Nov. 7, 2011
BERKELEY - Earl Robinson, a two-sport star at Cal in the 1950s who played both basketball and baseball for the Golden Bears, will receive the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award during a halftime ceremony when Cal hosts UC Santa Barbara Dec. 19 in the second annual Pete Newell Classic.
The contest honors the legacy of Cal's Hall of Fame basketball coach Pete Newell and the contributions he made to University of California basketball. The Career Achievement Award is presented to a Cal men's basketball alumnus who has distinguished himself in his career accomplishments, upholding the highest ideals of Coach Newell and the University of California.
Robinson clearly fits that description, having earned selection to the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and the Pac-10 Hall of Honor since his days wearing Blue and Gold.
A 6-1 guard on the hardwood, Robinson played under Newell and helped Cal to conference titles in 1956, '57 and '58, earning a spot on the All-Coast team twice and the All-Pacific Coast Conference squad three times. The last two teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament and reached the West Regional final. The '58 team nearly advanced the Final Four, only to lose to an Elgin Baylor-led Seattle team in overtime.
Robinson was voted Cal's Most Inspirational Player as a senior in 1958 when he also served as team captain. He had his best statistical season during his junior campaign when he contributed 12.1 ppg, and he finished his career with 882 points, which ranked among the school's all-time top five at the time.
Robinson, whose college roommate was Golden Bear legend Joe Kapp, was also a standout on the baseball diamond, where he earned All-America honors as a shortstop. During Cal's run to the 1957 NCAA championship, he paced the Bears with a .352 batting average. Because of his relationship with Kapp - the Bears' quarterback - Robinson was also a Cal yell leader during the 1957 football season.
Robinson signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the spring of 1958 when the National League organization first moved to the West Coast. In an era before sports agents, Robinson relied on the services of Cal law professor Adrian Kragen to negotiate a better deal with the Dodgers, and his $75,000 signing bonus was a record sum for a black baseball prospect at the time. Robinson made his Major League debut as a rookie third baseman in 1958, then was traded to the Baltimore Orioles before the 1961 season, where he converted to the outfield. He remained with the organization through 1964 and played in the Chicago Cubs' organization in 1965. Robinson finished his career with a .268 batting average.
During the winters of 1963-65, Robinson returned to Cal as an assistant basketball coach. Upon retiring from baseball, he became head basketball coach at Merritt College in Oakland for the 1966-67 season - the first African-American head basketball coach in the California junior college system. A year later, he moved to Laney College, where his team finished with a 19-8 record. He rejoined his alma mater as freshman basketball coach in the fall of 1968.
Robinson later taught speech and communications classes at Laney College and was credited with helping Rickey Henderson craft his well-received speech for the baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies in 2010. He is now a part-time professor at Laney
In addition, Robinson also worked with the Oakland A's in the 1980s as director of special projects under team president Roy Eisenhardt and the Haas family's club ownership, and spent time as an English teacher at Oakland's Castlemont High School. He is a former vice president for the Board of Trustees with the Oakland Zoo and served three years on the Board of Directors for the California Alumni Association.
Robinson was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the Pac-10 Hall of Honor in 2010.
Robinson credits three members of the Cal community as being among the most influential people he has met in his life - Newell, Rene Herrerias (Newell's assistant coach and Cal head coach from 1961-68) and Dr. Bob Albo (a Cal Hall of Famer and Robinson's mentor and doctor for more than 50 years).
Tickets for the Dec. 19 Cal-UCSB are on sale through the tickets link at CalBears.com or by calling the Cal Athletic Ticket Office at (800) GO BEARS. The contest tips off at 7:30 p.m. from Haas Pavilion.
About Pete Newell
Pete Newell served as Cal's basketball coach from 1954-60, guiding the Bears to the 1959 NCAA Championship and a national runner-up finish in 1960, the same season he was voted the national coach of the year. Cal also reached the NCAA regional final in 1957 and '58 under his leadership. Overall, he led the Bears to four consecutive conference titles (1957-60) while compiling a 119-44 record. Newell coached the 1960 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal at the Rome Olympics and later served as Cal's Director of Athletics from 1960-68.
Newell was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a year later. The entire 1960 Olympic team, which included former Golden Bear Darrall Imhoff in addition to Newell as head coach, was enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2010. Newell also earned entry into the FIBA International Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Newell, who was born on Aug. 31, 1915, passed away on Nov. 17, 2008.