CLEVELAND: The Indians will unveil a statue of Frank Robinson in Heritage Park beyond the center-field wall before Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals.
Robinson’s statue will join those commemorating Bob Feller, Larry Doby and Jim Thome.
Robinson, now 81, became Major League Baseball’s first African-American manager in 1975 as player-manager with the Indians. He later served as Indians manager only in 1977. Because of those feats, Robinson holds a special place in baseball history as one who helped to integrate the game.
A 1982 hall of fame inductee, Robinson also boasts a stellar resume as a player — two MVP awards, the Triple Crown in 1966 and 586 home runs, which ranks 10th all time.
Hank Aaron, one of baseball’s all-time greats and the former home-run king, and Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, will also be on hand for the ceremony.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “As a team, we’ll go out there as a team to watch the ceremony. We’ve had the honor or the pleasure, both, to [be out there for] Thome, Larry Doby. … It will be an honor to be able to be part of the audience watching him.”
Being MLB’s first African-American manager transcends Robinson’s statistics as a player, and with good reason. But it has overshadowed just how prolific a hitter Robinson was during his time as a player.
“You kidding me? He was a force,” Francona said of Robinson. “When you talk to guys like my dad, [there is] a lot of respect for the way he played the game.”
The Indians outfield hasn’t been a breeding ground for stability of late. Michael Brantley, Austin Jackson, Brandon Guyer, Abraham Almonte and Lonnie Chisenhall have all either landed on the disabled list or have had to sit out for a few days with injuries.
On Friday, Jackson returned to the active roster, taking the spot of Chisenhall, who was put on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Thursday. Jackson had been out with a hyperextended big toe.
Had the Indians and Cincinnati Reds played on Thursday, the club would have called up relief pitcher Kyle Crockett. But with that game being rained out and with the bench getting light, Jackson was added instead.
“Having a two-man bench is not a good way to go for very long,” Francona said. “We had five DL’d outfielders. That’s digging pretty deep.”
As for Chisenhall, he and the Indians are unsure as to how or when something might have happened to contribute to the concussion-like symptoms he reported to the team on Wednesday. The hope is that he can return to the team when eligible on Monday.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.