Frank broke into the major leagues in 1956 with the Cincinnati Reds and quickly established himself as a star, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He followed that up with 20 more seasons as one of the toughest and hard-nosed players in the game, gaining respect as a true professional and leader from players and managers alike. He was a fierce competitor and drove opposing teams crazy with his “crowding the plate” batting stance and aggressive base running. He helped the Reds to a pennant in 1961 while winning the NL MVP Award. After the 1965 season, in one of the more famous deals in the game’s history (when he was deemed “an old 30”), he was traded to Baltimore. He went on to win the AL Triple Crown and league MVP Award the following year, all while helping to lead the Orioles to their first pennant and World Series championship. The O’s would go to the World Series 4 times in 6 years (1966 & 69-71) while winning twice. He was a 12 time All-Star, and in his career he would total 586 home runs, 2943 hits and a .294 batting average. He would also play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels and Cleveland Indians, becoming the Tribe’s player-manager in 1975-76, making him the first African-American skipper in Major League history. He went on to manage the San Francisco Giants in 1981, also making him the first African-American manager in the National League. Later he would manage the Orioles (where he would win Manager of the Year in 1989), and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. His #20 was retired by the Orioles in 1972 and by the Reds in 1998. There are also statues erected to honor him outside of Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, as well as Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
July 23, 2011