Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Vintage Fridays: Frank Robinson, 1967 Topps #100

This week needed some star power, and they don't get any brighter than Frank Robinson. As you can tell from the block lettering on his jersey and the non-Woody Woodpecker bird on his cap, this photo was taken when Frank first arrived in Spring Training in 1966, before the team rolled out their new uniforms for the 1966 season. Even in their wildest dreams, the Orioles couldn't have imagined the impact that their new right fielder would have, as he won the Triple Crown (.316, 49 HR, 122 RBI), the AL MVP, and the World Series MVP, powering the Birds to a four-game sweep of the Dodgers for their first championship.

Sportswriter Jim Murray once said of Frank: "He plays the game the way the great ones played it - out of pure hate." He broke in with the Reds in 1956; though Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier a decade earlier, there were still racial tensions in the game and the country. "Robby" was hit by a pitch 20 times as a rookie and 198 times in his career (eighth-most in history). So it makes sense that he played mean; he wanted to show that he was not going to be intimidated.

I never would have guessed this as a child. The only cards of Frank Robinson in my early collection depicted him in his mid-fifties as a smiling, grandfatherly manager, the wise leader of the ragtag Orioles teams of 1988-1991. He was one of the friendliest looking guys you could ever see on a baseball card. Although he still had a reputation as being a strict disciplinarian up through his last managing gig in Washington (which ended in 2006), Bill James admits that he "has gotten nicer as he has gotten older".

It's good to know that I didn't imagine that, at the very least.

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