William "Bobby" Robinson
Nickname: Human Vacuum
Born: October 1903
Died: May 17, 2002
William "Bobby" Robinson spent 17 years in Negro League Baseball, playing for 11 teams. He died in 2002 at the age of 98.
He was raised in Whistler, Ala., by an elderly couple because his mother could not care for him. Growing up with little money, Robinson is said to have made his first baseballs out of tightly wound cord and his bats out of a stick. He was just 14 when he signed with the semi-pro Pensacola Giants.
A Negro League scout offered Robinson a contract to play with the Indianapolis ABCs. He accepted the offer, but waited until the next season, 1925 before making his debut. His career in the Negro Leagues included stints with the Cleveland Elites, Cleveland Giants, St. Louis Stars, Chicago American Giants and the Birmingham Black Barons. He also teamed with Satchel Paige, a childhood friend.
"When he found baseball and baseball found him at the age of 14, that was like another family for him,'' his daughter Pat Hawkins said in a story published in the Chicago Tribune.
He was known as the "human vacuum cleaner'' and was considered to be one of the greatest fielding third basemen of his generation, Hawkins said. In 1930, while playing for the Detroit Stars, he set up a triple play by making a one-handed grab of a line drive and firing the ball to second, from where it was thrown to first.
He retired from baseball in 1942 and worked as a bricklayer around the country. He moved to Chicago in 1953 and settled in the Hyde Park neighborhood with his wife and children. He worked as a brick mason and later as a foreman for the city's Sewer Department. He retired from that position in 1985. He remained a baseball fan for his entire life and was a devoted follower of the the Cubs and White Sox.