Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982
Frank Robinson — the first black manager of the MLB, a first ballot Hall of Famer, and the only player to have won the Most Valuable Player Award in both leagues — has died at 83.
“[His] résumé in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement posted to the league’s website. “He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career.”
Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility in 1982, and according to USA Today, three different franchises have retired his number and erected statues of him at their ballparks.
The slugger spent some 21 seasons in the league, which were spent between the Cinncinati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Anaheim Angels and Cleveland Indians. He would leave his mark on the sport along every stop.
“Known for his fierce competitive will,” Manfred said in his statement, “Frank made history as the first MVP of both the National and American Leagues, earned the 1966 AL Triple Crown and World Series MVP honors, and was a centerpiece of two World Championship Baltimore Orioles’ teams.”
Throughout his legendary career, Robinson hit 586 home runs and earned 14 All-Star appearances.
After news of his passing, many athletes paid tribute to Robinson and what he meant to the game.
“Frank Robinson and I were more than baseball buddies. We were friends. Frank was a hard nosed baseball player who did things on the field that people said could never be done,” tweeted baseball legend Hank Aaron. “I’m so glad I had the chance to know him all of those years. Baseball will miss a tremendous human being.”
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, who played on a high school basketball team with Robinson according to ESPN, called his longtime friend “one of the greats.”
“Heartbreaking news in the passing of my Dear Friend & @McClymondsHS classmate Frank Robinson,” Russell, who became the first black head coach in the NBA, tweeted. “It was my pleasure & great honor to have known him. We all know we lost one of the Greats, what we really lost was a Friend.”
Robinson was born in Oakland, California, and experienced racism during his time in the minor leagues that “fueled both his anger and his will to win,” according to ESPN.
“We learned that the best way to get back at them was to beat them on the field,” Robinson, who joined the majors in 1956, said of entering the league. “That’s what Jackie [Robinson] taught us.”
In 2005, Robinson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, and six years later he would be appointed as Executive Vice President of Baseball Development by Bud Selig, then the commissioner of the MLB.