Celebrating Oakland’s Own Frank Robinson, 1935-2019

Frank Robinson, graduate of Oakland's McClymonds High School, became Major League Baseball's first African American manager after a distinguished playing career.

We at the Oakland Public Library were saddened to learn of the death of former baseball player and manager Frank Robinson this week. Born in Beaumont, Texas, in 1935, Frank Robinson grew up in Oakland. He attended McClymonds High School in West Oakland and was active in sports during the school's athletic heyday. He played basketball with Bill Russell and baseball with Curt Flood and Vada Pinson. All of them went on to exceptional careers in professional sports.

As a player, Robinson distinguished himself early as part of McClymonds' winning varsity baseball team led by the famed Coach George Powles. The Mack Warriors won the Oakland Athletic League championship two years in a row while Robinson was there. He was voted to the All-City team his junior and senior years. As a basketball player, he led the Mack team in scoring (96 points) during his senior year. Robinson graduated from McClymonds High in Spring 1953. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds ball club, playing on their minor league team, later that year. Three years later the power hitter made it to the Reds' major league team and was later voted Rookie of the Year. As a left fielder , hitting an impressive .323, he helped the team win the National League pennant in 1961.

He was traded to the Baltimore Orioles after the 1965 season. In 1966 Robinson won baseball's Triple Crown (leading the American League in runs batted in, home runs, and batting average) and was named Most Valuable Player after the Orioles won the World Series that year, besting the Los Angeles Dodgers in a four-game sweep. The Orioles, with Robinson on their roster, would win three consecutive American League pennants (1969-71).

The early 1970s were a volatile time for Robinson. Between 1972 and 1975 he was traded to the Dodgers, the California Angels, and the Cleveland Indians. The Indians organization allowed him to play and gave him an opportunity that he longed for: to be a baseball manager.

In April 1975, Frank Robinson made baseball history by becoming the first African American  team manager in Major League Baseball. He managed teams for sixteen seasons: Cleveland Indians (1975-77), the San Francisco Giants (1981-84), the Orioles (1988-91), the Montreal Expos (2002-04) and the Washington Nationals (2005-06). 

Robinson is the only player to be awarded the Most Valuable Player in both the American and National Leagues.

He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. 

To learn more about Frank Robinson, check out these books from the Oakland Public Libraries:

Frank Robinson : a baseball biography / John C. Skipper

Frank Robinson : the making of a manager / by Russell J. Schneider

Carrying Jackie's torch : the players who integrated baseball-- and America / Steve Jacobson

Extra innings / Frank Robinson and Berry Stainback

My life is baseball / by Frank Robinson with Al Silverman