Vada Edward Pinson, Jr. (August 11, 1938 – October 21, 1995) was an American center fielder and coach in Major League Baseball.
Pinson played in the major leagues for 18 years, from 1958 through 1975, and his greatest seasons were with the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he played from 1958 to 1968. Pinson combined power, speed and strong defensive ability. With the Reds, Pinson twice led the National League in hits (1961, 1963), doubles (1959, 1960), and triples (1963, 1967). He batted .343 in 1961, when the Reds won the NL pennant, but mustered only a lowly .091 (2 for 22) average in the 1961 World Series, which Cincinnati lost to the New York Yankees in five games.
Pinson — who batted and threw left-handed — was primarily a center fielder.
He appeared in 2,469 games for the Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, California Angels, and Kansas City Royals, notching 2,757 hits and finishing with a career batting average of .286, with 256 home runs and 305 stolen bases. Highly respected throughout the game, he was later a coach for the Seattle Mariners (1977–80; 1982–83), Chicago White Sox (1981), Detroit Tigers (1985–91), and Florida Marlins (1993–94) after his playing days ended. He coached on the first-ever editions of both the Mariners (1977) and the Marlins (1993).
Robinson had a long and successful playing career. Unusual for a star in the era before free agency, he split his best years between two teams: the Cincinnati Reds (1956–1965) and the Baltimore Orioles (1966–1971). The later years of his career were spent with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1972), California Angels (1973–1974) and Cleveland Indians (1974–1976). He is the only player to be named Most Valuable Player in both leagues, in 1961 with the Reds and again in 1966 with the Orioles.
In his rookie year, 1956, he tied the then-record of 38 home runs by a rookie, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, and was named Rookie of the Year. Although the Reds won the NL pennant in 1961 and Robinson won his first MVP that year, his best offensive year arguably came in 1962, when he hit .342 with 51 doubles, 136 RBI and 134 runs. The Reds lost the 1961 World Series to the Yankees.
Robinson practiced a gutsy batting style, crowding the plate perhaps more than any other player of his time. For this reason, he racked up high HBP (hit-by-pitch) totals, and experienced many knockdowns. Asked by an announcer what his solution to the problem was, he answered simply, “Just stand up and lambast the next pitch”, which he often did.
Prior to the 1966 season, Reds owner Bill DeWitt sent Robinson to Baltimore in exchange for pitcher Milt Pappas, pitcher Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson. The trade is now considered among the most lopsided deals in baseball history, especially as Robinson was only 30 years old and appeared to have many productive years ahead of him. DeWitt attempted to downplay this fact and defend the deal to skeptical Reds fans by famously referring to Robinson as “an old 30.” It forever tarnished Dewitt’s legacy, and outrage over the deal made it difficult for Pappas to adjust to pitching in Cincinnati (he was traded out of town after only three seasons). There were also rumors that Robinson did not get along well with teammate Vada Pinson. In Robinson’s first year in Baltimore, he won the Triple Crown, leading the American League with a .316 batting average (the lowest ever by a Triple crown winner), 49 home runs (the most ever by a right-handed Triple crown winner) and 122 runs batted in. On May 8, 1966, Robinson became the only player ever to hit a home run completely out of Memorial Stadium. The shot came off Luis Tiant in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. Until the Orioles’ move to Camden Yards in 1991, a flag labeled “HERE” was flown at the spot where the ball left the stadium.