BALTIMORE - First, Frank Robinson was immortalized in Cooperstown and now in the Camden Yards left-field flag court.
The Baltimore Orioles began their season-long Legends Series by unveiling Robinson in bronze Saturday, the first of six statues honoring the club's Hall of Famers.
Fans filled the former picnic area in the rain two hours before first pitch to get a glimpse of the star-studded ceremony, which was attended by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, several Orioles greats including Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver and Eddie Murray, baseball executive Joe Torre and Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel.
The statue, designed by sculptor Toby Mendez, stands about 8 feet and shows Frank Robinson following through on what he later said he imagined to be a home-run swing.
"Since this is going to be a lifetime thing, as far as the statue is concerned, it ranks right up there with the Hall of Fame," Robinson said in a press conference. "This is a tremendous honor. ... The sculptor, he did a tremendous job. He even made me look good."
Robinson's No. 20, the first to be retired by the Orioles, hung on the B&O Warehouse, and was painted in orange on the right-field grass.
Robinson came to Baltimore in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds before the 1966 season. In his first campaign with the Orioles, he won the Triple Crown and became the first player to win both American League and National League MVPs. He also helped the club win its first World Series that season, and was named the series' MVP in the process.
"The greatest gift that the National League ever gave to the American League was Frank Robinson," former NL president Len Coleman said at the ceremony.
Baltimore made four trips to the World Series in Robinson's six seasons playing for the team.
Before Robinson's arrival, the Orioles had just been a contender. He has long been credited with pushing a talented squad over the top.
"Frank coming to the Orioles took the club from good to great. He was by far the best hitter I ever played with," Palmer said in a statement. "He made us all proud to wear the Orioles uniform."
Said former foe Aaron: "He kind of glued all the pieces together."
Robinson said he still follows the Orioles to this day, and he has felt the sting of the team skidding to 14 consecutive losing seasons.
"I've been miserable a lot of years. I've suffered with this organization and I think they're on the upswing now," Robinson said. "I think they're headed in the right direction."
In all, Robinson spent 19 seasons with the club as a player, coach, manager and assistant general manager.
Robinson thanked those who touched his career along the way at the celebration, sending out special prayers to his "brother" Brooks Robinson, who wasn't in attendance and is slated to be the next honored in the Legends Series.
He expressed affection for the city he affected so positively.
"This is a very special place in my heart, Baltimore," Robinson said. "Always has been and it always will be."