Undoubtedly one of the greatest players of all time in his own right, Frank Robinson stayed in the game of baseball for decades after he retired, becoming one of the most successful managers of all-time as well.
But Robinson’s 1,065 wins as a manger, nor his 586 home runs as a player was his greatest accomplishment in baseball. Instead, it was Robinson’s role in breaking down the second color barrier that baseball faced.
Nearly 30 years after Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the major leagues, Frank Robinson was hired by the Cleveland Indians in 1974 as a player-manager, thus becoming the first black manager in the history of the MLB.
In his first game as player-manager for Cleveland against the Yankees, Robinson, managing and playing DH homered in his first at-bat to help lead the Indians to a 5-3 win.
Robinson would manage the Indians for three years and go on to manage the Giants, Orioles, and Expos/Nationals. It shouldn’t have taken an extra 27 years after the first black player played in a big-league game for an African-American to get a shot at managing a big league club, but unfortunately it took a player of Robinson’s stature to finally break down that wall.
While the game itself was just a foot-note, when Frank Robinson signed his name on the scorecard on April 8, 1975 it was a significant moment in baseball’s history.