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Robinson set records and broke barriers





Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Robinson homers in first at-bat
By By Nick Acocella
Special to ESPN.com


Signature Game
Apr. 8, 1975 - On opening day in Cleveland, Robinson was greeted by a thunderous ovation from the crowd of 56,204 when he was introduced as the new Indians manager. A little later, however, the volume of that cheering paled before the hysteria in the stands when Robinson, in the lineup as the designated hitter, homered against the Yankees' Doc Medich in his first at-bat as the major leagues' first African-American manager.

Robinson was only following orders from general manager Phil Seghi, who told him to homer his first time up. The day's indelible moment was captured in the now-famous photograph of Robinson crossing the plate and being congratulated by his centerfielder, George Hendrick.

When the 39-year-old Robinson walked in his last plate appearance, first-base coach Tom McCraw offered some mock advice to his boss. "There's one out," McCraw said. "Get a good jump on the ball and score on a single." Robinson laughed - for neither the first nor the last time that day.

After the Indians' 5-3 win, the player-manager didn't celebrate his first managerial victory with champagne, but with a hamburger, a piece of cake and a Coke.

Robinson by the numbers

Career Statistics
Year Tm/Lg AtBats Runs Hits BatAve HR RBI OBP SLG
1956 Cin-N 572 122 166 .290 38 83 .381 .558
1957 Cin-N 611 97 197 .322 29 75 .379 .529
1958 Cin-N 554 90 149 .269 31 83 .350 .504
1959 Cin-N 540 106 168 .311 36 125 .397 .583
1960 Cin-N 464 86 138 .297 31 83 .413 .595
1961 Cin-N 545 117 176 .323 37 124 .411 .611
1962 Cin-N 609 134 208 .342 39 136 .424 .624
1963 Cin-N 482 79 125 .259 21 91 .381 .442
1964 Cin-N 568 103 174 .306 29 96 .399 .548
1965 Cin-N 582 109 172 .296 33 113 .388 .540
1966 Bal-A 576 122 182 .316 49 122 .415 .637
1967 Bal-A 479 83 149 .311 30 94 .408 .576
1968 Bal-A 421 69 113 .268 15 52 .391 .444
1969 Bal-A 539 111 166 .308 32 100 .417 .540
1970 Bal-A 471 88 144 .306 25 78 .402 .520
1971 Bal-A 455 82 128 .281 28 99 .390 .510
1972 LA-N 342 41 86 .251 19 59 .358 .442
1973 Cal-A 534 85 142 .266 30 97 .374 .489
1974 Cal-A/Cle-A 477 81 117 .245 22 68 .371 .453
1975 Cle-A 118 19 28 .237 9 24 .388 .508
1976 Cle-A 67 5 15 .224 3 10 .333 .358
TOTAL 21 10,006 1,829 2,943 .294 586 1,812 .392 .537
*Statistics in bold denote league leader

Odds 'n' Ends

  • When Robinson was a junior at McClymonds High School in Oakland, he played guard on a basketball team that won the Northern California league championship. The center was Bill Russell.

  • When Robinson hit .424 as a senior, it wasn't the highest average on the McClymonds team. Sophomore Curt Flood batted .429.

  • Robinson played in six All-Star Games for the National League and five for the American League.

  • In his first year with the Reds in 1956, Robinson established a 20th century rookie record by being hit by a pitch 20 times.

  • Robinson's greatest boner also occurred when he was a rookie. Against the Phillies, Robinson, who was on second base, was called out for missing third on a single.

  • In 1959, Robinson's hard slide into Milwaukee Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews precipitated the first on-field brawl between a black and a white star.

  • The following year, Robinson also tangled with Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts after Reds pitcher Raul Sanchez had hit three batters in an inning.

  • In what is perhaps the greatest testament to his productivity as a hitter, Robinson led the major leagues in intentional walks four consecutive seasons (1961-64).

  • The Orioles retired his No. 20 in 1972, after they traded him to Los Angeles.

  • In the last five of his 21 seasons, he didn't higher than .266 and his lifetime average dropped from .302 to .294. He retired in 1976 just 57 hits shy of 3,000.

  • Robinson hit over .300 nine times in his career, with a high of .342 with the Reds in 1962.

  • While Robinson had 11 30-homer seasons, he reached 40 only once. When he belted 49 with the Orioles in 1966, it was the only time baseball's No. 4 all-time home-run hitter (with 586) led the league in homers.

  • Robinson had six 100-RBI seasons, four times going over 120. His high was 136 with the Reds in 1962.

  • In five World Series (one with the Reds and four with the Orioles), Robinson batted .250 with eight homers in 92 at-bats.

  • When he was named manager of the Indians in October 1974, Robinson told the media, "If I had one wish in the world today, it would be that [the late] Jackie Robinson could be here to see this happen."

  • When Robinson's Orioles faced Cito Gaston's Blue Jays on June 27, 1989, it marked the first time in major-league history that two African-American managers faced each other. Baltimore won, 16-6.

  • Robinson's record as a manager was 680-751 (.475). His best seasons were 1982 with the Giants and 1989 with the Orioles, when he compiled identical 87-75 records, which were good for a third- and a second-place finish, respectively.

  • He was named Manager of the Year in each of those seasons (1982 by UPI and 1989 by the Baseball Writers Association of America).

  • Few people remember that it was Robinson who first said, "Close don't count in baseball. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." The quote appeared in Time magazine (July 31, 1973).

  • Robinson has been an outspoken critic of free agency and its consequences. In 1989, he said, "Managers don't have as much leverage as they used to have. We can't really be the boss. If I say to a veteran player, 'If you don't perform, you may be sent back to the minors,' they look at me and say, 'Who are you kidding? I'm not going anyplace. I've already had three years in the major leagues. You can't send me back to the minor leagues without my OK.'"

  • As an Oriole coach, he once lamented: "The fan is the one who suffers. He cheers a guy for a .350 season, then watches that player sign with another team. When you destroy fan loyalties, you destroy everything."

  • Robinson was ticked off that the Indians didn't observe the 25th anniversary as his debut as baseball's first African-American manager on Cleveland's home opener in 2000.





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