Crowding the plate, fearsome and fearless, Frank Robinson hammered his way into the Hall of Fame.
His legacy, however, was cemented that day in 1975 when he simply stood in the dugout at old Cleveland Stadium — the first black manager in Major League Baseball.
Robinson, the only player to earn the MVP award in both leagues and a Triple Crown winner, died Thursday at 83. He had been in failing health and in hospice care at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. MLB said he was with family and friends at the time.
“Frank Robinson’s resume in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
Robinson hit 586 home runs — he was fourth on the career list behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays when he retired and now ranks 10th. An MVP with Cincinnati and Baltimore, he led the Orioles to their first World Series championship in 1966.
“Frank Robinson and I were more than baseball buddies. We were friends. Frank was a hard-nosed baseball player who did things on the field that people said could never be done,” Aaron posted on Twitter.
“Baseball will miss a tremendous human being,” he said.
An All-Star outfielder in 12 seasons and a first-ballot selection to Cooperstown, Robinson also was a Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove outfielder and a bruising runner.
But his place in the sport’s history extended far beyond the batter’s box and basepaths.
Robinson fulfilled his quest to become the first African-American manager in the big leagues when he was hired by the Cleveland Indians. His impact was immediate and memorable.
The Indians opened at home that year and Robinson, still active, batted himself second as the designated hitter. In the first inning, he homered off Doc Medich and the crowd went crazy, cheering the whole April afternoon as Cleveland beat the Yankees.
The Reds, Orioles and Indians have retired his No. 20 and honored him with statues at their stadiums.
Robinson later managed San Francisco, Baltimore and Montreal. He became the first manager of the Washington Nationals after the franchise moved from Montreal for the 2005 season — the Nationals put him in their Ring of Honor.
More than half the major league teams have had black managers since his debut with Cleveland.
Robinson later spent several years working as an executive for MLB and for a time oversaw the annual Civil Rights Game. He advocated for more minorities throughout baseball and worked with former Commissioner Bud Selig to develop the Selig Rule, directing teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a new manager.
For all he did on and off the field, Robinson was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005.
“Frank Robinson’s wife, Barbara Ann Cole, once said, “He believes in rules and he respects the game. He reveres the game,'” Bush said in a statement. “When I presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, I noted that ‘Baseball fans across America will tell you the feeling is returned. In the game we love, few names will ever command as much respect and esteem as the name of Frank Robinson.'”
Brooks Robinson, a fellow first-ballot Hall of Famer, said he spoke to his Baltimore teammate and longtime friend a few days ago.
“He was the best player I ever played with,” he said.
Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre played against and worked with Frank Robinson for years.
“He was a tough nut,” Torre recalled at the owners’ meetings in Orlando, Florida. “He never lost that feistiness, which puts a smile on your face … He was always that guy that commanded a lot of respect and he had a presence about him.”
Born Aug. 21, 1935, in Beaumont, Texas, Robinson attended McClymonds High School in Oakland, California, and was a basketball teammate of future NBA great Bill Russell. But it was on the diamond, rather than court, where fame awaited Robinson.
“We all know we lost one of the Greats,” Russell tweeted.
Starting out in an era when Mays, Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams were the big hitters, Robinson more than held his own over 21 seasons — if anything, many who watched Robinson felt he never got his full due as an all-time great. He finished with 1,812 RBIs and hit .294 — he played in the World Series five times, and homered in each of them.
Robinson was the only player to hit a ball completely out of old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and once connected for grand slams in consecutive innings of a game. But he didn’t just slug away, as evidenced by a .389 on-base average boosted by 1,420 walks against 1,532 strikeouts. Extremely alert on the bases, he had 204 steals.
Robinson played the game with grace, yet was known as fierce competitor who combined hard work with natural talent. He planted himself near the plate, yielding to no pitcher, and didn’t seem to care about being brushed back or getting hit by a pitch 198 times.
