Eddie Robinson celebrates 100 years of making history

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Craig Muder

For more than a century, Eddie Robinson made baseball history.

Few have played on the stage longer.

Robinson, a four-time All-Star player over 13 big league seasons, celebrated his 100th birthday on Dec. 15. Born in 1920 in Paris, Texas, Robinson is the 21st known big leaguer to reach centenarian status.

“Baseball is different today,” Robinson said days before his milestone birthday. “It’s altogether different.”

Robinson witnessed many of those changes.

Debuting for the Indians in 1942, Robinson served almost four years in the Navy during World War II. By 1948, Robinson was the team’s starting first baseman and hit .300 in the World Series, helping Cleveland win the title.

But earlier that season, Robinson had a date with destiny. On June 13, 1948, Babe Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium. The Indians were playing the Yankees that day, and when Ruth took the field, Robinson – noticing that Ruth appeared a bit unsteady – grabbed a Bob Feller bat and handed it to Ruth to use as a cane.

Photographer Nat Fein captured Ruth from behind as he heard the cheers – a picture that would win a Pulitzer Prize and is displayed in the Hall of Fame, as is the uniform that Ruth wore that day. The bat is preserved by the Cleveland Indians.

Ruth passed away a little more than two months after making his final public appearance in the Bronx.

Robinson was traded to the Senators following the 1948 season in a deal that brought future Hall of Famer Early Wynn to Cleveland. But his time with the Indians – including teaming with Larry Doby, the first Black player in American League history – proved historic.

“Larry Doby does not get enough credit,” Robinson said. “Jackie Robinson gets credit, and rightfully so, but Larry Doby went through the same things in the American League.”

From 1949-53 with the Senators, White Sox and Athletics, Robinson averaged 22 homers and 97 RBI per season. He played for the Yankees in 1954 and ’55, appearing in four games in the 1955 World Series.

His playing career ended following the 1957 season, but Robinson quickly transitioned to the front office, eventually becoming the general manager of the Braves (1972-76) and Rangers (1976-82).

Robinson is the first former MLB player to reach centenarian status since Fred Caligiuri in 2018.

The MLB player who reached the oldest age was Red Hoff, a pitcher for the New York Highlanders and St. Louis Browns from 1911-15, who lived to 107 years and 132 days.

“I’ve had a wonderful family, and I feel very lucky – very lucky to have had baseball,” Robinson said. “I’ve enjoyed my life, and I’d like to live to 104. That’s my number.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series