The Cincinnati Reds, and Major League Baseball community have lost an all-time great today as Frank Robinson passed away at age 83.

Frank Robinson originally signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $3500 in 1953 after high school. He spent a few years in the minor leagues before making his Major League debut in 1956. That season he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, tying a record at the time for home runs by a rookie with 38. He led the league in runs scored with 122, playing in 152 games for the Reds that season while also making his first All-Star team. That was just the start of what would become a Hall of Fame career.

From 1956-1965 Frank Robinson played in 1502 games for the Reds. He hit .303/.389/.554 with 318 doubles, 50 triples, 324 home runs, 161 steals, and a 150 OPS+. He made six All-Star teams, won the Most Valuable Player Awards in 1961, led the league in OPS three times, slugging three times, and on-base percentage once. His 51 doubles in 1962 also led the league. He is one of the best players to ever put on a Reds jersey.

The Reds traded Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles before the 1965 season. As every single one of you knows, it was one of the trades that haunts the franchise. Robinson would win the American League Triple Crown that season, hitting .316/.410/.637 with 49 home runs and 122 runs batted in. While he topped out there in 1966, he was still outstanding moving forward in his career, racking up another five All-Star selections before retiring from the game in 1976. His career came to an end in Cleveland, but not before he became player/manager in the 1975 season. He became Major League Baseball’s first African American manager when this happened.

In 1982 he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a player. He had remained on as manager of the Indians for a season beyond his retirement as a player. But he didn’t manage from 1978-1980 before catching on as a manager of the San Francisco Giants. He would go on to manager the Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos, and Washington Nationals in his 17-year managerial career that ended in 2006 with the Nationals.

The Cincinnati Reds, as a part of their tribute to past greats outside of Great American Ballpark, have a statue of Frank Robinson that has stood since 2003. Robinson also has statues in Baltimore outside of their stadium, as well as in Cleveland outside of their stadium.

31 Responses

  1. Bill J

    Frank Robinson, truly one of the greatest Reds. R.I.P.

  2. Jim t

    My favorite red player growing up. Saw him play many times at Crosely field. I remember Bill DeWitt saying he was a old 30 when trading him to Baltimore. Worst trade in Reds history. We got Pitchers Milt Papas and Jack Balshaum and outfielder Dick Simpson.

  3. Mark Moore

    Sad news. Great man, great player.

  4. Ivan Osokin

    He was my first favorite Red. I was 7 during the 1961 season and fell into a lifelong love of the Reds that season. Robinson and Pinson. What a great pair of OF and hitters!

    • Bob Purkey

      I was 6 in 1961. Frank was my brother’s favorite and Vada was mine. To this day I have framed autographed photos of both of them hanging in my office. Was crushed when Frank was traded following 1965 season and Vada traded to the Cardinals a couple of years later. I was not happy about Vada going too, but the trade was not a bad one for the Reds as Vada wasn’t the player he had been by that point and the Reds got Wayne Granger and Bobby Tolan in return.

      I happened to be living in Detroit in 1990 as a grown man and having box seats for a Tigers game and Vada was the 1st base coach at that time. I was wearing a Reds hat and Vada actually chatted with me for about 2 minutes. I was thrilled.

      Kind of a sad time when your 2 biggest sports heroes have now passed.

      • lwblogger2

        Vada was my dad’s favorite too. He’s quite a bit older than you though.

        Yes, it is hard when celebrities (sports, film, TV, music, etc) who have really touched you pass away. My recent tough one was musician Tom Petty.

  5. Oldtimer

    I got his autograph twice. We shared the same birthday (August 31) and I mentioned that to him. He was private (as was Vada Pinson) and not that easy to approach for an autograph. I still have both scorecards in my basement.

    Certainly the best Red of my youth (1950s and 1960s). Among Top 3 Reds of my lifetime (Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan the other 2), born in 1951. Better than Pete Rose, yes.

  6. lwblogger2

    Knew he was in hospice so not surprised. Still sad news though. Thoughts and prayers for his family and his friends and those who were his teammates. I’m too young to remember him playing unfortunately.

  7. greenmtred

    A sad day. What a great player. I was lucky enough to see him play at Crosley Field and number of times and, yes, he and Pinson were a terrific pair to have in the outfield.

  8. gusnwally

    Was sitting with my dad in the left field stands. Robby’s rookie season. He hit a line shot of the laundry and you knew we really had something here.

  9. George Stricker

    I pray that our management will do something significant to honor the memory and legacy of Robbie. We owe that to him after shuning him at his HOF induction ceremony.

    • Dan

      Shunning him at his HOF induction? What do you mean? I’ve never heard about this…

      • lwblogger2

        I didn’t either. I know there was some displeasure that he went in wearing an O’s cap but I think that was more the fans than the Reds FO or ownership.