“Pitchers did me a favor when they knocked me down,” Robinson said. “It made me more determined. I wouldn’t let that pitcher get me out.”
And opposing pitchers noticed.
“Frank Robinson might have been the best I ever saw at turning his anger into runs. He challenged you physically as soon as he stepped into the batter’s box, with half his body hanging over the plate,” Hall ace Bob Gibson once wrote.
“As a rule, I’m reluctant to express admiration for hitters, but I make an exception for Frank Robinson,” Gibson wrote.
Robinson carried a similar philosophy as a baserunner, unapologetically sliding spikes high whenever necessary.
“The baselines belong to the runner, and whenever I was running the bases, I always slid hard,” Robinson declared.
Robinson broke in with a bang as a 20-year-old big leaguer. He tied the first-year record with 38 home runs for Cincinnati in 1956, scored a league-high 122 times and was voted NL Rookie of the Year.
Robinson was the 1961 NL MVP after batting .323 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs for the pennant-winning Reds, and reached career highs in runs (134) and RBIs (136) in 1962.
All-time hits leader Pete Rose joined the Reds the next year.
“He had a huge influence on me when I first came up in ’63,” Rose told The Associated Press by phone. “Frank was a really aggressive, hard-nosed player, and it rubbed off on everybody. Frank was the one who took me under his wings, so to speak. … Frank consistently talked to me about playing the game the right way,” he said.
Robinson was an All-Star, too, in 1965, but Reds owner Bill DeWitt decided Robinson was an old-ish 30 and time to make a move.
That December, Robinson was the centerpiece in what would ultimately be one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, going to Baltimore for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson.
Robinson became an instant hit with the Orioles in 1966 as the unanimous AL MVP and a Triple Crown winner.
On May 8, he became the only player ever to hit a home run completely out of Baltimore’s home park, Memorial Stadium. The drive came against Cleveland ace Luis Tiant and the spot where the ball sailed over the left-field wall was marked by a flag that read “HERE” that remained in place until the Orioles left for Camden Yards in 1991.
Robinson batted .316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBIs during his first season in Birdland. He then homered in the first inning of the 1966 World Series opener at Dodger Stadium and capped off the four-game sweep of Los Angeles with another homer off Don Drysdale in a 1-0 win in Game 4.
Robinson hit two home runs against Rose and the Reds to help win another crown for the Orioles in 1970.
All told, Robinson was an All-Star in five of his six seasons with Baltimore, reaching the World Series four times and batting .300 with 179 home runs. The cap on his Cooperstown plaque carries on O’s logo.
Pappas went 30-29 over two-plus seasons with the Reds, Baldschun won one game in 51 appearances over two years with Cincinnati and Simpson hit five home runs as a part-time outfielder for the Reds during two mediocre seasons.
Robinson was traded to the Dodgers before the 1972 season. He played for the California Angels in 1973 and was dealt to Cleveland late in the 1974 season.
His managerial debut came 28 years after Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier as a player.
“Every time I put on this uniform, I think of Jackie Robinson,” Frank Robinson said as he began his new role.
Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and daughter Sharon paid tribute.
“Frank Robinson was a dear friend and realized one of Jack’s great hopes, becoming baseball’s first African-American manager. He was remarkable and made us all feel proud for his many contributions to baseball and to society,” they said together in a statement.
Robinson had coached for the Orioles and worked in their front office when he became their manager in 1988 after the team opened at 0-6. Things didn’t get much better right away as Baltimore went on to lose its first 21 games and finished 54-107. The next season, the O’s went 87-75 and Robinson was voted AL Manager of the Year.
Tough and demanding, he went 1,065-1,176 overall as a big league manager.
A no-nonsense guy, Robinson also had a sharp wit. That served him well in Baltimore where, in addition to being a star right fielder, he was the judge for the team’s Kangaroo Court, assessing playful fines for missing signs, uniform mishaps and other things he deemed as infractions.
