By Jeff Seidel
Frank Robinson, who pushed the Orioles over the top and later became baseball’s first African-American manager, has reportedly died of bone cancer. He was 83.
Robinson played for the Orioles for six seasons, from 1966-1971, and he became the leader that Baltimore needed. The young Orioles team was beginning to come into its own, but needed a final piece of leadership, and Robinson gave them that.
In a statement, Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson said not only did he lose a “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.”
Orioles great Jim Palmer also shared his condolences on Twitter:
Another sad day in Birdland with the passing of Frank Robinson. Played the game tough, hard but fair. Made all of us better players, and https://t.co/CZJL5aUcD7 condolences to his family. RIP#20 @masnOrioles
— Jim Palmer (@Jim22Palmer) February 7, 2019
The Orioles put out this statement from the Angelos family, which owns the team:
“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.”
Read the full story at PressBox.
Brandon Weigel contributed to this story.