Opening Day carried a little more significance in 1975, when Cleveland’s Frank Robinson became the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball history. As if the occasion was not momentous enough, Robinson, whose official role with the Indians was that of player-manager, would make the date even more memorable in his first trip to the plate. Here’s a look back at Robinson and his historic day, through the words of DTTWLN’s Vince Guerrieri in 2015. – BT
When the Indians dealt for Frank Robinson in September 1974, at face value, it looked like they were hoping the slugger – who led the Orioles to four pennants and a pair of world titles after being dealt from the Reds to Baltimore in 1965 at “an old 30” – had a little left in the tank to keep the Tribe afloat in the American League East race. On September 12, 1974, the day of the trade – which was front-page news in Cleveland – the Indians were six games back with 20 to play.
The Tribe ended up finishing in fourth place, but Robinson would go on to make history.
It’s hard to believe, but we are less than three weeks away from the first pitches of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. Today, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night continue our countdown to Opening Day. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 20 days
A baseball pioneer passed away in February, when the world lost trailblazer Frank Robinson at the age of 83.
Robinson’s incredible career, which included stops with the Cincinnati Reds, the Baltimore Orioles, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the California Angels, and lastly with the Cleveland Indians, had all of the necessary prerequisites required of a Hall of Fame resume. His 21-year playing career included a National League Rookie of the Year award in 1956, an NL Most Valuable Player honor in 1961, a Triple Crown season on the way to an American League MVP award in 1966, 14 trips to the Midsummer Classic, an All-Star Game MVP, a World Series MVP during one of his five trips to the Fall Classic (bringing home two rings in 1966 and 1970), and 586 home runs.
Frank Robinson, whose stint managing the Indians made him the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball, died today at the age of 83.
“The Cleveland Indians organization is deeply saddened by the passing of baseball legend Frank Robinson,” the Indians said in a statement. “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 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.”
While the offseason has been historically slow and the winter has crawled along at an even slower pace, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look ahead to the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Opening Day – 20 days
Last May, the Cleveland Indians retired the jersey number 20 in honor of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, adding it to the growing list of digits taken out of circulation by the organization and making it the first player number since Bob Lemon‘s 21 was de-listed in 1998. In addition to Lemon’s number, the numbers 3 (Earl Averill), 5 (Lou Boudreau), 14 (Larry Doby), 18 (Mel Harder), 19 (Bob Feller), and 42 (Jackie Robinson) are also unavailable to future members of the Tribe.
The number 20 made its final and memorable appearances on the diamond for the Indians on the back of Rajai Davis, whose heroics in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series nearly brought an end to the Tribe’s excruciatingly long title drought. One magical swing in the eighth inning of Game 7 brought the game to a tie and permanently etched his name into Indians lore.
On a cloudy but pleasant night on the lakefront 41 years ago this week at Municipal Stadium, a Hall of Fame career ended in front of fewer than 8,000 fans.
The nightcap of a doubleheader with the Baltimore Orioles marked the last appearance as a player by Frank Robinson, who had been hired as the Indians’ manager to replace Ken Aspromonte, who was fired after the 1974 season.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, the Cleveland Indians will recognize longtime player and manager Frank Robinson with a statue during a ceremony at Heritage Park at Progressive Field.
Robinson will become the fourth former member of the organization to be honored in such a way by the club, joining Bob Feller, Larry Doby, and Jim Thome. Another former Indians player-manager, Lou Boudreau, will also be added to the collection of bronzed guardians at the ball park later this season.
Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!
Countdown to Opening Day – 20
Rajai Davis might not have been the longest to wear 20 for Cleveland and was hardly the best to do so, but with one magical swing in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, he permanently etched his name into Indians lore.
The veteran outfielder provided a surprise jolt to the Indians lineup last season and his absence will be felt in the coming season as no player on the roster currently will replace his league-leading 43 stolen bases and electric attitude and effort that he provided the club, both on and off the field during the Indians’ run to the final moments of the 2016 season. His high-flying high-fives with teammates after wins became a common sight as the season went on and the team kept winning. He brought with him years of experience, including years of struggling to latch on to roster spots in the early portions of his career.