I was just a 14-year old baseball fan when the Orioles made a trade that changed the face of the franchise forever. Prior to the 1966 season, they traded pitcher Milt Pappas (a fascinating man, born Miltiades Stergios Papastergios in Detroit, where he attended Cooley High - the one from the movie. Pappas opened a restaurant in Baltimore that burned down a month afterward, his wife later disappeared and was found dead in her car five years later, and he pitched a no-hitter for the Cubs that was one pitch away from being a perfect game) and several other lesser lights to the Cincinnatti Reds for outfielder Frank Robinson, whom the Reds described as "an old 30."
I was 14! So of course I figured 30 was old. Now, of course, I realize that 63 is old, and it goes up every year.
Frank turned out to be just what the Orioles needed in 1966. He won the Triple Crown, leading the league in batting average, homers and runs batted in. The team sailed through the season and went into the World Series as underdogs to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the O's won that in four straight. It was a great season for all, and Frank showed himself to be a veteran leader, which is what every winning club wants.
You'll remember that he ended his playing career as player-manager with the Indians, the first black manager in baseball, and to this day is Executive Vice President of Baseball Development for Major League Baseball. Along the way he managed Cleveland (1975–1977); the San Francisco Giants (1981–1984); the Orioles (1988–1991); and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (2002-2006).
My point in writing this biography on F Robby, as we called him in B'more, is to let those of you who don't know from baseball that he is one of the legendary figures in the game. Accordingly, it must have been quite a surprise to Oriole manager Buck Showalter when Frank was good enough to address the O's in spring training the other day and Buck gave a rookie outfielder, Josh Hart, the chance to meet Frank...and Hart didn't recognize Frank.
Buck, then and there, became one of the coolest men in history by telling Hart to go research just who Frank Robinson is and write a paper about him! The Oriole manager assigned homework to a kid who probably has never done much homework!
Oh, if only ...!