Frank Robinson 2006 Topps – Sully Baseball Card for October 11, 2017

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Is it possible for a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be underrated? Can someone who has achieved the highest honors in the game look around and say “Man, they just aren’t giving me my due”?

It is a hard sell, I admit. But it is possible that the great career of Frank Robinson, whose influence stretched over six decades, has been somewhat under valued.

Born in Texas but raised in Oakland, as a high school student played basketball with Bill Russell and baseball with Vada Pinson and Curt Flood.

As a 17 year old, he signed with the Reds and would attend Xavier University when he wasn’t playing. He made minced meat of the minor leagues, smacking homers and hitting for a high average.

By age 20, he was starting for the Reds and led the league in runs scored during his Rookie of the Year winning campaign.

Year in and year out, he would hit 30 or more homers, keep his average over .300 and see his RBI total hit triple digits.

In 1961, he led the Reds to the World Series and won the Most Valuable Player. Nobody knew it then, but he also consistently led the league in OPS then as well.

The year after his MVP season, he led the league in on base and slugging while hitting 39 homers and driving in 136 runs.

Unbeknownst to anyone, he consistently was in the top 10 of WAR in the National League. Advanced metrics showed he might even have been better than his eye popping numbers would indicate.

He had a .925 OPS in 1965 when he also hit 33 homers and drove in 113 when the Reds figured he was washed up and sent him off to Baltimore.

Can you imagine if Frank Robinson was part of the Big Red Machine? Well, instead he went to Baltimore, won the Triple Crown, had an OPS of 1.047 and became the first to win MVPs in both leagues.

Oh yeah, he led the Orioles to the World Series title, their first ever including their years as the St. Louis Browns.

He continued putting up solid traditional numbers and terrific advanced metrics into the 1970’s and played on a total of four Orioles pennant winners and two World Series champs.

After bouncing between the Dodgers, Angels and Indians, he became a player manager for Cleveland. He was the first ever African American manager in MLB history, fulfilling what Jackie Robinson had lobbied for in his final public appearance.

Jackie Robinson and Frank Robinson were not related by blood but they are tied together by their legacies. Robinson became the first African American manager in both the American and National League. He took over the Giants in the 1980’s and they contended until the last weekend in 1982.

Later in 1988, he was named the Orioles skipper and won the Manager of the Year when they stunned baseball by challenging the Blue Jays until the final weekend.

When MLB took over the Expos in 2002, Robinson was installed as manager in a hopeless situation. The Expos, despite no money and no support, were surprise Wild Card contenders late into the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

When the club moved to Washington, they were in first place for much of the first half of the season before fading to Atlanta. He managed one more season before becoming an executive for MLB.

He was a Rookie of the Year, won the NL and AL MVPs, was a 14 time All Star, won a pair of World Series, took home the Triple Crown, the Gold Glove was named manager of the year and had his number retired by three organizations.

He was 57 hits shy of 3,000 while finishing with 586 homers and lifetime batting average of .294 and an OPS of .926.

He was a pioneering player, an all time great and blazed trails in the dugout over several generations.

His career spanned from his playing against Jackie Robinson to managing Vladimir Guerrero.

As an All Time great and influential figure in baseball history, he has to be considered one of the biggest.

For that reason, as odd as it seems, I believe this Hall of Fame titan may be underrated.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – February 4, 2017

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Neil Leifer

One of the most intriguing “What Ifs” in baseball history is the question “What if the Reds did NOT trade Frank Robinson to Cincinnati?”

Truth be told, while it was a HORRIBLE trade for the Reds, it is hard to see them having a BETTER decade in the 1970’s with him as they had without him.

Oiling the Big Red Machine on this episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

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MOE DRABOWSKY – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 5

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Topps

OCTOBER 5, 1966 – World Series Game 1

The match up of teams in the 1966 World Series could not have been more starkly different. The Dodgers were an entrenched powerhouse, looking for their fourth World Series title in the nine seasons since moving to Los Angeles.

Their foe was the Baltimore Orioles, a franchise whose lone pennant was won as the St. Louis Browns in 1944. That squad was filled with players who were not eligible for military service and lost the series to their brothers in the city, the Cardinals.

Both clubs were filled with dominant pitching aces, several of whom would make it to Cooperstown. But the first arm to make his mark in the Series was a reliever better known as a prankster than as an October hero.

In Game 1, Dodgers manager Walter Alston handed the ball to Don Drysdale to give LA an early edge. Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson would smack back to back homers and the Dodgers were down 3 before they even had an at bat. A second inning rally would make it 4-0. But the Dodgers would chip away at Baltimore starter Dave McNally. With the bases loaded and 1 out and Baltimore’s 4-1 lead looking shaky in the third inning, Orioles manager Hank Bauer removed McNally and called for Moe Drabowsky.

The 30 year old native of Ozanna, Poland who immigrated to Connecticut had already logged 11 seasons in the big leagues. He had bounced around between the Cubs, Braves, Reds and Athletics before being plucked from the Cardinals roster in the Rule 5 draft before the 1966 season.

He had the reputation of being a fine pitcher but more for being a free spirit. Drabowsky liked to put sneezing powder into the air conditioning system of the opposing team. He would put gold fish into water coolers, gave players the hot foot and hid snakes in people’s lockers.

Bauer was not asking Drabowsky to pull any pranks that day. He had been an effective reliever during the season and he needed to keep the defending World Champion Dodgers from putting together a rally.

He struck out Wes Parker but walked Jim Gilliam, forcing home a run. Now a base hit by John Roseboro would tie the game. And extra base hit would give LA the lead. But Roseboro popped up to the catcher, Andy Etchebarren, and the threat was minimized to one run.

With the lead extended to 5-2 in the 4th, Drabowsky struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings. He retired 11 in a row before working out of a jam in the 7th. He then retired the final 8 batters of the game, earning the 5-2 victory.

His final line would be 6 2/3 innings of relief, no runs, one inherited runner scored, 2 walks and 11 strikeouts.

The run Drabowsky walked in in the 3rd inning would be the Dodgers final run… for the Series! They would be shutout in Games 2, 3 and 4, with Dave McNally redeeming his shaky Game 1 performance with a World Series winning complete game shutout.

Drabowsky would continue to bounce around the big leagues for another 7 season. In 1970, he found himself back with the Orioles for half a season, in time to earn another ring and give Commissioner Bowie Kuhn a hot foot during the World Series.

He was a marvelous free spirit who passed away in 2006 at the age of 70. Drabowsky was never a star but he left his thumb print on the first team in the history of the St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles to win a World Series.

That earned him the title of Unsung Postseason hero of October 5.