July 9, 1961: Frank Robinson goes 4-4, reaches base six times, hits two homers, and drives in seven runs in leading the Reds to a 14-3 spanking of the second place Los Angeles Dodgers. The win moves the first place Reds a five game lead over the Dodgers entering the all-star break.
Robinson homered off Roger Craig in the first and Turk Farrell in the sixth innings, and cleared the bases with a three-run double off Farrell in the ninth. He also singled, was hit by a pitch, and intentionally walked in the game, raising his seasonal batting average to .328 with 23 first half home runs and an OPS of 1.063. Robinson, on his way to winning his first Most Valuable Player Award, would finish the season batting .323 with with 37 home runs and 124 runs batted in. His OPS was greater than 1.000 for three consecutive seasons from 1960-62 (1.002, 1.015, and 1.045). Robinson played 10 years for the Reds finishing in the top 20 in MVP balloting in nine of those seasons, seven times in the top ten.
The Reds had traveled to Los Angeles to play a four-game series, the last series before the all-star break. The Reds entered the weekend with a three game lead and riding a six-game win streak. On Friday, the Reds swept a doubleheader from the Dodgers, 11-7 and 4-1, to extend their win-streak to eight games before losing to LA on Saturday, 10-1. The Reds eventually led by six games, dropped back to second place, and then won the pennant by four games over the second place Dodgers.
Robinson is one of the all-time greatest players to ever wear a Reds uniform. He won the MVP award for his 1961 season, but his best Reds year was probably 1962 when he batted .342 with 39 homers and 136 rbi. His best major league season came with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966 when became the last major leaguer to win the Triple Crown when he batted .316 with 49 homers and 122 rbi. For the Reds, Robinson is fifth all-time in career on base percentage, first in slugging percentage, first in OPS, eighth in games played, fifth in runs scored, ninth in hits, seventh in total bases, seventh in doubles, second in home runs, fifth in rbi, eighth in walks, and first in times hit by the pitch. He was Rookie of the Year with the Redlegs in 1956 when he tied the major league record for rookie home runs with 38, while batting .290 with 83 rbi–and he led the league with being hit by 20 pitches. Robinson and Pete Rose jointly hold the Reds’ single season record with 51 doubles.
For his major league career, Robinson is eighth lifetime in home runs with 568, 19th in rbi with 1812, 14th in runs scored with 1829, 11th in total bases with 5373, and eighth in times hit by pitch with 198. Robinson was an aggressive player on the bases, who stood close to the home while at bat with his shoulders and head hovering in the strike zone, daring the pitcher to throw inside. Long time Cardinals’ second baseman Julian Javier said “That Robinson, he CRAZY” when asked who was the most feared runner at breaking up the double play. Robinson became the first African-American to be named manager of a major league baseball team when he assumed the helm of the Cleveland Indians in 1975 as a player-manager. He managed for 16 years, managing the Indians, San Francisco Giants, the Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos, and Washington Nationals. He never won a pennant, but placed second with the Orioles in 1989 with an 87-75 record.
Former player and “Ball Four” writer Jim Bouton is quoted on baseball-reference.com as saying:
“Going over the hitters it was decided that we should pitch Frank Robinson underground.” – Jim Bouton
Robinson and Vada Pinson (.343, 16 home runs, 87 rbi) were the offensive leaders of the 1961 World Series team. Joey Jay, winner of this 14-3 game, finished the season 21-10 and lefty Jim O’Toole was 19-9 to lead the Reds’ pitching staff.