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.
Robinson, nicknamed “Judge” during his big league career, spent 21 seasons in the Majors as a player and another 16 in the dugout as a manager. His playing days were coming to an end when he was acquired by the Indians from the California Angels in 1974 and the next season, he became manager of the club at the age of 39.
He began his playing career in 1956 with the Cincinnati Reds and hit the ground running, winning the National League’s Rookie of the Year award in his debut season with a 38-homer season while leading the league with 122 runs. He spent ten seasons in the Queen City, named to six All-Star teams while winning the 1961 MVP award.
He was moved to Baltimore in 1966 in a four-player trade and spent six seasons with the Orioles, becoming the first player to be named an MVP in both leagues when he won the award again in 1966. He also earned the honor of being named the World Series MVP that season, hitting a triple and two homers with three RBI in the Orioles’ defeat of the Dodgers for the title. He was a five-time All-Star in his time in Maryland and won a second ring in 1970 before moving out to the west coast, spending the 1972 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and 1973 and 1974 with the Angels, being named to his final All-Star team in the latter season before he was shipped to Cleveland on September 12, 1974, for Ken Suarez, Rusty Torres, and cash.
Robinson played with the Tribe from 1974 to 1976. He was named the team’s manager for the 1975 season, becoming the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball history. He famously hit a home run on Opening Day in 1975 in his first game as the team’s player-manager. He guided the Indians to a 79-80 record in his first season and an 81-78 mark the following campaign, but he was dismissed in 1977 after starting the year 26-31 and no longer playing.
His playing career included 586 home runs, still one of the top marks in the game’s long history.
He returned to his old stomping grounds in Baltimore and was a coach for the Orioles for three years before taking over as the manager of the San Francisco Giants from 1981 to 1984. He returned again to Baltimore as a coach from 1985 to 1987 and replaced manager Cal Ripken Sr. early in the 1988 season. Baltimore would struggle to a 54-107 record in his first season at the helm, but Robinson took the club to a second place finish with an 87-75 record in 1989. The O’s slipped back to 76-85 the next year and, after a 13-24 start in 1991, his time in Baltimore came to an end.
He was named the manager of the Montreal Expos for the 2002 season. He spent three years in Canada and accompanied the club when it relocated to Washington, D.C., working two more years there for the Nationals before calling it a career at the age of 71. He finished his managerial career with a record of 1,065-1,176 in the big leagues.
Robinson was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1982, an easy decision for the 14-time All-Star, two-time MVP, 1956 Rookie of the Year, 1966 World Series MVP and AL Triple Crown winner, and 1971 All-Star Game MVP.
He was inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame last year.
Photo: Ron Kuntz Collection/Getty Images