Eddie Robinson, Last Living Member of 1948 Cleveland Indians, Makes Trip To World Series
On October 11, 1948, the Cleveland Indians stood on the precipice of the second World Series title in their long and storied history. They had won the historic, best-of-nine series over the Brooklyn Dodgers and were about to knock off the Boston Braves for their second championship.
Up three games to two, the Indians held a 3-1 lead in game six, with first baseman Eddie Robinson up and runners on first and second. Robinson singled off of legendary Hall of Famer Warren Spahn to deliver Ken Keltner, expanding the lead to 4-1. The insurance run would be the deciding factor in the series as the Braves rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Indians held on to win 4-3 with Gene Bearden notching the save, setting off a celebration in which Bearden’s teammates carried him off the mound in celebration. Catcher Jim Hegan and Robinson were the first two to greet Bearden on the mound to celebrate.
Robinson is the last living member of that great team, the last Indians squad to win the World Series, and he’ll be in attendance as the Indians try to win their first series since then on November 1. When Al Rosen died on March 13, 2015, that left Robinson as the last living member of that team.
Robinson, who is 95 and living in Fort Worth, Texas, had his story gain national attention earlier in the week when it was learned the Indians missed a great opportunity to link their two historic seasons. It appeared that there would be no invitation forthcoming for Robinson.
However, that situation was rectified and Robinson was given an invitation, along with his wife, to attend game six in Cleveland. It is not clear if Robinson will be in uniform or participate in pre-game ceremonies at this time.
There are only ten players still alive who are older than Robinson, and of that group, only 98-year-old Bobby Doerr has played more games than Robinson.
Born in 1920, Robinson made his debut in 1942, during the height of World War II. In his fourth game, he had the opportunity to pinch hit against Red Ruffing, the legendary star of the 1920’s New York Yankees, and got his first hit four days later. Robinson went on to a solid, yet underrated career from there.
Robinson made his first All-Star Game appearance in the historic 1949 game when he was the American League’s starting first basemen. The game, which was played at Ebbets Field, was the first to feature black ballplayers as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe were named to the National League squad. Robinson hit an RBI single in the first inning off Warren Spahn, driving home Joe DiMaggio for his only hit of the game.
The 1949 season started a stretch in Robinson’s prime where he was one of the top first basemen in the American League. He received MVP votes that year after hitting .294 with 18 home runs. He got off to a slow start the following year and was part of a six-player trade to the Chicago White Sox after 36 games of the 1950 season. He ended up hitting .314 with 20 home runs for the White Sox over 119 games.
Over the next three seasons, Robinson became a regular at the All-Star Game, starting the 1952 contest. During that stretch, he batted .275 while averaging 24 home runs and 108 RBIs a season. He had his best year in 1951 when he hit 29 home runs and drove home 117 RBIs while batting cleanup for the White Sox. In 1952, Robinson finished 11th in the MVP voting, ahead of legends like Larry Doby, Phil Rizzuto and Satchel Paige.
After the 1953 season, Robinson, then 33 years old, was traded to the Yankees as part of a massive 11-player deal. Robinson platooned at first base with Joe Collins and served as a valuable pinch hitter in 1954. The next season, Robinson returned to the World Series for the first time since 1948 as part of the Yankees team that lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers in yet another historic World Series.
Robinson was traded again in the middle of the 1956 season and played out his career on four different teams, ultimately retiring as a member of the Baltimore Orioles where he was teammates with Tito Francona, the father of current Indians manager Terry Francona.
Although he retired, he remained in baseball in a number of capacities until the 1980’s, even serving as General Manager of the Texas Rangers from 1977-1982.
Robinson’s place in baseball is historic and he had a front row to some of the greatest moments in the game’s history. He was part of two of the most revered World Series of the Golden Era of baseball and a starter in one of the game’s most important All-Star Games. He was teammates with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Bob Feller and Lou Boudreau.
He even has another fantastic niche in baseball history as he was on hand as a visiting player when Babe Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium. Robinson says he was the player who handed Ruth a bat to use as a cane as he posed for pictures on the Yankee Stadium field one final time.
Robinson was honored this past July at the 70th Annual Yankees Old Timers Day as the oldest living former Yankee. He holds that same distinction for the Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators as well.
When the Indians take on the Chicago Cubs and try to nail down their first World Series title in 68 years, Robinson will rightly be on hand as a link not only to the historic 1948 Indians team, but as a link to a generation in which baseball helped America through World War II and onto the great revival of the 1950’s. Robinson has had a front row to baseball history for 70 years and again will be there as the Indians or Cubs stamp their place in the game’s great history as well.