Cornelius Randall Robinson
also listed as Neal Robinson
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 182 lb.
Robinson broke in with the Homestead Grays in 1934 but a drinking problem ended his time with the team. He reappeared in 1936 with the Cincinnati Tigers, hitting .420, second in the west behind Pat Patterson. In 1937, Robinson batted .363, 5th in the Negro American League behind Speed Whatley, Newt Allen, Howard Easterling and Turkey Stearnes.
Neil began his long association with Memphis in 1938. He hit .375, third in the NAL behind Pep Young and Donald Reeves. He tied Stearnes for second with three homers, trailing Willard Brown, and his five doubles tied Buck O'Neil and Alec Radcliffe for third behind Frog Redus and Stearnes. In the 1938 East-West Game, he started in center field for the West and hit 6th. He had a big day, going 3 for 4. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the third, he hit an inside-the-park homer between the legs of Sammy Bankhead to score Radcliffe and Ted Strong. It was the big blow in a 5-4 win by the West.
"Shadow" got 480,682 votes for the 1939 East-West Games, third among outfielders behind Jim Williams and Henry Milton. In game one, he hit cleanup for the West and again was their big gun, going 3 for 4 with a double and a homer in a 4-2 win. His solo shot off Roy Partlow in the 7th was the first score for the West. In the second game, Robinson again played center and hit cleanup for the West. He again led their attack, going 2 for 3 with a walk, run and a RBI, but it was a 10-2 lkoss as his teammates gave him no support this time. For the 1939 season, Robinson hit .286. His five doubles put him fourth in the NAL behind Brown, Stearnes and O'Neil.
In 1940, the Grand Rapids native struggled at .204. Perhaps due to his past stardom, he hit cleanup and played center for the West in the 1940 East-West Game, but went 0 for 2 before Leslie Green replaced him. Robinson rebounded in 1941, hitting .333, 5th in the league behind Lyman Bostock Sr., Lester Lockett, Bubber Hyde and Brown. His three doubles tied O'Neil for second, one behind Brown, and his four triples tied Brown for second, one behind Hyde. In the 1941 East-West Game, he hit third and played center for the West. He went 1 for 2 with a run before Buddy Armour replaced him. The West lost, 8-3.
Robinson hit .313 in 1942 and his 7 doubles tied Barney Serrell for the lead, yet he was not picked as an All-Star. He fell to .224 in 1943 but made the West roster for the 1943 East-West Game. Starting in left field and hitting 5th behind Brown, he was 0 for 2 with a walk and a run before Fred Wilson pinch-hit for him in the 8th; the West won, 2-1.
Neil batted .319 in 1944. He ranked among the NAL leaders with 4 homers (tying for fourth with Art Pennington and Al Cowan), 17 steals (tied for second with Artie Wilson, trailing only Sam Jethroe) and 12 doubles (tied for second with Ed Steele, two behind leader Jethroe). In the 1944 East-West Game, the 37-year-old replaced Jethroe in center, going 0 for 2 in a 7-4 victory. He hit .303 in 1945. In the 1945 East-West Game, Robinson hit cleanup for the West and played center. He went 2 for 2 with 2 runs, outshining younger players like Jackie Robinson (0 for 5), in a 9-6 win by the West. He got into one last All-Star contest, at age 41, in the first 1948 East-West Game. Batting 6th for the West between Bob Boyd and Quincy Trouppe, Robinson went 1 for 3 with a walk and a RBI in a 3-0 win. He remained active with Memphis until 1952.
Unlike many Negro League stars of the 1930s and 1940s, Robinson did not play in Mexico and only had a brief glance at Cuban ball, going 0 for 9 for Almendares in 1946-1947. The veteran outfielder backed up Santos Amaro, Ducky Davenport and Roberto Ortiz.
Robinson was one of the biggest stars in the history of the East-West Game. He hit .500, the best average by anyone with 15+ AB, .041 over the legendary Josh Gibson. His .792 slugging percentage was second to Mule Suttles and his two homers tied Suttles for second behind Buck Leonard's 3. Robinson's 12 hits tied Sammy Bankhead for 5th and his 19 total bases were 5th behind Leonard, Gibson, Willie Wells and Alec Radcliffe. He scored 7 runs, tied with Archie Wilson, Sammy Bankhead and Wells for third behind Leonard and Gibson.
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester
- Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History by Jorge Figueredo