Major League Baseball has been around since 1869 and in its 146 years of existence only one player been named Most Valuable Player in both the American and National Leagues.
Frank Robinson was born as the youngest of 10 children in Beaumont, Texas on this date in 1935. His mother moved the family to Oakland, California when he was four and Robinson attended McClymonds High School, were he was a basketball teammate of the legendary Bill Russell. His coach, Charlie Eckman, said, “he was All-NBA as a high schooler. Russell could play defense but Robinson could do everything”. The two led the Indians to a state basketball championship and Robinson also played on the school’s baseball team with future big-leaguers Vada Pinson and Curt Flood. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $ 3,500 upon graduation in 1953 and was assigned to the Reds’ Class C team in Ogden, Utah as a 17 year old.
“Robby” made his major league debut with the Reds in 1956. He was an instant success, hitting 38 home runs, driving in 83 and batting .290. He was named to the All-Star team while still just 20 years old and helped lead the Reds to their first winning record [91-63] in 11 seasons. Robinson was named Rookie of the Year and improved his average in his sophomore season to .322. Two years later, he hit 36 homers, drove in 125 runs and batted .311. He was an aggressive player, leaning over the plate so much that he was hit by pitch 118 times in ten years with the Reds, and on the bases, where he would slide hard to break up double plays. He led the Reds to the World Series in 1961 in route to winning the NL MVP award but Cincinnati lost to the New York Yankees, 4 games to 1. The next season he batted .342, clouted 39 home runs and drove in 136. Prior to the 1966 campaign, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in what is considered one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history, with the Reds receiving three journeyman players in exchange for the 30 year old Robinson. He responded by winning the Triple Crown in his first season in Baltimore while leading the Birds to a World Series sweep over the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers. “The Judge” was named MVP of the American League and the World Series that year and the Orioles won three consecutive pennants from 1969-71, including another World Series championship in 1970.
Robinson finished his playing career with brief stints with the Dodgers, California Angels and Cleveland Indians where he named player-manager in 1975 and became the first black manager in the Majors. He would go on to manage three other clubs, including the San Francisco Giants from 1981-84, to become the first black manager in the history of the National League.
Frank Robinson was a 14-time All-Star and was MVP of that game in 1971. He won a Gold Glove in 1958 and was AL Manager of the Year with the Orioles in 1989. Both the Reds and Orioles retired his # 20 and his bronze statue sits outside the ballparks of both clubs. He holds the record for home runs on Opening Day  and was named as one of the Baltimore Orioles “Franchise Four” at the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. “Robby” hit 586 home runs in his career and ranked 4th on the all-time list at the time of his retirement [now 9th]. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
Pitcher Jim Bouton was asked by a fan near the bullpen, “How do you pitch to Frank Robinson?”. Bouton, an All-Star, deadpanned, “Reluctantly”.