Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who played 10 of his 21 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and became baseball’s first black manager with the Cleveland Indians, died Thursday, according to Major League Baseball. He was 83.
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Robinson, the first player to win the most valuable player award in both leagues, won the Triple Crown in 1966, his first season with the Baltimore Orioles. He hit 586 home runs during his career and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
“Frank Robinson is considered one of the greatest players to ever wear a Cincinnati Reds uniform,” said Reds CEO Bob Castellini in a statement. “His talent and success brought dynamic change to the Reds and to our City. His retired No. 20 and statue gracing the gates of Great American Ball Park stand in tribute and appreciation for the immense contribution Frank made to the Reds. We offer our deepest condolences to Frank’s family, friends, and fans.”
In January, the Baltimore Sun reported Robinson was "in the late stages of a long illness."
Robinson debuted for the Reds in 1956 and earned the first of 14 All-Star honors as a rookie. He hit .303 with 324 home runs during his time in Cincinnati but was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in late 1965 for Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson.
Robinson played six seasons with the Orioles, leading them to four World Series and two championships, and then finished his career with stints with the Indians, Angels and Dodgers.
Robinson moved into coaching as a player/manager for the Indians in 1975. He went on to manage for 16 seasons with stints in San Francisco, Baltimore, Montreal and Washington.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement on Robinson: “Frank Robinson’s résumé in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations. He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career. Known for his fierce competitive will, Frank made history as the first MVP of both the National and American Leagues, earned the 1966 AL Triple Crown and World Series MVP honors, and was a centerpiece of two World Championship Baltimore Orioles’ teams.
“With the Cleveland Indians in 1975, Frank turned Jackie Robinson’s hopes into a reality when he became the first African-American manager in baseball history. He represented four franchises as a manager, most recently when baseball returned to Washington, DC with the Nationals in 2005. Since 2000, Frank held a variety of positions with the Commissioner’s Office, overseeing on-field discipline and other areas of baseball operations before transitioning to a senior role in baseball development and youth-focused initiatives. Most recently, he served as a Special Advisor to me as well as Honorary American League President. In 2005, Frank was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, for ‘setting a lasting example of character in athletics.’
“We are deeply saddened by this loss of our friend, colleague and legend, who worked in our game for more than 60 years. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Frank’s wife Barbara, daughter Nichelle, their entire family and the countless fans who admired this great figure of our National Pastime.”