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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | September 25, 2020

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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 20

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 20

| On 06, Mar 2020

Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 20 days

A baseball pioneer passed away last February, when the world lost trailblazer Frank Robinson at the age of 83.

Robinson’s incredible playing 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 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.

Robinson - Focus on Sports/Getty Images

Robinson – Focus on Sports/Getty Images

But for all of his accomplishments as a player, he is just as remembered for opening up a new door in the game of baseball in 1975, when he debuted as the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball history while serving as the player-manager of the Indians. He served in the role for Cleveland from 1975 to 1977, memorably hitting a home run in his first at bat as player-manager to open the ’75 season against the New York Yankees. He later went on to manage the San Francisco Giants, the Orioles, and both the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals, winning 1,065 games from the dugout.

Robinson, 39 and following his final All-Star Game selection earlier in the season, was at the end of the line when the Indians acquired him in September of 1974 from the California Angels for Ken Suarez, Rusty Torres, and cash considerations. He appeared in 15 games for the Indians that season, hitting .200 with a pair of homers and five RBI.

He took the field as a player for the Indians just 100 times in his three seasons with the club, but it was the significance of his hiring as the team’s manager ahead of the 1975 season that made his time in Cleveland so instrumental. He replaced Ken Aspromonte as the Indians skipper and, in his first game as a player-manager, he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning as the team’s designated hitter. The date was April 8, 1975, and the Indians were hosting the New York Yankees in their home opener. With the baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn and the widow of Jackie Robinson, Rachel, in attendance at Cleveland Stadium, Robinson drove a fastball low and away over the wall in left off of Doc Medich to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. Cleveland gave up the lead before chipping away with runs in the second, fourth, and sixth to win 5-3 while giving Robinson an even more memorable managerial debut.

“Any home run is a thrill,” shared Robinson after the game [as quoted in the April 9, 1975, edition of The Plain Dealer], “but I’ve got to admit, this one was a bigger thrill.

“[General manager Phil Seghi] suggested to me this morning, ‘Why don’t you hit a homer the first time you go to the plate?’ I told him, ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’”

He penciled his name on the lineup card 49 different times in 1975 as he hit .237 with a .385 on-base percentage with five doubles, nine homers, and 24 RBI for the year.

Robinson played sparingly in 1976, appearing in 36 games on the year and just two games in September. His final at bat seemed fitting though as he took on his former Orioles team and entered via an eighth inning pinch-hit appearance for Frank Duffy with runners on first and second and one out and his Tribe trailing 3-1. He delivered an RBI-single to left to score Joe Lis, but a double play ball ended the threat and the O’s held on for the one-run win.

He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1982, receiving 370 votes on the 415 ballots (89.2%).

Robinson - Focus on Sports/Getty Images

Robinson – Focus on Sports/Getty Images

His managerial tenure in Cleveland was brief. He led the club to a 79-80 mark in 1975 and another fourth place finish the next season with an 81-78 record. But off to a 26-31 start in 1977 and no longer playing the game, he was replaced at the helm by Jeff Torborg, who went 45-59 and the Indians finished fifth with a 71-90 record.

Robinson returned to Baltimore and was a coach for the organization for three years before taking over as the manager of the San Francisco Giants from 1981 to 1984. He went back to Baltimore as a coach from 1985 to 1987 and took over for manager Cal Ripken Sr. early in the 1988 season. Baltimore went 54-107 in his first season, but he took the club to a second place finish with an 87-75 record the following season while winning the AL Manager of the Year award. The O’s slipped back to 76-85 the next year and, after a 13-24 start in 1991, his time in the Baltimore dugout ended.

He got another chance a decade later when 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., spending two more years there before calling it a career at the age of 71 with a managerial record of 1,065-1,176 in the big leagues.

Robinson’s credits, in addition to his Hall of Fame induction in 1982, also include having his number retired by three separate organizations (becoming just the second player ever to be honored so, following Nolan Ryan). The Orioles retired Robinson’s 20 in 1972 and he was one of the first members of the club’s Hall of Fame, joined by longtime teammate Brooks Robinson in 1978. The Reds made him a member of their Hall of Fame in 1978 and retired his number in 1998. The Indians inducted him into their Hall in 2016 and retired his number in 2017. He is also a member of the Nationals’ Ring of Honor, selected in 2015.

He has also been recognized with three different statues in his honor (2003 at Great American Ball Park, 2012 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and 2017 at Heritage Park in Progressive Field).

When the Indians retired Robinson’s 20 in May of 2017, it became the first number since Bob Lemon‘s 21 was de-listed by the organization 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) were retired prior to Robinson’s 20 coming out of circulation, and the 25 of Jim Thome was retired during the following season.

Other notable 20s in Tribe history (50 players in total): Sam Zoldak (1948-50), Ray Narleski (1954-58), George Hendricks (1973-74), Rick Manning (1981-83), Otis Nixon (1984-87), Jeromy Burnitz (1996), Kevin Seitzer (1996-97), Steve Karsay (1998-2001), Karim Garcia (2002-03), Victor Martinez (2003), Ronnie Belliard (2004-06), David Dellucci (2007-09), Rajai Davis (the last in 2016).

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below!

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57 (Shane Bieber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 56 (Cody Anderson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 55 (Roberto Perez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 54 (Hunter Wood)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53 (Logan Allen)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 52 (Mike Clevinger)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 51 (numerous)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 50 (James Hoyt, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 49 (Tyler Olson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 48 (Emmanuel Clase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 47 (Trevor Bauer)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46 (Jon Edwards, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 45 (Adam Plutko)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 44 (Nick Goody, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 43 (Josh Tomlin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 42 (Mike Jackson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 41 (Carlos Santana, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 40 (Bobby Bradley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 39 (Oliver Perez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 38 (Eric Haase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 37 (Cody Allen, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 36 (Tyler Clippard, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 35 (Oscar Mercado, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 34 (A.J. Cole, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 33 (Brad Hand, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 32 (Franmil Reyes, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 31 (Danny Salazar, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30 (Tyler Naquin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 29 (Andre Thornton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 28 (Corey Kluber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 27 (Kevin Plawecki, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 26 (Max Moroff, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 25 (Jim Thome)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 24 (Carlos Gonzalez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 23 (Michael Brantley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 22 (Jason Kipnis)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 21 (Bob Lemon, Rocky Colavito, others)

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