BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Frank Robinson, a former Baltimore Oriole and Hall of Famer, has died at the age of 83.
He was the first player to win MVP awards in both leagues and the first African-American manager in MLB. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a Baltimore Oriole in 1982. Robinson was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States, by President George W. Bush in 2005.
The Orioles confirmed Robinson's passing Thursday afternoon.
Robinson's 21-year playing career began with the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1956 at the age of 20. He earned the National League's Rookie of the Year honors in following that season, hitting .290 with 38 homers and 83 RBI in his debut season. From there, he played for five teams over the next 20 years, including the Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels and Cleveland Indians before retiring from the game as a player at age 40 following the 1976 season.
In his 21-year career, Robinson was voted an All-Star 14 times and won two MVP awards with four other Top 5 finishes in MVP voting. He won the American League's Triple Crown in 1966 when he hit .316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBI. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1982 with just short of 90% of the vote from the Baseball Writer's Association of America. His 586 home runs ranks 10th on the all-time list and his total of 1,812 RBI ranks 21st.
Though he retired from playing following the 1976 season, he continued to be a part of the game as a manager for many years. In fact, in his second to last season in 1975, the Cleveland Indians named him player-manager of the club, making him the first black manager in the major leagues. He left Cleveland in 1977 and returned to managing with the San Francisco Giants from 1981-84 before returning to the Orioles as manager of the team from 1988-1991. His final managerial stop was with the Montreal Expos beginning in 2002. He oversaw the team's transition to Washington where they became the Nationals before ending his managerial career in 2006 at the age of 70. Across parts of 16 seasons as a manager, Robinson's teams compiled a 1,065-1,176 record.
Following the end of his managerial career, Robinson moved to the Major League Baseball offices and served in several different roles from 2007-2015, ending as the Executive Vice President of Baseball Development.
Robinson's number 20 from his playing days has been retired by the Orioles, Reds and Indians and all three franchises have dedicated bronze statues to the trailblazer outside of their respective stadiums.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred released the following statement in the wake of Robinson's passing.
"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."
The Angelos Family also released a statement, saying in part:
"As the first African-American manager in Major League history, Frank was a proponent of civil rights causes on and off the field, including policies that paved the way for minorities to have increased access to executive and management positions in baseball. His leadership in the front office and as manager of the Orioles was highlighted by being named the American League Manager of the Year in 1989. To this day, Frank remains the only person in Orioles history to serve as a player, coach, manager, and front office executive.
The Robinson family has asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions in Frank's memory can be made to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, or the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.
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