At the time, the Orioles had a batboy named Jay Mazzone, whose hands were amputated when he was 2 after a burning accident. Mazzone capably did his job for years with metal hooks and became good friends with Robinson.
Some players, though, initially weren’t sure how to treat the teen.
“Frank Robinson broke the ice,” Mazzone said. “He was running his Kangaroo Court and calling a vote among the players, whether to fine somebody or not.”
“It was either thumbs up or thumbs down,” he recalled. “After the vote, he said, ‘Jay, you’re fined for not voting.’ Everybody laughed. After that, I was treated just like everybody else.”
Survivors include his wife, Barbara, and daughter Nichelle.
There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements. The family said in lieu of flowers, contributions in his Robinson’s memory could be made to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, or the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay and AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Felix Tshisekedi celebrate at his headquarters in Kinshasa, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019. Supporters of Tshisekedi took to the streets of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, Thursday morning to celebrate his win in the presidential election, that was announced by the electoral commission. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Congo is on the brink of its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960 after the Constitutional Court on Sunday confirmed the presidential election victory of Felix Tshisekedi, although questions remain about the result.
Tshisekedi, son of the late, charismatic opposition leader Etienne, is to be inaugurated on Tuesday.
Congo’s 80 million people did not appear to heed runner-up Martin Fayulu’s call for non-violent protests, and African neighbors began offering congratulations.
Shortly after the pre-dawn court declaration, opposition leader Tshisekedi said the court’s decision to reject claims of electoral fraud and declare him president was a victory for the entire country.
“It is Congo that won,” Tshisekedi said, speaking to supporters. “The Congo that we are going to form will not be a Congo of division, hatred or tribalism. It will be a reconciled Congo, a strong Congo that will be focused on development, peace and security.”
Supporters of his UDPS party celebrated in the streets of Kinshasa.
The largely untested Tshisekedi faces a government dominated by Kabila’s ruling party, which won a majority in legislative and provincial elections. The new National Assembly will be installed on Jan. 26.
However, Tshisekedi’s victory was rejected by rival opposition candidate Fayulu, who declared that he is Congo’s “only legitimate president” and called for the Congolese people to peacefully protest against a “constitutional coup d’etat.” If Fayulu succeeds in launching widespread protests it could keep the country in a political crisis that has simmered since the Dec. 30 elections.
The court turned away Fayulu’s request for a recount, affirming Tshisekedi won with more than 7 million votes, or 38 percent, and Fayulu received 34 percent.
The court said Fayulu offered no proof to back his assertions that he had won easily based on leaked data attributed the electoral commission. It also called unfounded another challenge that objected to the commission’s last-minute decision to bar some 1 million voters over a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
Outside the court, Fayulu and his supporters have alleged an extraordinary backroom deal by outgoing President Joseph Kabila to rig the vote in favor of Tshisekedi when the ruling party’s candidate did poorly.
“It’s a secret for no one inside or outside of our country that you have elected me president,” with 60 percent of the votes, Fayulu said. He urged the Congolese people and the international community to not recognize Tshisekedi as president.
Congo’s government called Fayulu’s statements “a shame.”
“We consider it an irresponsible statement that is highly politically immature,” spokesman Lambert Mende told The Associated Press.
Many worried that the court’s rejection of Fayulu’s appeal could lead to more instability in a nation that already suffers from rebels, communal violence and the Ebola outbreak.
“It might produce some demonstrations, but it won’t be as intense as it was in 2017 and 2018,” when Congolese pushed for Kabila to step aside during two years of election delays, said Andrew Edward Tchie, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The African Union said it had “postponed” its urgent mission to Congo planned for Monday after it noted “serious doubts” about the vote and made an unprecedented request for Congo to delay the final results.
Some neighbors, notably Rwanda, worried about violence spilling across borders from Congo, a country rich in the minerals key to smartphones around the world.
The AU statement notably did not name or congratulate Tshisekedi, merely taking note of the court’s decision. It called “all concerned to work for the preservation of peace and stability and the promotion of national harmony.”
