By Steve Finley
When it comes to black major league baseball players, Frank Robinson and Don Newcombe were two of the best and two of the most influential baseball players ever to lace up a pair of baseball cleats and step out on the baseball diamond. They both passed away about a week apart a few weeks ago.
Frank Robinson did it all on the field and in the dugout. He was a great player and also a manager. He was the first player to win the Most Valuable Players in the American and National League of Major Leagues. He won the award in the National League while playing for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He won the award again in the American League while playing for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
He was hired as the first Black manager in 1974 by the Cleveland Indians. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. In 2005 Robinson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award given to him by President Bush during a ceremony at the White House. Robinson, who was a big Laker fan, was 83 at the time of his death.
Don Newcombe, who died at the age of 92, was also a great player. He was a teammate of Jackie Robinson when they both played for the Dodgers. At the time of his death he was a special advisor for the Dodger, a position he held for many years.
Newcombe was one of the first Black players to play in the major leagues when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950’s. He won the National League Most Valuable Player Award, Cy Young Award, given to best pitcher in baseball, and the Rookie of the Year Award.
Both players not only stood talk on the baseball diamond but they but they paved the way for Blacks to be able to play major league baseball. Their class and charisma will be missed the most.