On this day in 1965, the Cincinnati Reds trade outfielder Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for the pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and the outfielder Dick Simpson. The trade is widely regarded as one of the worst in major league baseball history.
In 1956, Robinson made his professional debut with the Reds, and was voted the National League Rookie of the Year. Of nine solid years with the team, his best was 1961, when Cincinnati won the National League pennant and Robinson won his first Most Valuable Player award. The Reds lost that World Series to the New York Yankees. After the 1965 season ended, General Manager Bill Dewitt made the decision to trade Robinson to the Orioles for Baltimore’s ace pitcher, Pappas, as well as Baldschun and Simpson. Responding to the outrage of many fans, Dewitt famously claimed that Robinson was “an old 30.”
Controversy over the decision clouded Pappas’ arrival in Cincinnati, and he ended up pitching for the Reds for just two-and-a-half seasons, leaving with a 30-9 record. Baldschun and Simpson both left after only two seasons, Baldschun with a 1-5 record and Simpson with batting averages of .238 and .259. In contrast, Robinson dazzled during his first season in Baltimore, winning the Triple Crown–most home runs (49), most runs batted in (122), and best batting average (.316)–and leading the Orioles to their first World Series win, an upset victory over Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Capturing the American League and World Series MVP that year, Robinson became the first player to win MVP honors in both the National and American Leagues.
Robinson remained with the Orioles until 1971, winning another World Series in 1970–over the Reds. During his time in Baltimore, he became an outspoken advocate for African-American civil rights. After short-lived stints with the Dodgers and the California Angels, he landed in Cleveland in 1974. During his last seasons as a player, Robinson also managed the Indians, becoming the first African-American to manage a major league baseball team. He retired in 1976 with 586 career home runs, the fourth-highest total at that time.
Robinson became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Baltimore Oriole in 1982. Both the Reds and the Orioles retired his number, 20. He managed the Indians and the San Francisco Giants before returning to Baltimore in 1988 to manage his old Orioles. He left after three seasons and worked for the MLB organization until in 2002 he was offered the chance to manage the Montreal Expos (later the Washington Nationals). By the time he left the Nationals at the end of the 2006 season, Robinson had compiled a 1,065-1,176 overall record as a manager.