2013 Reds / True Creature

Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson

I was glad to see Derrick Robinson called up from Triple A when Ryan Ludwick was placed on the disabled list after Opening Day. Robinson, a switch-hitting speedy outfielder, had some pretty good minor league seasons in the Kansas City organization but for whatever reason, never seemed to get a legitimate shot with the Royals.

Robinson had a decent spring training with the Reds, batting .300 and turning some heads with his speed.

But then I got an email from a friend back home and he said something to the effect that, finally, the Reds had another player named Robinson after the disastrous trade of Frank Robinson after the 1965 season.

Not true. There was another guy named Robinson that played for the Reds.

Ron Robinson was a pitcher for the Reds in the 1980s. He also had one of the best nicknames I’ve ever heard —- he was called the True Creature.

Robinson had red hair and freckles, and was a stocky righthanded pitcher. His best year was 1986, when he posted a 10-3 record and had an earned run average of 3.24 pitching out of the bullpen. And one year before Tom Browning became Mr. Perfect, Robinson took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Montreal Expos on May 2, 1988 at Riverfront Stadium (I still refuse to call it Cinergy Field) in front of 35,266 fans.

The Reds had a 3-0 lead, thanks to home runs by Kal Daniels and Chris Sabo. Robinson, who was coming off elbow surgery the year before, retired the first two hitters in the ninth inning and then went to a 2-2 count on pinch hitter Wallace Johnson. Robinson’s next pitch was a hanging curve ball and Johnson lined it into left field for a single to break up the True Creature’s gem. Tim Raines then smacked a home run before acting manager Tommy Helms
called in John Franco from the bullpen to get the final out. (Manager Pete Rose had been suspended for 30 games after the shoving incident with umpire Dave Pallone).

The Reds traded Robinson to the Brewers during the 1990 season and the True Creature went on to post a 12-5 record. He didn’t win the Cy Young Award (as Frank Robinson won the MVP in 1966 after being traded) but the trade didn’t come back to haunt the Reds. Robinson’s arm injuries continued and he was out of baseball three years later.

So here’s to Mr. Robinson: both the True Creature, who was one pitch away from baseball immortality, and to Derrick Robinson, the newest member of the 2013 Cincinnati Reds.

12 thoughts on “Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson

  1. I like it. I remember that near-perfecto, too.

    Robinson was an ok pitcher. A disappointment because he was a 1st rounder, but a reasonable middle relief/setup type guy.

  2. I had forgotten the near prefecto but now it is coming back to me.

    As for the other Mr Robinson, wouldn’t it something if he turned out to be what everyone is hoping Billy Hamilton will be. And wouldn’t it be great if they both turned out that way (or even close) and were hitting 1 and 2 in front of Votto for several years with Frazier cleaning up and an aging Phillips down in the 6 slot protecting the top of the order.

    • @OhioJim: Hamilton should not be mentioned in the same breath with Robinson. One’s a top 20 major league prospect, the other was just cut loose by that powerhouse, the Royals. One is coming off a .400+ OBP year as a young guy in AA, the other is coming off a .344 OBP as a 24 year old in AA.

      It’s kind of amazing that the guy gets a few hits in spring training, and one hit yesterday, and all of a sudden there’s talk about him being a permanent fixture in the Reds starting lineup.

  3. I really like what I’ve seen of Derrick Robinson in ST and today. As we all know, speed is useless on offense if the player can’t get on base. (Not picking on Drew Stubbs here, I’m thinking more of some of his predecessors at leadoff.)

    Anyway, Robinson showed today what a good thing speed can be. Singles past a drawn-in 3rd baseman, and his sprint home was classic. Not that I’m expecting big things, but if he can be that pesky LHed hitter off the bench who can get on base at a reasonable rate and then wreak some havoc, I’ll be happy.

    • @pinson343: Anything’s possible, but a career .321 OBP in the minors tells me he’s not likely to get on base at a reasonable rate.

      I also suspect one of his main roles will be pinch running in the late innings, but that job will be limited (Baker doesn’t like to take whoever starts at catcher out during a game, and the Reds don’t have that many guys you whose bat you want to lose).

      • @Hank Aarons Teammate: I’m not exactly high on Robinson either but there are a few things in that .321 MiLB career OBP that stick out. Over the last 3 years his OPB have been: .345, .323, and .344. During his .323 year his batting average was down and his BB-rate looks about the same. I don’t think he’ll be starting OF material but I do think that he could be a 4th or 5th OF.

  4. Browning’s perfecto was Sept. 16, 1988. Robinson flirted with one in May of that same year, not one year before. I remember listening to that game and thinking Robinson was going to blow the win after blowing the perfect game and then the shutout. He was gassed when Helms took him out.

    They traded Robinson and got Glenn Braggs and Billy Bates. Turned out to be a great trade for the good guys.

  5. I remember Ron Robinson’s big sweeping curve ball. I recall his 1986 season best.
    He pitched strictly out of the pen that season, throwing a lot of innings, mostly setting up for John Franco. He was used flexibly, the way relievers used to be, often pitching multiple innings and sometimes closing. He was dominant in the first half, not so much in the second half.

    He complained mid-season that he was being used a little too “flexibly” and didn’t know his role. That did not sit well with Pete Rose, who just said: “His job is to pitch when I hand him the ball.”

  6. I was at the game.

    My little league team had tickets in the blue seats, just past third base. We stood on our seats and chanted with everyone in the stadium, counting down the strikes left in the at-bat.

    He then hit the ball into left field. I was only a kid at the time and, granted, my perspective was limited. But I have always believed Tracy Jones could have caught that ball. Most of my former teammates agree with me.

    “I was there for Ron Robinson’s near-perfect game” lost its luster with my friends after Browning threw one, but it was one of my favorite Reds moments, even if Tim Raines almost spoiled it.

  7. IIRC, that near perfect game was on kid glove night? It was the first or second time they had KGN on a regular season game as opposed to the exhibition game they used to play against the Tigers.

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