A number of African leaders congratulated Tshisekedi, including the presidents of South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi. The 16-nation Southern African Development Community, after wavering in recent days with support for a recount, called on all Congolese to accept the vote’s outcome.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, in a post on Twitter, said that “I beseech you to maintain peace.”
Willie Perkins. Zachariah Graham. Cornelius Robinson and Will Thompson.
Names are the only heirlooms still left from the four, who were all lynched at various times in Alabama’s history, and they are four of the thousands of people lynched nationwide who Lynda Tredway hopes to memorialize with her quilting project.
Since she began in 2013, Tredway has completed 24 quilts for nine states, including Alabama, and she estimates she has 41 quilts and three years left to completion.
Sewn into the front of each quilt is that state’s official tree or flower. Each leaf represents one of the names scrawled on the back.
There are scores of pine needles representing the hundreds lynched in Alabama, and it took three quilts to record them all.
“I’m a history teacher but not a historian, so I’d say I’m not trying to be as accurate as the Tolnay and Beck lynching database is,” Tredway said, referring to work done by Stewart Tolnay and E.M. Beck documenting lynchings. “The number isn’t as important to me as representing that, at one point, someone thought it was OK to commit an act of terror against another human being.”
As a history instructor who first began teaching in predominantly minority schools in Washington, D.C., in 1969, Tredway said it became “imperative” to become familiar with African-American history.
Her passion for telling the stories of lynching victims first blossomed as she studied the anti-lynching campaigns of Ida B. Wells Barnett. Tredway’s foray into quilting as a medium for “redemptive art” was inspired by the photography of Ken Gonzales-Day, who photoshopped lynching victims out of pictures to show mobs staring thirstily at naked trees.
“That said to me, ‘Why aren’t you representing this in what you do? You’re a fabric artist and quiltmaker. What would it be like to take on this large project to represent the people who were lynched in America?'” Tredway said.
So far, Tredway has completed Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. Next is Virginia, and its difficult-to-stitch dogwood.
The white mother of a black daughter, Tredway said the project is a personal, spiritual practice.
She says aloud the name of each lynching victim before writing it on the back of the quilt. In so many cases, Tredway may be the first person in decades to utter these names. She preserves them in the hope she won’t be the last.
“I feel like a memory keeper. . . . It feels like a personal legacy piece to me,” Tredway said.
This past April, Tredway’s journey led her to Montgomery where the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative unveiled the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the nation’s first memorial to more than 4,000 known black lynching victims, and the Legacy Museum, which traces the history of slavery through lynching to present day mass incarceration.
At the time, Tredway called it a “holy experience.” She recognized so many of the names.
The visit also solidified the purpose of Tredway’s mission. She marveled at EJI’s steel pillars emblazoned with the names of those killed for the color of their skin under the guise of justice. Here was a horrible truth that, through art, allowed people more time to spend with it and understand it.
“The thing people say to me the most (about the quilts) is, ‘How can something this beautiful be about something so horrible?’ The second thing is, ‘I can look at this longer than a lynching photo and take in the history,'” Tredway said.
Quilting has long been a traditional medium for African-American art. In Gee’s Bend, Alabama — a long-segregated, river-bound peninsula inhabited mostly by descendants of slaves — quilting remains an honored tradition passed on through the generations.
Tredway visited Gee’s Bend and spoke with those quiltmakers. It was just another reminder that her project is larger than 65 quilts.
“It does feel like I’m doing this for more than me, like I’m doing this for a larger understanding. The honor really goes to the people who had to endure this horror,” Tredway said. “If I can represent that in any way that commemorates them and honors the incredible sacrifices they have made, then I feel like I might have contributed a small part to us reconciling.”
World War II fighter pilot John Lyle, a Tuskegee Airman, has died at the age of 98.
Lyle died Saturday at his home on Chicago’s South Side, his wife, Eunice, said Monday. She added that Lyle had been battling prostate cancer.
