OPINION: Mr. Robinson’s legacy

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Frank Robinson, left, greets Hank Aaron before a game between the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians, May 27, 2017, in Cleveland. Robinson was MLB’s first African-American manager.

Dante Centofanti

“Heroes get remembered but legends never die.” The phrase, uttered by Babe Ruth in “The Sandlot,” has become the unofficial official rallying cry for a generation of baseball fans. The moment I heard that Frank Robinson passed away, that phrase immediately entered my mind.

With Black History Month coming to a close, I would be remiss to not talk about one of the most important black athletes in the history of American sports. Growing up an Indians fan, I’ve always taken great pride in knowing I was cheering for a team that was so incredibly involved in adding diversity to America’s pastime.

On April 8, 1975, one day after Hank Aaron became the all-time home run king and three years after the death of Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson became the first African-American man to become to a manager of a major league baseball team, with his home run against the Yankees in his first at-bat as manager serving as one of the greatest moments in Indians history.

As a player, Robinson slugged 586 career home runs, was a 14-time all-star, two-time MVP and two-time World Series champion. He also remains the only player in MLB history to win both American League and National League MVP.

But his aforementioned legacy wasn’t just limited to the field. After retiring as a player in 1975, Robinson went on to spend 15 seasons as a MLB manager for five different teams, with his last season coming in 2006 as manager of the Washington Nationals.

Robinson also served as major league baseball’s executive vice president of baseball’s development, with one of his goals being to increase baseball’s popularity in the African-American community. Robinson was also named the honorary president of the American League from 2015 up until his death.

If there was a Mount Rushmore for baseball, I have no doubt in my mind Robinson would be on it, joining players like Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby and Roberto Clemente. Frank Robinson is more than just the first black manager in the history of baseball; he has one of the longest-lasting legacies in baseball history, one that every baseball fan should be aware of.

Mr. Robinson has done everything in his power to promote baseball, and was the definition of class while he did so. His brilliant playing career withstanding, Robinson was a gentleman who lived and breathed baseball.

As baseball continues to lose popularity due to nonsense rules that cater toward a generation that couldn’t care less, we need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of Frank Robinson’s legacy.

I’m sad I’ll never get to meet or interview one of my favorite people ever in baseball. Like Ruth told Benny Rodriguez in the aforementioned “Sandlot” scene, legends will truly never die. Well, Mr. Robinson, you truly will never die.

Dante Centofanti is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected]