May 17, 2002


William "Bobby" Robinson, 98, who played third base for 17 years in the Negro Leagues and later worked as a brick mason in Chicago, died Friday, May 17, after a short illness in University of Chicago Hospitals. Known as the "Human Vacuum Cleaner" during his baseball years, Mr. Robinson played for five years with the St. Louis Stars and also spent time with teams in Cleveland, Baltimore, Memphis and Birmingham, Ala.

Born in Whistler, Ala., he was raised by an elderly couple after his mother gave him up as a baby. Growing up he played baseball with Negro League stars Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe and Satchel Paige, his family said.

A tall, lanky man who kept to himself, Mr. Robinson didn't have a formal education but was tutored by black college students who played baseball with him. After retiring from baseball in 1942, Mr. Robinson returned to Whistler and worked as a brick mason, a trade he had learned from his father-in-law during winter breaks.

In 1953, he moved his family to Chicago in search of a better job and lived mostly in Hyde Park, working as a mason on private jobs and as a foreman for the city's Sewer Department. Mr. Robinson is survived by two sons, Robby and Carl; a daughter, Patricia Hawkins; 11 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Blackwell Memorial AME Zion Church, 3956 S. Langley Ave., Chicago. Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune