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Frank Robinson, Hall of Fame baseball player who was first black manager in MLB, dies at 83

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President George W. Bush awards Frank Robinson, the Hall of Fame baseball player and first black manager in the MLB, the Medal of Freedom.

Posted: Feb. 7, 2019 10:20 PM
Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 10:20 PM

Frank Robinson, the feared slugger who became the first black manager in major league baseball, died Thursday at 83, according to Major League Baseball.

Robinson died in California with family by his side, Major League Baseball said. The statement didn't say how Robinson passed away.

"Frank Robinson's résumé in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations," Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career."

Robinson was rookie of the year for the Cincinnati Reds as a 20-year-old in 1956. That began a 21-year career in which he played for five teams and became the first to win the most valuable player award in both leagues.

In his 1966 season, he had one of the greatest offensive outputs in baseball history. He led the league in the three Triple Crown categories (.316 batting average, 49 home runs and 122 runs batted in) and guided his new team, the Baltimore Orioles, to a World Series title.

In his career, Robinson hit 586 home runs, 10th of all time in the majors.

Hank Aaron, who is No. 2 on the list, said Robinson stood out in multiple ways.

"Frank Robinson and I were more than baseball buddies," Aaron tweeted. "We were friends. Frank was a hard-nosed baseball player who did things on the field that people said could never be done. I'm so glad I had the chance to know him all of those years. Baseball will miss a tremendous human being."

In 1975, Robinson became player-manager of the Cleveland Indians. He told reporters that Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier as a player in 1947 was more important.

"It was a breaking period for black people coming into baseball, and how many followed depended on Jackie's conduct," he said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "But that's not the case now. What and how I do doesn't mean nearly as much as what and how Jackie did."

Frank Robinson managed until 2006, when he finished his career with the Washington Nationals. In between he also managed for the San Francisco Giants, Orioles and the Montreal Expos. He was manager of the year in 1989 with Baltimore.

Robinson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Former Orioles pitching great Jim Palmer said Robinson inspired all his teammates.

"Another sad day in Birdland with the passing of Frank Robinson," Palmer tweeted. "Played the game tough, hard but fair. Made all of us better players, and winners. My condolences to his family."

Basketball legend Bill Russell said Robinson was a good friend.

"Heartbreaking news in the passing of my Dear Friend & @McClymondsHS classmate Frank Robinson," he wrote on Twitter. "It was my pleasure & great honor to have known him. We all know we lost one of the Greats, what we really lost was a Friend."

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