Tribe honors MLB great Robinson with statue

Tribe honors MLB great Robinson with statue

CLEVELAND -- When the red cover was removed, the statue of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was officially unveiled in Heritage Park at Progressive Field on Saturday before the Indians' game against the Royals.

With his wife Barbara, daughter Nichelle and some close friends in attendance, Robinson was honored as one of the all-time great players and as the first African-American manager. His No. 20 also was retired by the Indians.

"I never thought I would be here today to see something like this," Robinson said. "The statue, the plaque and whatever. But that is just part of the game and part of why we play this game. We play this game for the fun of it, we play it for the accomplishments of it, and we play it for what we feel like we can do. ... That's what it is all about. Whatever I did in this game, I was always very proud of it."

Robinson became the Indians player-manager in 1975 and held that role until he retired in '76. He remained the manager in '77 before going on to manage the Giants, Orioles, Montreal Expos and Nationals. Robinson said he was offered the job of player-manager for the Indians by then-general manager Phil Seghi.

"I had one thought in my mind every time I did something in this game -- I'm trying to make it better for the kids that are coming after me," Robinson said. "Whether you want to be a baseball player, whether you want to be a front office player, or if you just want to be a good, outstanding general manager or manager, I thought about them as I was doing this."

Indians players and coaches were on hand at the ceremony, as was Hank Aaron -- MLB's all-time home run leader from 1974 to 2007 -- and Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson.

"Frank, you and I have so much in common," Aaron said. "We went into the Hall of Fame together [Class of '82]. I felt like it was a given. The one thing that you did that I've always felt that out of my 23 years that I played baseball that forsaken me that I didn't do -- I came very close on three occasions -- and that is winning the Triple Crown. You did it and did it with ease. I should've done it at least three or four times."

In his 21 seasons as a player, Robinson was a 14-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, a two-time MVP -- once in the American League and once in the National League -- and the 1956 NL Rookie of the Year. He logged 586 home runs, 2,943 hits and 1,812 RBIs with the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians.

Robinson said that MLB has gotten better at integrating the sport with African-American players, managers and front-office personnel, but he stated that there is still room for improvement.

"There are people out there in the Minor Leagues and at the big league level as coaches, and they have earned their way up. But they just don't seem to be able to break that barrier as often as they should," He said. "All I can tell them -- don't give up. Do not give up. If you want to manage one day in the big leagues, continue to do it. Continue to do it."

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.