Bill Robinson - The Next Mantle? - Biography 6

2007: An Untimely Death at Age 64

Robinson was hired as the hitting instructor for the Dodger's minor league system in 2006.  On July 29, 2007, Robinson failed to show up for an appointment in Las Vegas to discuss hitting.  He had complained about his heart after throwing batting practice and went back to his hotel room to rest.  A friend found him dead. Apparently his heart simply gave out.  His Bible was lying open in front of him. Bill was survived by his wife, Mary Alice, and their two children, William III (who played three years of minor-league baseball) and Kelley.

Bill Robinson, as with all black players, had to deal with the racism and segregation in the 1950s and 1960s. His entire minor league career was spent in the Deep South (Georgia / Virginia). When he was traded to the Yankees in 1967, his only black teammates were Elston Howard and Al Downing. 

Bill was a coach and manager from 1984 - 2007; his goal was to be the 1st black major league manager -- but he never got the call. "He was frustrated at not being given an opportunity to rise higher, as he aspired to eventually get a major-league managing position. He did feel that race had something to do with his not moving higher, stating: “If it doesn’t happen, it won’t surprise me. Whether it’s prejudice, whether it’s timing, or whatever, it’s always excuses.

Jeff Wilpon, the CEO of the Mets described Robinson as "a devoted family man, a consummate professional and one of the classiest men in our sport."  "Bill was a wonderful family man and a great player, manager and coach.  He was a friend to everyone he met,"  said Dodger general manager Ned Colletti.

George Vecsey of the New York Times perhaps best summed up Bill Robinson's career in 2003: “Whether (the Marlins) know it or not, their paternal hitting coach is an inspiration for athletes—or anybody else who has a bad day or a bad couple of years. You can come back...and go from failure to the World Series.”

Brian Jensen's account of former Yankees -- and Bill Robinson.....