For Eddie Robinson, 2020 marked the end of an almost unimaginable streak: He didn't attend a Major League Baseball game for the first time since 1945, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Robinson also had a good reason for missing baseball games three-quarters of a century ago. He was an active major leaguer who served three years in the Navy during World War II before rejoining the Cleveland Indians in 1946. Ever since then he has, as he put it, "stood up for more national anthems than most people" as a player, scout, coach, executive and, now, just a fan.

Robinson today is the oldest living MLB player. He celebrated his 100th birthday in December by sitting in a tent on the golf course across from his home in Fort Worth, Texas, and greeting friends and family from a safe distance. He's kept himself busy by hosting a podcast called "The Golden Age of Baseball With Eddie Robinson."

So after receiving his Covid-19 vaccine, Robinson took advantage of his new protection earlier this month the best way he knew how: by hopping on a plane to Phoenix with Bette, his wife of 65 years, to go to a couple of Texas Rangers spring training games. "And I stood up for the national anthem," he said in a recent telephone interview.

Robinson spent 13 seasons as a first baseman for seven of the eight American League teams that existed during his careerall but the Boston Red Sox. During that time he posted a batting average of .268, compiling 1,146 hits and 172 home runs. He made four All-Star teams (in 1949, 1951, 1952 and 1953), topped 20 homers four times and three times surpassed 100 RBIs, including 117 in 1951 for the Chicago White Sox.

Robinson's baseball memories extend far beyond a couple of bars. For many years, he was in possession of a 1956 home run ball that Mantle blasted off the facade at Yankee Stadium, one of the longest blasts ever hit in the Bronx. In the clubhouse after the game, Mantle yelled across the room, asking Robinson if he wanted to display the ball in the restaurant he owned in Baltimore. Robinson obliged, and Mantle signed it.

Robinson also had a key role in one of the most famous photographs in baseball history, a shot of Babe Ruth, leaning on a bat at Yankee Stadium in 1948, in his final uniformed appearance before his death shortly thereafter. Seeing that Ruth needed help walking steadily, Robinson, then playing with the Indians, handed Ruth his batthe bat seen in the picture. Ruth signed it for Robinson afterward. (Robinson has since sold both pieces of memorabilia.)

When Robinson played in the World Series in '48, the six games took an average of exactly two hours to complete. The shortest game of last October's World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays was 3 hours, 14 minutes. From the time Robinson returned to the Indians in 1946 until his retirement after the 1957 campaign, there were 25 total instances of a player striking out 100 times or more. In 2019 alone, there were 161 such players.

"Baseball is a game of home runs and strikeouts," Robinson said. "I don't think it'll go back. I guess the fans will love it this way." Baseball's evolution hasn't turned Robinson away from the sport. The game was his primary form of entertainment for much of 2020, when he was largely confined to his house. He and his wife own a pecan farm about three hours south in Bastrop, but they haven't been there in a year because of the pandemic.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/baseball-oldest-living-player-eddie-robinson-11616552446