Frank Robinson was one of the most dynamic players to ever don a Major League Baseball uniform. At the end of his career, the talented right fielder ranked amongst the best players in league history in several important offensive categories, making him a shoe-in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. This list covers ten essential baseball cards of the legendary outfielder.
Frank Robinson’s career started on a high note in 1956 when he tied Wally Berger’s record for most home runs hit by a rookie, helping him win the National League Rookie of the Year with the Cincinnati Reds. At the end of the 1965 season, the Reds traded Robinson to the Orioles in one of the more lopsided trades in baseball history. Robinson’s career would last another decade with stops in Baltimore, in Los Angeles playing for both the Dodgers and Angels, and in Cleveland. Frank Robinson’s playing career ended in 1976. At the time of his retirement, he was the only player to win an MVP award in both the American and National League, was ranked fourth all-time in home runs, won a Triple Crown with the Orioles in 1966, and competed on two World Series-winning teams.
Baseball card collectors’ first opportunity to add Frank Robinson cards to their collection came in 1957 when Topps issued a card of the Reds outfielder, along with a few oddball cards which are highly desirable amongst his tried and true fans. The vast majority of Robinson’s cards issued as a player fell within the “Golden Age” of post-World War II baseball cards, which has resulted in the cards being both extremely popular and, at times, quite costly. As a player who appeared in fourteen All-Star Games over the course of his career, and won several important awards, Frank Robinson was a frequent subject in baseball products throughout his career and beyond.
Beyond his exceptional playing career, Frank Robinson’s run of baseball cards was extended by his time as a baseball manager. He served as a player manager for the Indians during his final two seasons as a player, but later returned in strictly a manager’s role for the Giants, Orioles, Expos, and Nationals. In all, Robinson played and managed for nearly 40 years, providing collectors a wide range of cards to pursue for their collections. The following list of the top Frank Robinson cards displays options ranging from his rookie cards through the end of his playing career and into his retirement.
Top 10 Warren Spahn Baseball Cards
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The 1975 Topps cards were one of the most iconic sets of that era. The bold colored, two-toned borders were completely different than any other design utilized by the card giant up to that point. The set featured the final card of the Hall of Famer. The portrait-style card of Robinson is also available in the 1975 Topps Mini set. Adding more choices, he appears on the Indians' team card as the manager, since he spent the season serving as the player-manager.
There are numerous Topps sets which feature League Leader cards. These combo cards can be cool for player collectors to track down, especially when the cards feature multiple players enshrined in Cooperstown. In the case of this 1962 Topps classic, the card features three Hall of Fame sluggers who led the National League in home runs during the 1961 season. Robinson was also featured on a similar card in the 1963 set along with Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Tommy Davis, and Bill White.
There was a lot for Frank Robinson to celebrate during the 1966 season: the Orioles won the first of their three World Series pennants, he took home the American League Triple Crown, and he won the American League MVP and World Series MVP awards. The first card in the 1967 Topps set celebrated the two stars, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, of the 1966 World Series along with their manager, Hank Bauer. The two Robinsons were also featured on a 1968 Topps card titled "Bird Belters".
In 1999, Upper Deck issued a set of relic cards featuring the current members of the 500-Home Run Club. The cards were extremely well received with collectors and are still very popular, but expensive, collectables. The majority of 500-Club relics produced by Upper Deck in 1999 had a print run of 350 cards, with the living players also signing 20 copies of each card which are even more difficult, and expensive, to add to your collection. Robinson's 589 career home runs earned him a place in this relic set and his cards were placed in the 1999 UD Ionix set along with the autographed parallel of this card.
Frank Robinson was traded to the Orioles from the Reds in December of 1965 in exchange for pitcher Milt Pappas. As Susan Sarandon's character Annie Savoy said in Bull Durham, "...bad trades are part of baseball. Now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas. It still ranks as one of the all-time most lopsided trades in the history of Major League Baseball. While there were no traded or update sets at this point, 1966 Topps managed to change the team banner and player-name boxes to the green color scheme used for the Orioles cards in the set. However, Robinson is still pictured in a road-grey Reds' uniform.
This was not the first certified autograph of Frank Robinson, but it is one of his most sought-after cards. The 1999 Century Legends autographs featured many of the players who had been included on the Sporting News Greatest Players of the 20th Century list. Needless to say, it was a strong checklist that has made the set very popular with autograph collectors. The Frank Robinson card shows him in an Orioles uniform with a beautiful on-card signature. There is also a hand-numbered "Century" parallel to this card that is limited to just 100 copies.
The 1959 Home Run Derby set is one of the hidden gems from this era of baseball cards. There were 20 cards in the set which were handed out at American Motors Company dealers. The cards featured players from the Home Run Derby tv series, including Frank Robinson. He appeared on two episodes of the show, beating Pirates slugger Dick Stuart and losing to Athletics outfielder Bob Cerv. The Home Run Derby cards were not really popular as a giveaway at the car dealership, so not many copies of these cards are in existence. However, the set does feature nine Hall of Fame players and the overall population of graded copies of these cards is extremely low. Collectors looking to add a copy of this card should be prepared to spend a pretty penny.
The Kahn's Weiner sets were issued starting in 1956 and running through 1969. The company was based out of Cincinnati and the small sets were mostly made up of players from the Reds, Pirates, and Indians. However, there are a few years that have players from other teams. This is another release that can be tricky to track down and the degree of difficulty is often reflected in the price of the cards. The Kahn's Wieners cards were actually placed in the packages of hot dogs and some of the cards have a waxy finish to protect them. The Frank Robinson rookie in the 1957 set is widely regarded as one of the best cards that the company issued and a must-own oddball from the 1950s.
Similar to the Khan's Weiners cards, the Swift Meats Frank Robinson was distributed in packages of hot dogs from the Chicago-based meat company. Each of the double-sided cards featured punch-out pieces that collectors could use to make a stand-up piece for a board game that went with the cards. The Frank Robinson rookie is one of the more popular cards along with the Hank Aaron. There is an obvious premium on the cards where the pieces have not been punched out and assembled for game play, but, surprisingly, collectors can still find nice copies of the figurines. While this card is not as rare as the Khan's Weiners rookie card, there are a lot of vintage collectors who have given this set a near-cult following in recent years.
Of the three Frank Robinson rookie cards on this list, the 1957 Topps card may be the easiest to find, but it has also been a favorite of collectors for years. The 1957 Topps set was a landmark set for several reasons, including the color photographs, full-career statistics on the backs of the cards, and it's 2-1/2" by 3-1/2" dimensions, which are now considered standard. The white-framed Robinson rookie card features a nice posed photograph and is one of the most important rookie cards in the set along with Brooks Robinson and Don Drysdale.