By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
A long time ago, there was a great baseball player who ultimately blazed a path for African-Americans to follow, and his last name is Robinson. If you think that I’m talking about Jackie Robinson, try again. Don’t get me wrong. Jackie is one of the only idols I still have. All of my Mets jerseys don his number 42. Actually, the man of the hour is revered by many, loved by most – at least those that didn’t play against him. His name is Frank Robinson, now formerly the manager of the Washington Nationals.
Finishing up on his 51st season in professional baseball, Robinson was the first African-American manager of Major League baseball as a player/manager in 1976 with the Cleveland Indians In his 18 seasons as manger, Frank’s best season was in 1989, when he managed the Baltimore Orioles to an 87-75 record, which was good enough for a second place finish in the American League East, and A.L. Manager of the Year. What I have always admired about Frank Robinson is that as a manager, he wasn’t given a great team by any means over the last 5 years with the Montreal Expos/Nationals. Somehow, he finished over .500 in his first 2 seasons with 83 wins, before 3 straight last place finishes.
While watching the farewell ceremony at RFK Stadium before the Nationals-Mets game on Sunday, I never realixed before that moment just how much respect I really had for this man. How much of class act he was, and still is. I guess it hit me when he congratulated the Mets on winning the National League East just how much class and respect this man has not only for other people, but for the game of baseball itself. He’s one of the reasons why I as an African-American, still watch this game.
Even more than that, the thing that amazed me the most was the appreciation of the Nationals fans – who were mostly white – for the job that Frank did in his 2 seasons there. In some other places, Frank may have been driven to the airport, but in the nation’s capital, his farewell was a moment to behold.
Now, I won’t claim to know anything about his playing days that started in 1956 with Cincinnati, as Frank won National League Rookie of the Year honors. For that matter, the moment he accomplished being the first and only player to win Most Valuable Player in both the National(1961) and American League(1966). After all, I was born in 1971. However, I do know that 586 home runs, 1,812 runs batted in, 2, 943 hits, .294 batting average, 5 World Series appearances(2 championships) and one home run title(1966) were worthy of Robinson’s Hall of Fame induction in 1982.
For all the accolades and awards that are well deserved, there is always one word that comes to mind when I hear the name Frank Robinson – respect. I don’t say this about many men, but Frank – I love you. Jackie Robinson may be the original, but Frank is one of the best. Both will make you proud to be a Robinson. There will always be a place in my heart for #20. I like to call it Frank’s Place.