Lombardi's Way Frank Robinson Was Here

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Remembering a Baltimore Legend

 

Yesterday we were recording our season-ending episode of Armchair Quarterback when during a break, my co-host Drew Forrester, after scanning through his Twitter feed, whispered, “Frank Robinson died.”

We had another segment to record and while I tried to focus upon the topical conversation, I couldn’t help but to think about Frank.

Frank Robby.

F. Robinson.

My earliest recollections of Frank are from a book about the Orioles that was a gift from my grandfather. As a youngster it was only natural to go straight to the pictures at the center of the book, and the one that resonates most and remains etched indelibly in my brain, is that of Frank presiding over the Kangaroo Court. He was after all, the Orioles unequivocal leader. And really, that says a lot about the man – that he grabbed the reins of the team during his first season with the club. Had promo code canada offered a wager on that, the odds would have been rather long.

Frank Robinson

Presiding over the Orioles’ kangaroo court. That’s future Mets/Orioles/Nationals manager
Davey Johnson pleading his case to Judge Robinson. (Photo Credit, Associated Press)

 

Besides being immensely talented, Frank was fearless, intensely competitive.

He was a winner.

I remember his batting stance and how he stood right on top of the plate, daring pitchers to come inside while his arms extended firmly over the middle of the plate as if to say, “this belongs to me.” That’s not to say that ownership of home plate came without a price. Frank was plunked 198 times during his career. But it never persuaded him to back off the dish.

One night when Mom and Dad were doing their thing with friends, my sister and I, as we often did, would spend the night at my grandparents. They had resided at 1618 Shakespeare Street in Fells Point for decades until the threat of I-95 running through Fells, forced them out, much to their chagrin. They landed at 303 S. Robinson Street in Highlandtown.

I sat with my grandfather as we watched the O’s take on the Senators, a game the Birds would win easily, 12-2, thanks to Frank’s two grand slams on consecutive at-bats in the fifth and sixth innings with the same three teammates aboard – Dave McNally (3rd), Don Buford (2nd) and Paul Blair (1st).

The things we remember…

As a starry-eyed child I recall thinking that Frank and Brooks Robinson were somehow brothers. I idolized them both and maybe my youthful exuberance convinced me that they could be. Maybe I just wanted them to be brothers. In some ways they were and even Miller Lite caught on to the chemistry of the “Robinson Brothers”.

The Orioles were a good team prior to Frank’s arrival. They became a great team upon it. He played in Baltimore for just six seasons but his legacy made it seem like so much more. During those six campaigns he was named MVP, won the Triple Crown, appeared in 5 All Star games (he was hurt in 1968) and won 2 World Series (appearing in four). Let that sink in…

And as if that wasn’t enough, Frank in total made 14 All Star appearances; he’s the only Major Leaguer to ever win an MVP in both leagues; NL Rookie of the Year (1956); Gold Glover; first African-American MLB Manager; and Manager of the Year. And besides being a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Frank was nominated to the Hall of Fame of three different teams (Orioles, Reds, Indians) and his number (20) has been retired by each of those franchises.

Following the 1971 season, Frank was traded, breaking the hearts of many here in Baltimore – mine included. The old gang was busting up.

But we have our memories.

Frank RobinsonArguably Frank’s most heroic individual feat was being the only player to ever hit a ball out of Memorial Stadium during a game. The Orioles commemorated the achievement by placing a flag at the ball’s point of exit. “Here”.

Today, as we mourn Frank’s passing, “Here” means something a little different. It’s here, in the collective heart of Baltimore where Frank will always reside. Here’s to those glorious memories and the good times HERE in The Land of Pleasant Living.

You were one of a kind Frank, and we’re all thankful that the Reds thought of you as “an old 30” before they traded you our way. Enjoy your new clubhouse in the sky.

I can already picture a new Kangaroo Court convening.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi
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