Monday, March 18, 2013

An "Uncle Robbie" Robinson Vintage Photo

I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at a long forgotten Dodger manager by the name of Wilbert Robinson.  He skippered the franchise during the early part of the 20th Century- from 1914 to 1931.  For 18 years he steered the ship through muddy waters.  For the most part, the team was not very good under his leadership, but he can stake claim to winning the only Brooklyn pennants from 1901 to 1940 - two of them.

The team was a hodgepodge of jokers and error prone idiots, if you will, but Brooklyn loved them anyway.  Heck, they would soon be called "The Daffiness Boys," and Wilbert would be affectionately be called "Uncle Robbie."  Per a Baseball-Reference biography:
Two incidents illustrate the club’s personality during this period. In one case, slugger Babe Herman hit what appeared to be a triple, only to be called out by the umpire for not touching second. Manager Robinson charged on to the field to challenge the umpire’s call, when his first base coach warned him, “Don’t worry about it, Skip. He missed first, too.” In another instance, outfielder Casey Stengel, who would later manage the great Yankee teams of the 1950s, once found an injured bird in the outfield grass. Planning to nurse it back to health, he placed the bird under his cap and resumed playing the game. By the time Stengel came to bat, he had totally forgotten the bird, but the crowd had not forgotten an error he had made the previous inning and began to boo him. In response to the crowd’s taunting, Stengel politely doffed his cap. The bird, which Stengel had forgotten, had been revived by his body heat and promptly flew away. The boos quickly turned into roaring laughter.
Anyway, I was thinking of Uncle Robbie because of a great auction Item I saw for sale through Lew Lipset's Old Judge auctions.  See it below.  It is an September 1908 vintage press photo featuring a team photograph of the Baltimore Orioles - a minor league club at the time.  Robbie is on the back row, 3rd on the right, and was well past his prime.  In a few short years he would join the Dodgers.

(auction link)

Of special note, Mark Langill reminded us of the blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles in 1899 that didn't include Uncle Robbie, but was just as impactful to the Dodgers as the recent trade we made with the Red Sox. 

February 7, 1899 – A joint ownership agreement between the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and Baltimore Orioles shift several Baltimore players to Brooklyn, including manager Ned Hanlon and Willie Keeler. Two players remain in Baltimore and later become rival managers – Wilbert Robinson (Brooklyn) and John McGraw (N.Y. Giants). The new Brooklyn team is renamed the “Superbas,” which is coined from a Vaudeville group named Hanlon’s Superbas.
Basically, many of the Orioles all-stars would be sent to Brooklyn at an attempt at a championship.  It would eventually help the team win the pennant in 1899 and 1900.

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