Friday, May 31, 2013

FACE TIME: 1966 TOPPS FRANK ROBINSON




You're looking at the face of "an old 30.''

Imagine that: Right-fielder Frank Robinson was nearly washed up in 1966 after 10 seasons and coming off a 33-homer, 113-RBI campaign. At least that's what Reds GM Bill DeWitt thought. 

Apparently, Robby never got the memo. But he did get his walking papers.

On Dec. 9, 1965, DeWitt, rhymes with "NitWit,'' traded the six-time All-Star to the Orioles for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson. Orioles GM Harry Dalton was still wearing a ski mask and gloves at the news conference.

Even Annie Savoy of Bull Durham fame knows a colossally horrible trade when she hears one. "Bad trades are part of baseball. I mean, who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God's sake?''

DeWitt never liked Robinson, thought he was a malcontent and not a good fit for his clean-cut Reds. Fans in Cincinnati felt otherwise and were none too happy, especially with Pappas, the lone major-league ready player acquired. After going 110-74 with a 3.24 ERA in nine years with Baltimore, he went 30-29 with a 4.04 ERA in his three forgettable seasons with Cincinnati.

Baldschun? He was 1-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 70 innings over two seasons. Simpson? He hit .246 with five homers and 20 RBI over 138 at-bats covering two seasons.

Robinson? Triple Crown immortality. Tightly wound before the trade, Robinson was a churning hurricane afterward that unleashed hell on the American League. In addition to the crown jewel stats of a .316 batting average, 49 homers and 122 RBI, Robby led baseball in runs (122), slugging (.637), OPS (1.047), OPS+ (198) and total bases (367).

That blur of numbers added up to a unanimous selection for AL MVP. With teammate Brooks Robinson finishing second, The Robinson Brothers were at the top of their game.

And the Birds were on top of baseball, winning 97 games and their first World Series. The Brothers Robinson would lead the Orioles to the World Series three more times, winning it all again in '70.

Frank Robinson was "an old 30,'' all right.

"I've always wondered what he meant,'' Robinson said of DeWitt's slight.

We all know how Robby answered him.

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