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Loss of Robinson reverberates around MLB

MLB.com @ladsonbill24

NEW YORK -- Jon Miller is having trouble believing that baseball legend Frank Robinson is gone. Robinson, 83, passed away Thursday morning.

Although Miller knew that Robinson was battling cancer, the longtime baseball broadcaster thought Robinson would beat the disease.

NEW YORK -- Jon Miller is having trouble believing that baseball legend Frank Robinson is gone. Robinson, 83, passed away Thursday morning.

Although Miller knew that Robinson was battling cancer, the longtime baseball broadcaster thought Robinson would beat the disease.

"Frank was so strong, [I thought] he would be around forever," Miller said.

Major League Baseball lost not only one of the greatest players of all time, but a trailblazer who was the first African-American to manage a big league team.

Frank had many layers beneath tough exterior

Reaction to Robinson's passing came quickly from all over baseball, ranging from Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Aaron and Robinson knew one another dating back to their playing days in the 1950s and played in several All-Star Games together.

Revisit Robinson's Top 10 moments

"Frank Robinson and I were more than baseball buddies," Aaron said on Twitter. "We were friends. Frank was a hard-nosed baseball player who did things on the field that people said could never be done. I'm so glad I had the chance to know him all of those years. Baseball will miss a tremendous human being."

Tweet from @HenryLouisAaron: Frank Robinson and I were more than baseball buddies. We were friends.Frank was a hard nosed baseball player who did things on the field that people said could never be done.I���m so glad I had the chance to know him all of those years. Baseball will miss a tremendous human being.

It was Robinson who gave Zimmerman his first chance to play every day in the big leagues in 2006. Zimmerman, only 20 years old at the time, was the Nationals' best player that season, hitting .287 with 20 home runs and 110 RBIs. He said Robinson taught him how to be a professional and respect the game.

"He made me feel like I was part of the team, right from the beginning," Zimmerman recalled. "He had such a good way of teaching guys without making you feel uncomfortable. He taught me how to do things the right way, both on the field and how to be a good person off the field."

Video: Zimmerman on passing of former manager Frank Robinson

The last time Zimmerman saw Robinson was last year when the Nationals were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Robinson's wife, Barbara, and daughter, Nichelle, told Zimmerman that Frank considered him like a son.

"You know Frank. He would never say that to me to my face. That would make him think that he doesn't have the upper hand on me," Zimmerman said.

Robinson played with Brooks Robinson for six years when both were with the Orioles from 1966-71. Together, they won four pennants and two World Series.

Video: Look back at O's legend Frank Robinson's best moments

"Today is a very sad day because I lost not only my teammate, but also a very dear friend," Brooks Robinson said in a statement. "I loved Frank and got to know him so much better after we both retired. I spoke to him a few days ago and he sounded good. He wanted to be home. I let him know that Connie and I were pulling for him, and that he, Barbara, and Nichelle were in our prayers.

"As a player, I put Frank in a class with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle. He was the best player I ever played with. When he came here in 1966, he put us over the top. He was a great man and he will be deeply missed."

Video: Brooks Robinson looks back on Frank Robinson's life

In 2012, as a member of the Nationals, Rockies infielder Ian Desmond decided to change his uniform number from 6 to 20 in honor of Robinson. It was Robinson who gave Desmond a chance to play with the big leaguers in Spring Training several months after he was drafted in '04.

Even after Robinson left the organization, Desmond would often go to Robinson for hitting tips.

"He was great to me early on. He put his arms around me. He was always there for me whenever I needed anything," Desmond said.

Robinson had a managerial career that lasted 16 years. The league and all the teams that he was affiliated with reacted to his passing.

MLB: "Frank Robinson's resume in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "He was one of the greatest players in the history of our game, but that was just the beginning of a multifaceted baseball career.

Video: Commissioner Manfred remembers Frank Robinson

"We are deeply saddened by this loss of our friend, colleague and legend, who worked in our game for more than 60 years. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Frank's wife Barbara, daughter Nichelle, their entire family and the countless fans who admired this great figure of our national pastime."

Reds: "Frank Robinson is considered one of the greatest players to ever wear a Cincinnati Reds uniform. His talent and success brought dynamic change to the Reds and to our city. His retired No. 20 and statue gracing the gates of Great American Ball Park stand in tribute and appreciation for the immense contribution Frank made to the Reds. We offer our deepest condolences to Frank's family, friends, and fans."

Video: Cincinnati Reds honor Frank Robinson

Orioles: "Frank Robinson was not only one of the greatest players in Orioles history, but was also one of the premier players in the history of baseball. Fans will forever remember Frank for his 1966 season in which he won the Triple Crown and American League Most Valuable Player Award during a year that brought Baltimore its first World Series championship. His World Series MVP performance capped off one of the greatest individual seasons in baseball history. An Orioles Legend and a Baseball Hall of Famer, Frank brought us so many wonderful memories, including two championships, during his time in Baltimore."

Video: A tribute to Frank Robinson

Indians: "The Cleveland Indians organization is deeply saddened by the passing of baseball legend Frank Robinson. Our organization and the city of Cleveland are proud to have played a role in Frank's significant impact on the game when he became the first African-American manager in baseball history on April 8, 1975. The fact that Frank hit a solo home run in his first at-bat that day as the Indians' player-manager symbolizes his greatness as a Hall of Fame ballplayer. The entire Indians organization extends its thoughts and prayers to the Robinson family."

Video: Robinson enjoyed a special moment in Indians history

Nationals: "The Lerner family and the entire Washington Nationals organization extend our deepest condolences to the family of Frank Robinson. Frank was one of a kind. A trailblazer throughout his career, he was steadfast and courageous in his defense of justice and diversity in the game of baseball. In addition to his Hall of Fame playing career, Frank broke down barriers, was a leader and mentor. Not only did he lead our team in our early years, helping to establish our culture and develop young players, but he remained connected throughout the years with our organization."

Giants: "The Giants mourn the loss of our former manager and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who passed away today at the age of 83. Frank was a trailblazer who remained close to the Giants family throughout his entire career in baseball. He will be deeply missed by all of us and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Barbara, daughter Nichelle and the entire Robinson family during this difficult time."

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.