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Neal Robinson

Cornelius Randall Robinson
Nicknames: Neil, Shadow

Career: 1934-1950
Positions: cf, lf, ss, 3b
Teams: Homestead Grays (1934), Cincinnati Tigers (1936-1937), Memphis Red Sox (1938-1952)
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 5' 11''   Weight: 182
Born: July 7, 1908, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Over an eleven-year period, 1938-1948, this Memphis Red Sox outfielder played in every East-West All Star game except three, 1942, 1946, and 1947. In the midseason classic he compiled a sensational .476 batting average and a superb .810 slugging percentage, which included two home runs, an All Star total exceeded only by Hall of Famer Buck Leonard.

Robinson was credited with 54 home runs in 1939 against all levels of competition. The following season he had accumulated 35 homers by the end of July, with his final total not being recorded, but he won the second of his back-to-back Negro American League home run titles. While consistently generating power, the big, strong right-handed slugger was a free-swinger and also frequently struck out. Although best known for his hitting prowess, he was a respectable fielder with a strong but erratic arm, and had good speed on the bases but was not a daring baserunner.

After a short stint with the Homestead Grays that was aborted due to a severe drinking problem, he signed with the Cincinnati Tigers in 1936 and launched his career with a robust .367 batting average. In 1938 he joined the Memphis Red Sox and was the regular shortstop as they copped the Negro American League first-half championship in 1938. That season marked his first trip to the East-West All Star game, and he celebrated the occasion with an inside-the-park three-run homer to trigger the West's 5-4 victory. The next year heavyweight boxing great Joe Louis threw out the first ball at the All Star game and was photographed before the game congratulating Robinson for his hitting from the previous contest. Robinson responded with another home run to key the West's 4-2 victory. In each of his first two All Star games, his crucial home run was one of a trio of hits he collected.

In the winter of 1940-1941 he played in Puerto Rico, but upon his return to Memphis for the regular season, he was moved to the outfield, and he stayed with the Red Sox for the remainder of his career. In 1942 he hit .314, and in 1944 and 1945 he had averages of .319 and .303, respectively. In the former year Robinson also demonstrated both his speed and his power by finishing second in the league in stolen bases and home runs. In 1949-1950 he hit .272 and .283, with 10 home runs the latter season. Although the Negro American League had declined to a minor-league status, he continued for two more seasons with the Memphis Red Sox before retiring after the 1952 season.

Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.