The members of the nation’s first black fighter squadron won acclaim for their aerial prowess and bravery, despite a military that imposed segregation on its African-American recruits while respecting the rights of German prisoners.
Lyle, who named his plane “Natalie” after his first wife, was credited with shooting down a German Messerschmitt.
“We flew 500 feet above the bombers to keep enemy fighters from hitting our guys,” he recalled in a 2012 interview with Jet magazine. “I loved flying, being up in the clouds, the scenery. I flew 26 combat missions, from southern Italy to Austria and southern Germany, over the Austrian Alps.”
Lyle told Jet he was fired upon several times.
“I watched bombers being torn apart, but they were performing the mission they signed up to do,” Lyle said. “And when I had to shoot the guy who was shooting at the planes I was protecting, I did not feel bad because that was my assignment.”
The Catholic church in Congo announced Thursday its data show a clear winner in Sunday’s presidential election, and it called on the electoral commission to publish the true results in “respect of truth and justice.”
The church, a powerful voice in the heavily Catholic nation, deployed some 40,000 electoral observers but could not say who the clear winner appeared to be, as Congo’s electoral regulations forbid anyone but the electoral commission to announce results.
Observers have reported multiple irregularities as the vast, mineral-rich Central African country voted for a successor to departing President Joseph Kabila. This could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
The ruling party loyalist whom Kabila put forward as his preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, already has said he expected to win, while polling before the election had top opposition candidate Martin Fayulu ahead.
The electoral commission’s president said it had collected results from about 20 percent of polling stations, while some Congolese expressed doubt that the first results would be released on Sunday as expected.
“We are working hard to announce them as soon as possible,” Corneille Nangaa said.
The internet remained blocked in the country in an apparent attempt by the government to calm speculation about the results.
The United States urged Congo to release accurate results and restore internet access, warning that those who undermine the democratic process could face U.S. sanctions. The State Department noted the reported troubles on election day and said results should be compiled transparently, with observers present, so that the votes of millions of people “were not cast in vain.”
The internet outage has hampered the election observers’ work. No Western election observers were invited to watch the vote, which was meant to occur in late 2016, after Congo’s government was annoyed at international pressure amid concerns that Kabila was trying to stay in power.
“The decision to cut internet and text messages hampered the transmission of data from the field,” said Cyrille Ebotoko, technical supervisor of the Catholic church’s observer mission. “It delayed our work by three days and considerably increased the cost since everything had to be done by phone.”
Thirty-eight percent of the some 40,000 polling stations the mission observed were still missing electoral materials more than three hours after polls opened on Sunday, the mission said. And 23 percent of its observers’ reports noted that voting had to be suspended at some point because of troubles with voting machines.
Overall, however, the irregularities did not considerably impact the voting, said Father Donatien Nshole, secretary-general of the church organization known as CENCO.
Shadary, a former interior minister, is under European Union sanctions for a crackdown on Congolese who protested the delayed election. Kabila, blocked from serving three consecutive terms, has hinted he’ll run again in 2023, leading the opposition to suspect he’ll wield power behind the scenes until then to protect his vast wealth.
The other leading candidates were Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker in Kinshasa, and Felix Tshisekedi, son of late opposition icon Etienne and head of Congo’s most prominent opposition party.
Some 1 million of Congo’s 40 million registered voters were barred from Sunday’s election at the last minute as the electoral commission blamed a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east. Affected people in Beni and Butembo cities protested as some observers warned that not allowing them to vote undermined the credibility of the election.
The cities’ residents can vote in March, months after Congo’s new president is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 18.
Election day was largely calm. Life in the capital, Kinshasa, had returned to near-normal on Thursday, though some residents expressed frustration at the internet outage.
“We are waiting and trying to adapt, searching for places where we can still find network because we need it to work,” businessman Paul Odimba said. “I can understand the government’s decision because fake news was spread indeed, but some of us that are impacted are able to make the difference between fake and real news.”