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Arts & Culture

Indians Unveil Statue of Frank Robinson, the First Black Manager In Major League Baseball

photo of Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron

The Cleveland Indians unveiled a statue honoring Hall-of-Fame oand the Major League's first black manager this weekend. WKSU's Kabir Bhatia has more on Frank Robinson's time in the majors and his moment on Saturday.

Robinson spent much of his career playing for the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles before coming to Cleveland in the September 1974 season. In October, he was named player-manager of the team and compiled a record just below .500 over two seasons.

At the ceremony on Saturday, Robinson said he spent several off-seasons back then managing in Puerto Rico, with an eye toward someday landing that job with a Major League team. The crowd applauded after Robinson said black players still have a long way to go in Major League Baseball.

“I wouldn’t want anybody of color to be given something; I want the people that want to be in this game to earn what they get. There are people out there in the minor leagues [and] at the big league level as coaches that have earned their way up; but they just don’t seem to be able to break that barrier as often as they should.

“We’re still not where we should be: in the front office, in the dugouts and even now in the players’ roster – we’re losing ground, all the way around.”

Hank Aaron on hand
Robinson’s friend, contemporary and fellow Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron also attended the ceremony.

“I remember one or two players back then saying, ‘There’s a special way you have to pitch to Frank.’ I said, ‘Yea: Hold the ball and pray.’”

After the 1976 season, Robinson retired as a player and eventually went on to manage the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

The new Frank Robinson statue stands in Heritage Park – near center field -- alongside tributes to other Indians players including Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League.

SportsTime Ohio will air the unveiling ceremony at the following times:

  • Wednesday, May 31: 9:30PM
  • Thursday, June 1: 7PM
  • Thursday, June 8: 8PM
  • Saturday, June 10: 7PM
  • Sunday, June 11: 8PM