1956 | CINCINNATI, OHIO – On this date in 1956 Cincinnati Redlegs rookie left fielder Frank Robinson hit his first major league home run. He would hit 585 more. The home run came in a 9-1 win over the Chicago Cubs in Crosley Field in Cincinnati.
Was Frank Robinson under appreciated? You be the judge.
He’s the only player in major league baseball history to be MVP (most valuable player) in both leagues (National League in 1961, American League in 1966).
He’s one of just 14 players in major league history to win the Triple Crown (lead the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in).
He’s a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He had a lifetime average of .294.
He drove in 1,812 runs.
He played on 3 World Series teams (Cincinnati Reds-1961, Baltimore Orioles-1966, 1970), 2 of which were winners.
Speaking of Triple Crown Winners, until Miguel Cabrera won it in 2012 there had not been a triple crown winner in 45 years.
Here are past winners:
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit-AL) 2012
Carl Yastrzemski (Boston-AL) 1967
Frank Robinson (Baltimore-AL) 1966
Mickey Mantle (New York-AL) 1956
Ted Williams (Boston-AL) 1947
Ted Williams (Boston-AL) 1942
Joe Medwick (St. Louis-NL) 1937
Lou Gehrig (New York-AL) 1934
Chuck Klein (Philadelphia) 1933
Jimmie Foxx (Philadelphia-AL) 1933
Rogers Hornsby (St. Louis-NL) 1925
Rogers Hornsby (St. Louis-NL) 1922
Heinie Zimmerman (Chicago-NL) 1912
Ty Cobb (Detroit-AL) 1909
Nap Lajoie (Philadelphia-AL) 1901
Hugh Duffy (Boston-NL) 1894
Paul Hines (Providence-NL) 1878
Maybe “Frank Robinson” doesn’t roll off the tongue like Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays because he played for 5 different teams, and seemed to have a permanent scowl on his face, but his numbers are remarkable.
Frank Robinson – Hall of Fame
1961 | DETROIT, MICHIGAN – On this date in 1961 New York Yankee outfielder Roger Maris began his historic chase of the most famous record in sports – Babe Ruth’s single season record of 60 home runs. In the 5th inning at Tiger Stadium with one out and nobody on, Maris hit a home run off Tiger right-hander Paul Foytack.
Maris didn’t come out of the blocks in a full sprint that memorable season. He hit one, I repeat, one home run in the month of April. Teammate Mickey Mantle already had 7 home runs by the time May rolled around.
If Maris, the shy right-fielder from Hibbing, Minnesota wanted to hit 30 home runs in 1961 he’d have to shift it into gear. He did. Maris hit 50 home runs over a 4 month span that summer. Here’s how his record-breaking 61 home runs were spread out over the season:
The race to break Ruth’s record was pretty much between Maris and Mantle. Maris eventually broke it on October 1, the 162nd and last game of the season. This led to a controversial ruling by Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick; since Maris didn’t break Ruth’s record by the 154th game of the season, an asterisk would be put next to his name because Ruth set the single season record in a 154-game schedule. There’s no evidence an asterisk ever actually appeared in the “record books,” but people think it did, so Maris’ name was unjustifiably tarnished.
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 1998
1953 | WASHINGTON, D.C. – Imagine someone hitting a ball the length of almost two football fields! Sportswriters, and others who claim to know, believe 21-year old Mickey Mantle did just that on this date in 1953. The prevailing belief is that the blast traveled an estimated 565 feet out of old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. where the old Washington Senators (today’s Minnesota Twins) were hosting the New York Yankees.
Mantle wasn’t a super star yet. At this stage of his career, he was a young, inconsistent ‘can miss’ switch-hitter from Commerce, Oklahoma.
On this day, Mantle was batting right-handed. On a 1 and 0 pitch, he crushed the ball. According to those present, it not only cleared the regular fence, it sailed over a 55 foot wall 70 feet behind the left center field fence! No one had ever done that before. A ten-year old boy reportedly found the ball in a backyard 105 feet further back.
Why Baseball Needs a Pitch-Clock
Almost overlooked in the same game were some of the talents speed helped Mantle bring to his game early in his career. He dragged a bunt for a single and stole a base.
Before a series of nagging injuries, and the toll of many nights on the town, Mantle was clocked at 3.1 seconds from the left-handed batter’s box to first. One of the fastest times ever recorded.
1969 | FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA • An American icon of the 1950’s and 60’s retired on this date in 1969. Mickey Mantle made the announcement at the spring training home of the New York Yankees, ending an 18-year career.
It’s remarkable it lasted that long considering “Mick” endured a variety of injuries, mostly to his legs. In announcing his decision, Mantle revealed the frustrations of a proud athlete, he was only 37, whose body would not perform, “I don’t hit the ball when I need to. I can’t steal when I need to, I can’t score from second base when I need to.”
Mantle had superstar numbers, but they could have been better. He was the prototype 5-tool player when he came up to the Yankees at age 19 – run, hit, hit for power, throw and catch.
Early in his career he was described as the fastest player from home to first, but that was before leg injuries turned him into a 4-tool star.
- 3-time MVP
- 16-time all-star
- On 12 pennant winners
- On 7 World Series championship teams
- 536 home runs
- .298 average
- .421 on-base percentage
- .557 slugging percentage
New York Times, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, March 2, 1969
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