On fFebruary 7, 2019, Frank Robinson died at the age of 83. Robinson was one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. In every aspect of his life, he was successful. As amazing as he was at playing, his life off the field was just as impressive, and in many ways far more important. He was a player who everyone in the game respected, and who deserves to be remembered for as long as baseball is relevant.
Robinson was truly exceptional as a player. His 107.3 career WAR is the fifth highest among right-fielders of all time. When he was traded from the Reds to the Orioles after the 1965 season, their GM famously regarded Robinson as an “old 30.” He responded by winning the American League Triple-Crown, the MVP, and a World Series the very next year. He led the league twice in hits, twice in On-Base Percentage, four times in slugging, and four times in OPS and OPS+. He was the first and only player to win the MVP award in both leagues, as he had won one with the Reds in 1961 along to go along with his 1966 title. Most notably, his 586 home runs are the tenth most all time, which is impressive as he only ever topped 40 once.
As amazing as a player he was, he was more impressive off the field. As a player, he was as tough as they come. His teammates all have said that he was unafraid to talk to anyone who made a mistake, and was always a presence in any clubhouse he was in. His most notable accomplishment is being the first ever African-American manager. People often speak of the grace that he carried despite the hatred he received from the racist, primitive-minded fans who existed in such great numbers back then. Although he is far less famous, he deserves every ounce of respect that is given to the earlier trailblazers such as Jackie Robinson or Roy Campanella. He loved the game, and not even the ignorance of the area that crippled opportunities for so many was going to prevent him from pursuing it.
Truly, Frank Robinson was a great figure in a great sport. He helped to make huge strides for African-Americans in baseball. The game will never be perfect in that regard, but there is no questioning that it would be worse without him. He deserves to be remembered not only as one of the very greatest players in the history of the game, but also as one of the greatest people to ever be a part of it.