Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson died Thursday after battling a long illness at his home in California, Major League Baseball announced. He was 83 years old.
Known for his elite talent and intense demeanor, Robinson became a central figure in advancing Major League Baseball’s integration of black players after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
Robinson exploded on the scene in 1956 and for the next six decades established a legacy that’s second to none. That includes becoming MLB’s first black manager in 1974.
On the field, Robinson was a history maker as well. After signing with the Cincinnati Reds in 1953, he faced a tough road filled with racist taunts and death threats. It’s a road Robinson not only overcame, but conquered en route to producing one of the greatest careers in MLB history.
Robinson is still the only player to win MVP in both leagues, earning National League honors with the Reds in 1961 and the American League award with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966. At age 20, he was voted NL Rookie of the Year after hitting a then rookie-record 38 home runs. He went on to make 14 All-Star game appearances, and currently ranks 10th on the all-time home run list with 586.
In 1974, the Cleveland Indians made Robinson MLB’s first black manager while he was still an active player. Robinson would go on to have managerial stints with the San Francisco Giants, which made him the NL’s first black manager, as well as the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos during their transition into the Washington Nationals.
Robinson’s No. 20 is retired by the Reds, Orioles and Giants.
Because he helped pave the way for future generations of black players and managers, Robinson will always be among the most important figures in MLB’s history.