RIP Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson

I hate writing these. It means that someone I liked long ago is now gone. It reminds me that not only are they mortal, but so am I.

By now you’ve read all the glowing tributes, the mention of his hitting ability, his MVP, this Triple Crown, his role as the first black manager in the Major Leagues. You’ve probably seen the umpire stare down that became a part of the Robinson legend. I remember Robinson as a player and a proud African-American and somehow it’s appropriate that if he had to die, it should be in Black History Month.

What I remember most about Robinson is not his stats, but his ferocity at the plate. He was no placid hitter who walked to the plate and looked out at the pitcher. He stalked to the plate, glared at the pitcher, dared him to try to throw something by him. Few did. But to me Robinson was summed up in two incidents that I will never forget (both watched on TV).

Bob Gibson

It was somewhere in either 1964 or 1965 and the Reds (Robinson’s team) were playing the Cardinals. Bob Gibson, who had the only glare in baseball greater than Robinson’s was pitching. They stood there staring at each other until Gibson motioned Robinson into the batter’s box. Being Robinson, he continued to stare, rather than move. Gibson motioned again and again nothing from Robinson. Finally the umpire told Robinson to get into the box. Gibson’s first pitch missed Robinson’s head by inches (very few of them). Robinson dusted himself off, got back up, stepped back out, and started the glare again. Eventually, after a couple of knock downs and a couple of strikes, Robinson tapped one to short (Dal Maxvill, I think). The was out by a bunch. Then he and Gibson engaged in a long stare down as Robinson returned to the dugout. It was good baseball, but it was better theater.

Sandy Koufax

The other one occurred about the same time. This time the Reds were playing the Dodgers with Sandy Koufax on the mound (he never glared at a batter). Koufax threw three of the greatest curves anyone ever saw and Robinson looked silly trying to hit them (Koufax could do that to you). He stepped out of the box, looked at Koufax for a moment, then nodded. Only time I ever saw him do that to a pitcher.

So adios, Frank. You were one of the greats and all of us who saw you play are better for it. RIP, Frank Robinson.

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6 Responses to “RIP Frank Robinson”

  1. Miller Says:

    After my initial thoughts of sadness and mortality, the next thing I though of was the post I expected to read here. As anticipated, a fine tribute. Thank you.

  2. glenrussellslater Says:

    You’ve got a great memory, V. Thanks for the fine article.

    Glen

  3. glenrussellslater Says:

    By the way, V, did you read about the dustup between Bill James (the sabermetrics guy) and Dennis Eckersley? (This is relevant to Frank Robinson’s death.)

    Glen

    • verdun2 Says:

      No, I haven’t.
      Just looked it up. James is right about the WAR number (I checked) and Eckersley is right also. Shows that even the newest stats don’t always get it right.
      v

      • glenrussellslater Says:

        I just think that Eckersley (who played under Frank when he managed the Indians) has every right to be ticked off. Eckersely is obviously in great sorrow about Robinson. “SHUT UP!” is exactly what I would have said to anybody bringing up statistics at a time like that, especially statistics that seem insulting to a guy who just had dies, even if the statistics are accurate, is just ridiculous. I think that James was a real —- for bringing up something like that at such a time. And Eckersley was obviously looked up to Robinson as an early mentor in his baseball career as a young up-and-coming pitcher. I’m sure that a lot of the Cleveland Indian players of the time period were probably peeved as well if they read what James had said. What a jerk, right?

        Glen

  4. wkkortas Says:

    Frank was the proto-Hal McRae, in that you didn’t want to be on the bag if Frank was coming at you on a DP ball. Man was a noticeable competitor in a land populated by alpha dogs.

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