NEW YORK – Hall of Famer and trailblazing baseball legend Frank Robinson passed away Thursday at the age of 83.
It was reported last week that Robinson, Major League Baseball’s first-ever black manager, was in the late stages of a long battle with bone cancer.
Robinson died in Los Angeles, surrounded by family and friends.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss of our friend, colleague and legend, who worked in our game for more than 60 years,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “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.”
“Frank Robinson’s resume 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,” the statement added.
Robinson was born Aug. 31, 1935, in Beaumont, Texas.
“Frank Robinson was not only a legendary ballplayer, but a remarkable human being,” read a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. “From breaking barriers as the first African-American manager in MLB to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Robinson lived an extraordinary life. May he rest in peace.”
Robinson was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.
Robinson ranks 10th in baseball history with 586 career homers and won MVP awards in both the National and American Leagues. He also became the first African-American manager when he was hired by the Cleveland Indians in October of 1974.
Robinson was National League Rookie of the Year for the Cincinnati Reds in 1956. He was named NL MVP in 1961 and hit 30 or homers in seven of his 10 seasons with Cincinnati before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles.
In his first season with the Orioles in 1966, Robinson won the Triple Crown by batting .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBIs. He also earned MVP honors and remains the lone player to win the honor in both leagues.
“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,” the Angelos family said in a statement released by the Orioles.
“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.
“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,” the statement read.
Robinson played six seasons in Baltimore before finishing his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1972), California Angels (1973-74) and the Indians (1974-76).
He served as player-manager in Cleveland for two seasons before retiring with 2,943 hits and a .294 career average.
“Our organization and the City of Cleveland are proud to have played a role in Frank’s significant impact on the game when he became the first African-American manager in baseball history on April 8, 1975,” the Indians said in a statement. “The fact Frank hit a solo home run in his first at-bat that day as the Indians’ player-manager symbolizes his greatness as a Hall of Fame ballplayer.
“The entire Indians organization extends its thoughts and prayers to the Robinson family.”
Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with Henry Aaron, on the first ballot in 1982 with 89.2 percent of the vote.
Robinson went 1,065-1,176 in parts of 16 seasons as a manager with the Indians (1975-77), San Francisco Giants (1981-84), Orioles (1988-91) and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2002-06).
Robinson served as executive vice president of baseball development from 2012 to 2015. After leaving that post in 2015, he was named senior adviser to Manfred and honorary American League president.
One of Robinson’s last public appearances, April 15, 2017, came when a sculpture of Jackie Robinson was unveiled at Dodger Stadium.
“I’m here to honor Jackie and his family,” Frank Robinson said. “Everything I have, everything Willie and Hank have, started with Jackie Robinson doing what he did. He could have lost his life for it. That’s a debt you can’t repay except to say, ‘Thank you’ as often as you can.”
The Reds, Orioles and Indians all have statues of Robinson outside their ballparks, and all three teams retired Robinson’s No. 20. Only Nolan Ryan has also had his number retired by three teams.
The Robinson family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions in Frank’s memory be made to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., or the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.