BALTIMORE — Orioles legend Frank Robinson passed away in California today.
The 83-year-old former outfielder and manager was in hospice care at the time of his death.
Robinson was an Oriole from 1966 through 1972, donning the fabled #20 jersey. A statue memorializing him sits inside the gates of Camden Yards. Between 1956 through 1976, Robinson played for five teams during in his career, competing in both the National and American Leagues.
While playing in Baltimore, Robinson helped the team win World Series titles in 1966 and 1970. He was the 1966 American League Most Valuable Player, the same year he won the Triple Crown as the league’s leader in runs batted in (RBI), home runs, and batting average. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
While playing for the Cleveland Indians, Robinson was named their player-manager in 1975, making him the first black manager in the history of the majors. He also managed for the San Francisco Giants, the Orioles, and the Montreal Expos, staying with the team as they moved to Washington and became the Nationals. He was named Manager of the Year in 1989, helping turn the Orioles into a winning club after a brutal 1988 record.
The Angelos family, the Orioles current owners, released a statement honoring Robinson's tenure with the team and impact on the sport:
“Frank Robinson was not only one of the greatest players in Orioles history, but was also one of the premier players in the history of baseball. Fans will forever remember Frank for his 1966 season in which he won the Triple Crown and was named MVP during a year that brought Baltimore its first World Series championship. His World Series MVP performance capped off one of the greatest individual seasons in baseball history. An Orioles Legend and a Baseball Hall of Famer, Frank brought us so many wonderful memories, including two championships, during his time in Baltimore.
“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.
“Frank’s contributions to the Orioles and his work as an ambassador for Major League Baseball will never be forgotten. This is a difficult day for our entire organization and for our many fans. We extend our condolences to his wife, Barbara, his daughter, Nichelle, his entire family, and his many friends across our game.”
Orioles legend Brooks Robinson weighed in on the passing of the man he shared the field with:
"Today is a very sad day because I lost not only my teammate, but also a very dear friend. I loved Frank and got to know him so much better after we both retired. I spoke to him a few days ago and he sounded good. He wanted to be home. I let him know that Connie and I were pulling for him, and that he, Barbara, and Nichelle were in our prayers. As a player, I put Frank in a class with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle. He was the best player I ever played with. When he came here in 1966, he put us over the top. He was a great man and he will be deeply missed."
Tony Clark, the Executive Director of Major League Baseball's Players Association, issued a statement as well about Robinson's passing:
“Frank Robinson was someone I looked up to as a man and as a ballplayer and tried to emulate. His skill and ferocity on the field were matched by his dignity and sense of fair play off the diamond. He is the only player to have won the MVP award in both leagues, he won the Triple Crown in 1966 and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1982. In addition to being a 14-time All-Star, Frank also became Major League Baseball’s first black manager, leading four different franchises, and followed that with a career as an executive and ambassador to the game. The fraternity of players and the baseball family have lost a giant.”
Current MLB Commissioner Frank Robinson released the following statement:
“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.”
Those looking to support the family can send contributions in Robinson's name to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis or the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., the commissioner said.