Showing posts with label Lucky Me. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lucky Me. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eddie Robinson goes to bat for his baseball family

Eddie Robinson, the 90-year-old All-Star first baseman who played for seven franchises during his 13 year major league career, saw one of his life-long crusades come to fruition with last week's agreement to extend pension payments to the group of MLB alumni that fell into the pension gap between 1947-1979.

Robinson appeared in New York for the announcement of payments to the MLB veterans. He spoke from his Fort Worth, Texas home about the excitement of his 20-year journey to get benefits for these retirees.

"I’m getting a pension and I’m happy, but it just didn’t seem fair," Robinson said. "I was in the group of the first player representatives that was formed, so I’ve had a great interest in what’s happened to players over the years, so when they dropped it back, I just didn’t think that was fair and I began to crusade to get something done about it."
Eddie Robinson / SMU Press

Fueled by recent media interest from Douglas Gladstone's book, "A Bitter Cup of Coffee," which spotlights the plight of many of the retirees caught in this pension gap, Major League Baseball was more receptive of a meeting with Robinson's group of alumni. A meeting at the MLB offices in New York City helped to make their cause clearer to baseball's top brass.

"Our services committee of the MLB players alumni became more active," he said. "We got a couple of players on our committee who were lacking in years to get a pension and they added a lot of exuberance and get go to our committee. We had a meeting in New York with Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred, and after that, I think they saw the seriousness of it and that something should be done."

The lack of parity in service time needed for a pension after the 1980 agreement ate at Robinson for the past thirty years, even more so in recent time as more alumni passed away. 

"The last year-and-a-half it’s been a real issue with us," he said. "It was so unfair to some players. Rich Hand, he just lacked a few days of having his four years and the reason he didn’t get those days was because there was a player’s strike. That robbed him of his pension. There were guys in World War II who had a year or two in the big leagues and when they came out they were too old or couldn’t win their job back. Even though they had their years, being in the service robbed them of getting a pension."

Robinson beamed with pride over the current agreement. While it isn't a true pension for those retirees, the annuity payments they will receive will not only help with their standard of living, but does something greater by validating their time as a major leaguer.

"Of course there are all of those guys in between who weren’t recognized and they couldn’t say, ‘I’m a big leaguer, I’m getting a pension.' This really authenticates it for those guys. That’s been one of my major goals since I’ve retired and fortunately I was able to achieve it."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eddie Robinson: "Lucky Me: My Sixty-Five Years in Baseball"

Anyone who is involved in the game of professional baseball for sixty-five years is more than lucky; they’re blessed. Eddie Robinson, now 90, recounts his lengthy career as a player, coach and executive in his autobiography, “Lucky Me: My Sixty-Five Years in Baseball,” which is currently available via SMU Press.

Eddie Robinson - Lucky Me / SMU Press
Robinson, along with help from co-author C. Paul Rogers III, speaks eloquently about his six-plus decades in baseball. Growing up in Paris, TX, Robinson had his start from humble beginnings in the farming community during the Great Depression. Signed into professional ball in 1939, he began a career that saw Robinson make stops with seven different American League ball clubs from 1942-1957, as well as three years of World War II Service that almost stopped his playing days dead in its tracks.

Recovering from a botched surgery to remove a bone tumor during World War II, Robinson endured a long and hard road to return to baseball in 1946. Not only did Robinson come back, he excelled. Robinson had a banner year that season, winning the MVP of the Triple-A International League, beating out an upstart Jackie Robinson, who was on his quest to make baseball history. This wouldn’t be the first time that the Indians farmhand would have a brush with baseball’s integration, as he was involved in some controversy surrounding the debut of Larry Doby the following season.

Robinson was the only right-handed first baseman on the club, and was asked to defer to Doby by lending the rookie his glove to play the position. Only days before, manager Lou Boudreau has assured Robinson that he was the team’s primary first baseman. A flummoxed Robinson threatened to quit after lending Doby his glove; however, he explained his reasoning was not due to Doby’s race.

“I threatened to quit because of my anger at Boudreau, not because he was a black guy coming in,” he said.

After winning the World Series with the Indians in 1948, he was traded to the Washington Senators for Mickey Vernon. This would begin the merry-go-round that would see him visit seven teams in the next nine seasons. It is through these travels where the book takes shape.

Robinson adds colorful tidbits about his career at the end of extra chapter entitled, “Extra Innings,” which are anecdotes that enliven the stories of his career. Through his play with seven different franchises, Robinson details many innings that illustrate the depth of his career. Robinson has a story for seemingly every “name” player from the 1940s and 1950s and tells them in a manner that keeps the pages turning.

For the New York fans, Robinson expertly details his time as a member of the New York Yankees from 1954-56, where he helped man first base under Casey Stengel’s platoon. Robinson would later return to the Yankees in the early 1980s as a scout.

While not a Hall of Famer, Robinson merits a lot of credit for his long relationship with the national pastime. Whether it was as a player, coach or executive, Robinson put his best foot forward and reaped the rewards of a long-time association with the sport. “Lucky Me,” allows the reader to ride along with Robinson through his sixty years in baseball, taking in the scenery every stop of the way.