June 23 – Happy Birthday Aaron Robinson

Few big league catchers experienced as bad a case of poor career timing as Aaron Robinson did with the New York Yankees. First he had the misfortune of being the best Yankee catching prospect during the late thirties, when Hall of Famer Bill Dickey was still considered the best all-around receiver in the game. Dickey’s dominance was a big part of the reason why it took six years for Robinson to make his way through the Yankee farm system. Then by the time he got to put on the pinstripes, WWII was raging and Robinson played just one game for the parent club before he was called into military service.

Finally, after his discharge two seasons later, Robinson was gradually inserted into New York’s starting catcher’s position and in 1946, he hit .297 and smashed 16 home runs in his first full big league season. The following year, Robinson was named to the AL All Star team but by the end of that 1947 season, he was losing a lot of playing time to a young catcher named Yogi Berra. That October, he won his one and only World Series ring when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in seven games. By then, Robinson was 32 years old and the Yankee brass decided Berra was the better choice as catcher. They traded Robinson to the White Sox for Eddie Lopat.

It was truly a great trade for New York. Berra and Lopat were instrumental in helping New York win five straight world championships. After one season in the Windy City, Robinson was traded to the Tigers. He had a good first year with Detroit in 1949 but by the following season he pretty much stopped hitting. It was also during that 1950 season he made a fielding gaffe that might have cost Detroit the Pennant. They were battling the Yankees for first place and playing Cleveland in a late season game in the Motor City. Smoke from a huge Canadian forest fire had drifted across Lake Michigan and was creating a haze in Briggs Stadium that made it difficult for players to see. With the score tied and the bases loaded, Cleveland’s Luke Easter hit a groundball to Tiger first baseman Don Kolloway. Kolloway fielded it cleanly, stepped on first and threw to Robinson in plenty of time to get the Cleveland runner trying to score from third. But in the smoky haze, Robinson had not seen Kolloway tag first so when he caught his first baseman’s throw he simply stepped on home thinking it was a force play and did not tag the runner. That turned out to be the winning run and the Tigers never recovered from that defeat.

Robinson’s eight-year big league career ended in 1951 as a Red Sox. He hit .260 lifetime with 61 home runs. He died in 1966 at the very young age of 50.

This Yankee GM who traded Robinson to the White Sox in 1948 shares his June 23rd birthday. So does this one-time Yankee slugging prospect and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1943 NYY 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
1945 NYY 50 183 160 19 45 6 1 8 24 0 21 23 .281 .368 .481 .849
1946 NYY 100 381 330 32 98 17 2 16 64 0 48 39 .297 .388 .506 .894
1947 NYY 82 294 252 23 68 11 5 5 36 0 40 26 .270 .370 .413 .783
8 Yrs 610 2191 1839 208 478 74 11 61 272 0 337 194 .260 .375 .412 .787
NYY (4 yrs) 233 859 743 74 211 34 8 29 124 0 109 89 .284 .377 .468 .845
DET (3 yrs) 253 868 696 78 170 25 0 22 102 0 165 65 .244 .390 .375 .765
BOS (1 yr) 26 91 74 9 15 1 1 2 7 0 17 10 .203 .352 .324 .676
CHW (1 yr) 98 373 326 47 82 14 2 8 39 0 46 30 .252 .344 .380 .724
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2013.

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