  10. Mike McSorley

    Down East Reds Fan

    Frank Robinson hit 586 home runs in his career, many of them titanic shots. My favorite home run memory is from his rookie season with the Reds in 1956. He lined a shot over the center field wall which landed on a bounce in front of a car at a stop sign across the way. (This was before I-75). The driver jumped out of his car, one or two more guys poured out of the corner tavern in a mad scramble for the souvenir. Back in Crosley Field, PA announcer Paul Sommerkamp informed us that Frank Robinson had just tied the rookie home run mark of 20 set by Jim Greengrass just three years earlier. What would that baseball be worth these days? To me it’s worth a million memories.

    • Oldtimer

      He hit one way up the ramp to I-75 over the CF wall in early 1960s. Estimated over 500 ft. It’s hard to hit a 500 ft HR to dead CF.

      My favorite day of his HR was August 22, 1959. He hit 3 HR that day and flew out to Gino Cimoli (Cardinals OF) up against the fence in his last AB that day.

  11. Matthew

    Very sad news. And in 2nd place for sad news of the day, JT Realmuto has been traded to Philadelphia

  12. douglas dorger

    Is that Mike Mcsorley from Amsterdam Road??

      • douglas dorger

        Great to see a long lost childhood friend on here. Hope to share many Reds thoughts and memories with you. My normal user name is gusnwally.

  13. Eric the Red

    RIP Frank Robinson. A true Great.

    Can we please keep discussion of Realmuto–and other Reds business–out of this particular thread? Frank Robinson deserves his own focus, and his impact to the Reds and baseball goes so far beyond the ups and downs of one signing or even one season that mixing the two just feels wrong to me. IMHO

    I’ve really enjoyed the reminisces throughout this thread. I don’t have any personal memories, but the shared memories of other Reds fans help connect us all.

  14. Optimist

    He and Vada were the first examples to me of press under coverage. Willie was certainly first, and arguably the best of them, and as Hank approached the record he had to be considered, but I don’t think people truly appreciated, now or then, that Frank was their equal. I think most of baseball understood that, but the small markets, and then playing for the O’s had him just out of the limelight.

    Vada is barely remembered at all, and his numbers are staggering on their own.

    Oakland HS sports in the 50s was lit.

  15. Bob Moon

    I’m 65. Growing up a sports fan in Kettering in the early 1960s, there were three great Ohio superstars, one in each major sport: Jim Brown, Oscar Robertson and Frank Robinson.

    I saw Robinson play with four different teams: the Reds at Crosley Field many times, the Orioles at Riverfront in the ’70 World Series, the Dodgers at Riverfront on opening day 1972, and the Indians at Municipal Stadium on opening day 1975.

    That said, I wish it had been just one team — the Reds. Had he not been traded — had he been a Red a few more years — I believe he’d be widely regarded as the greatest Red of all time. As it stands, he makes a darn good case for that honor anyway.

    Thanks for the memories, Frank. Rest in peace.

    • Reds Fan In FL

      Agree. He hit more than 50% of his career HRs as a Red. However, whenever he gets national press coverage, he’s always shown in an Orioles hat or uniform. Maybe it’s because he won a triple crown with them or was a major part of their great teams of the late 60s-1970.

  16. CFD3000

    The Reds have been blessed with so many wonderful players over the years, including Frank Robinson at or near the very top of the list – it’s always made it easy to be a proud Reds fan. I never saw him play, and I was just 11 his last year. But he continued to represent baseball as a gracious and thoughtful man, and I’ve often thought of him as a great ambassador for the game and for Cincinnati. He was a superstar on the field, and just as impressive off it. Godspeed Mr. Robinson.

  17. John Heseltine

    He was my favorite player. Amazingly under appreciated during his career and even now. The best all-around player the Reds have ever had.

  18. j reis

    This city owes so much to Frank Robinson. He really was the first nationally recognized sports hero Cincinnati ever had. ( you could argue Ezzard Charles but I feel he never really got the national attention he deserved). Frank really was the “founder” of the big red machine as those players, especially Pete, patterned their aggressive style of play after him.

    The fact that he was African American just adds to his amazing career. Like Jackie, Hank, Willie, Jessie Owens, Joe Lewis, Bill Russel, Jim Brown, he was a true American Hero for overcoming the racism he faced with so much class and dignity.

  19. jim t

    Saw him play many times. My Dad worked at the Post office on Dalton ave. when I was growing up. He worked the midnight turn. My Uncle would drive us to the game and home after while my dad walked down the street to work. They have a Historical site set up where the old park used to be. Home plate is marked and if you go inside the building the bases are marked. May go down there this weekend and pay a little tribute to a great player who performed on the field and did so in the mist of huge social pressure from ignorant racist.

  20. TR

    It’s tough for me to realize that Frank Robinson has passed on. My favorite player growing up and a lot of warm memories of Crosley Field.

  21. Matt Esberger

    My grandfather’s favorite Red. He said Robinson had the loudest crack of the bat of any player he seen. Interesting note that he was teammates with Vada Pinson & Curt Flood and a basketball teammate of Bill Russell during high school in Oakland.

    • Bob Purkey

      Interesting to note that that Curt Flood was property of the Reds and they traded him to the Cards because Vada Pinson was already established. The Reds had a lot of players in that era that they traded away, like pitchers Mike Cuellar and Claude Osteen who were long time solid MLB starting pitchers.