues. In 2005 President George W. Bush awarded Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in America.
Frank Robinson’s number 20 is retired in both Cincinnati and Baltimore.