Barbara Ann Cole, Frank Robinson’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

(Getty) Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson was a Hall of Fame baseball player and, later in his life, a renowned manager. During his years as a player, Robinson won the Triple Crown and was a member of two teams that won the World Series. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. Robinson went on to become the first African American field manager in baseball history.

On February 7, Robinson died after a struggle with bone cancer. He was 83 years old. Robinson is survived by his wife, Barbara Ann Cole, and two children, Nichelle and Frank Jr. Here’s what you need to know about Barbara Ann Cole:

1. She Met Frank While He Was on a Road Trip & Married Him After a Whirlwind Courtship

frank robinson

GettyFrank Robinson.

Barbara Ann and Frank met in 1961 and married in the same year. Frank had just earned a spot as right fielder for the Cincinnati Reds and was on a road trip to Los Angeles. Along the way, he met Barbara Ann. The two spent two months courting before getting married.

Soon after they got married, Barbara Ann and Frank had a son, Frank Jr, and then a daughter, Nichelle. Barbara Ann and Frank were married for nearly 60 years; their marriage lasted until Frank’s death in 2019.

2. She & Frank Struggled to Find a Home in Segregated Baltimore

frank robinson death

GettyBaseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson throws out the first pitch before the Atlanta Braves play the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 9, 2015 in Washington, DC.

In 1966, Frank was signed to the Baltimore Orioles; he, his wife, and their two young children relocated to Baltimore. But the young family struggled to find housing in the racially segregated city. Frank was turned down for a few homes; when he had to start spring training, he turned the housing search over to Barbara Ann. Years later, Frank talked to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun about their struggle; Frank said that there was one day when Barbara Ann was ready to give up and leave Baltimore altogether.

“She said nothing was ‘available’ and that she wanted to take our two kids back to California, where we had family,” Robinson told the Sun. “I told her, ‘You stay there and I’ll be right up.’ I told [team owner] Jerry Hoffberger I was leaving camp because my family couldn’t find housing in Baltimore. He said, ‘Give me a couple of days and I’ll get this thing settled.'” Hoffberger managed to find the family a home in Ashburton, which was, at the time, a racially mixed upper-middle-class neighborhood.

Even after finding housing, the family struggled with the life in a segregated city. When they wanted to move, it was difficult to find housing. Frank couldn’t go to most of the city’s bars. And Barbara Ann was turned away from at least one beauty salon.

3. Barbara Ann Was a Real Estate Agent in Los Angeles

A fan of the Washington Nationals holds up a sign reading “In Frank We Trust” in appreciation of team manager Frank Robinson before their home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 14, 2005

In 1973, Frank and Barbara Ann bought a home in Los Angeles — even though Frank, of course, was almost never home while he was working in baseball. Barbara Ann became a real estate agent, selling properties to well-heeled Los Angeles residents. Her daughter, Nichelle, went into business with her; the two of them pride themselves on their “no nonsense approach” and their negotiating skills. Barbara Ann has been described as “one of the town’s highest grossing agents” and often worked with high profile athletes and entertainers.

As a young couple, Frank and Barbara Ann struggled to find housing in racially segregated Baltimore — in fact, the couple was on the point of giving up on their housing search and leaving Baltimore to go back home to California. Frank and Barbara Ann first met in 1961 and married two months later. The two had two children, Nichelle and Frank Jr. They were married for nearly 60 years; their marriage lasted until Frank’s death in 2019.

4. Barbara Ann Was Born in Oklahoma & Moved to Los Angeles at the Age of 16

Frank Robinson with a statue commemorating his career

Barbara Ann first met her husband, Frank, when he was a young baseball player with the Cincinnatti Reds, on a road trip to Los Angeles. That was in 1961; the couple courted for two months and married that year.

Barbara Ann was born in Oklahoma but moved to Los Angeles when she was 16. A few years after she married Frank, the couple moved with their two young children to Baltimore. Frank had been signed by the Baltimore Orioles. The family struggled with life in the racially segregated city, as realtors were reluctant to sell them a home, and many businesses refused to serve them. The family persisted, though. Frank and Barbara Ann were married until Frank’s death in 2019.

5. Barbara Ann Often Worried About Her Husband’s Safety, Thanks to His Unusual Stance

Frank Robinson

During the years that Frank was in major league baseball, his wife often feared for his safety. According to the New York Times, Barbara Ann got so worried that she often had to get up and move to a different seat because she couldn’t bear to sit behind home plate, with the other baseball players’ wives, while her husband was up at bat. That’s because Frank stood close to the plate, much closer than the other players did — he stood so close, in fact, that he looked like he might get hit by a fastball. Barbara Ann eventually switched her seat to a different angle so that she didn’t have to watch the pitches come so close to her husband’s head.

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