Winning Most Valuable Player is an honor for any athlete, but when Frank Robinson did it in 1966 it was also historic. Never before had a player been named MVP in both the American and National Leagues. It wasn't the last time in his baseball career Robinson broke new ground.
Born in Beaumont, Texas, on Aug. 31, 1935, and raised in Oakland, Calif., Robinson was signed by the Cincinnati Reds following his high school graduation in 1953. After two years with minor league teams in Utah and South Carolina, he joined the Reds in 1956 and was named Rookie of the Year for that season. He earned National League MVP honors in 1961, and the Reds advanced to the World Series. Despite years of outstanding play, the Reds believed Robinson was on the downside of his career and traded him to the Baltimore Orioles in 1965.
Cincinnati's loss was truly Baltimore's gain. In addition to the MVP, Robinson won the Triple Crown in 1966. The Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers to win that year's World Series, and Robinson was named the series MVP. Baltimore would win three more pennants over the next five years and capture another World Series title in 1970. Robinson earned another MVP honor at the 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit. His time in Charm City ended that year when the Orioles traded him to the Dodgers. He spent a season in Los Angeles before being traded to the California Angels. In 1974, the Angels traded him to the Cleveland Indians.
It was during his time in Baltimore that Robinson developed an ambition to manage in the major leagues. He gained experience by managing a winter league team in Puerto Rico from 1968 to 1975. The Indians offered Robinson the chance to be a player-manager in 1975. Robinson accepted the job despite receiving no pay increase and became the first black manager in major league history. He retired in 1976 with a lifetime .294 batting average and career totals of 586 home runs. 2,943 hits and 1,812 runs batted in. In 1982, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Robinson became the first black manager of a National League team when the San Francisco Giants hired him in 1980. He was named Manager of the Year in 1982, but team conflicts resulted in his dismissal two years later. He joined the Orioles' coaching staff in 1985 and was named manager in 1988. The Orioles won 87 games in 1989, and Robinson was named Manager of the Year, another feat never before achieved in both leagues. Baltimore's struggles in 1990 caused Robinson to leave the bench and be named the team's assistant general manager.
After holding several front office jobs, Robinson was named manager of the Montreal Expos in February 2002. He stayed with the team for its first two years as the Washington Nationals. Robinson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the MLB Beacon of Life Award during the Civil Rights Game bash in Memphis, Tenn., in 2008. Commissioner Bud Selig named Robinson an executive vice president for Major League Baseball in June 2012.