On this date in 1976, one of my boyhood heroes, Frank Robinson, played his last game as a major leaguer. He was the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians at the time, after a stellar career first with the Reds, then Baltimore, Dodgers and Angels. I was 8 years old when Robinson broke in with the Reds in 1956, winning Rookie of the Year honors. He was traded to Baltimore before the 1966 season, my senior year in high school. So, I literally grew up as a huge Frank Robinson fan, culminating in 1961, when he led the Reds to the World Series against the Yankees and was named the NL MVP, batting .323 with 37 home runs, 124 RBI’s and 22 stolen bases.
When the Reds traded Robinson to Baltimore on December 10, 1965, I, along with literally every other Reds fan, was totally devastated. The headlines in all the local papers decried the sad news.
The Reds desperately needed pitching, so traded for two pitchers and an outfielder, one of which was reliever, Jack Baldshun, a Greenville native, who went 1-5 with no saves in 57 innings during the 1966 season. The others didn’t perform much better; meanwhile, Robinson won the triple crown and led Baltimore to a World Series victory over the Dodgers! The trade is widely regarded as the worst in major league history - it sure was in my mind.
In 1982, Robinson entered the Hall of Fame, with an unthinkable Baltimore Orioles cap rather than one from the Reds, re-opening old wounds all over again!
Here’s several of Robinson’s baseball cards with each of the teams he played for. I do recall having his rookie card way back when, now long gone.
After managing Cleveland, Frank went on the manage San Francisco, Baltimore, Montreal and Washington, never having a winning season.
Robinson, 83, has served as Senior Adviser and Honorary President of the American League to Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred since ’15.
Bring back some more Frank Robinson memories by checking out this Home Run Derby segment from 1959.