Ted Williams is God. Mickey Mantle was my first idol. Frank Robinson is my hero.
Those are my all-time favorite players. I feel compelled to write a remembrance about Frank Robinson after I found out that he’s entered the late stages of a lengthy illness (“Orioles legend Frank Robinson, one of the greatest players in baseball history, is in failing health,” Jan. 29).
I grew up in Baltimore, but I rooted for the Yankees only because of Mickey Mantle. It all changed when the Cincinnati Reds traded an aging 30-year-old player named Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles in December of 1965. The Orioles had been a perennial bottom-10 team in the American League since they moved to Baltimore in 1954. And the city had always been a football town as long as Johnny Unitas continued to take snaps.
The Orioles? A downtrodden team ridiculed by the Yankees. Harry Dalton’s first order of business upon becoming the general manager in 1965 was to trade the Orioles’ best and favorite pitcher, Milt Pappas, to the Cincinnati Reds for Frank Robinson. When the trade was announced, the euphoria of optimism was spreading like wildfire throughout the city. A new phenomenon was beyond describable everywhere from Bethlehem Steel to the doctor’s office and the grocery. It was like life had been renewed and filled with promises.
That was the day I switched my allegiance from the Yankees to the Orioles. I called it a Forever Day. Life had changed for everyone. It changed everything. At every game, we screamed, “We want a hit.” A schoolmate named Richard Smith started to scream in excitement during every game. It never happened before. Frank Robinson was now our hero. He gave us a reason to live. He gave me a whole new meaning for the love for the game. I was only 11 years old.
The Orioles went on to win the 1966 World Series over the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers. Hitting a home run off Don Drysdale in the fourth and last game of the series started the proud history of the Baltimore Orioles and forever changed the lives of many Baltimoreans. It wasn't a football town anymore.
I love the Orioles because of Frank Robinson. Thank you, Frank, for giving us the hope and love of the game.
Billy Bowman, Ocean View, Del.
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